When American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett sold Liverpool Football Club to the Fenway Sports Group in October 2010, they inherited a Football Club rich with tradition, a trophy cabinet full of European, League and Domestic trophies and a fan base which was unrivalled in world Football. However, they also inherited a Football club which was perilously close to Administration, had the weakest playing squad for years and a stadium which was in desperate need of renovation.
Decisions had to be made by the new board of directors and quick to turn around a club which had found itself battling against relegation and bankruptcy.
Fast forward 6 years and things could not be more different. Liverpool, fresh off the back of an emphatic 5-1 home victory over Watford on Sunday in the Premier League, find their selves top of the Premier League after 11 games. That one season with Brendan Rodgers aside where they went so, so close, the fans have not felt this excited and proud of a club since that night in Istanbul over a decade ago.
I have listed some key factors which I feel have massively helped Liverpool get to where they are now.
- They now have a manager who knows what he’s doing and the fans love him. Roy Hodgson and Kenny Dalglish were given the chance to manage the club, but the brutal reality was that they were nowhere near progressive or ambitious enough to turn Liverpool in to a force to be reckoned with once again. Brendan Rodgers come so close to delivering what everyone associated with the club desperately wanted – the Premier League title – but fell just short. Jurgen Klopp was chosen as the man to replace Rodgers when things turned sour in October 2015 and the club has not looked back since. Under his stewardship, the team are playing some of the best high intensity, high pressing, free scoring football they have seen in recent years. There is a very intelligent mind behind the beaming smile and infectious personality and this has been shown in the way he has transformed the club in just over a year of him being in charge. From the first team players right down to the youth team and staff, he has got the best out of every single person so far and his new 6 year contract reflects how highly the owners rate him. The supporters are also realising just what a good manager they have as well – never before has a manager been so perfectly suited to a football club than what Klopp does to Liverpool. Good times are coming.
- Mane, Coutinho and Firmino are the most feared front 3 in the Premier League right now. With 18 goals and 8 assists in 10 games, stats which match up well against MSN at Barcelona, all 3 players have struck up a partnership which involves constant movement, pace, flair and goals.
The signing of Mane was a master stroke by the club in the summer. Klopp’s philosophy is dependent on blistering pace and directness on the break and that is exactly what he can offer the team and it was something they were missing last season. The fact that Mane and Firmino can also swap between the wings and the center forward/false nine position only adds to the positives that these three players can offer. With Coutinho playing a more influential role this season in a more attacking position, with the intricate passes and the long range shots, each one of the three players have different specialities which suit the others perfectly. If Liverpool keep them all fit and fresh, it could be the key to their potential successes this year.
- They have signed a center half who can actually defend. Talk of Mats Hummels joining the club when Klopp was first hired as Liverpool manager was widely reported, but it was Joel Matip who made the move to Anfield this summer on a free transfer from Schalke. Whilst he is not as high profile as Hummels, there can be no denying that the Cameroonian defender has made a massive difference to a back line which has come under serious questioning over the past few seasons. At just 25 years old, he is comfortable on the ball, tall, quick and very composed – all the attributes required for a modern day center half. Alongside Dejan Lovren, they have become a solid pairing at the back for Liverpool and although defending from set pieces are still a big worry for Klopp and his coaching team, Matip will be the lynchpin in the defence for years to come. It just underlines how crazy the transfer market currently is when John Stones moved to Man City in the same transfer window for £50m.
- Progress is also being made off the pitch. Whilst Anfield is widely recognised as one of the most atmospheric and intimidating Football stadiums in the world, it has started to show its age in recent years. With Arsenal, Manchester City, Southampton, Leicester, Swansea and West Ham moving in to new stadiums in the past decade or so, Liverpool took the decision to stay at Anfield and re-develop the stadium, rather than move elsewhere. The first phase of the re-development project was completed in August this year, with a brand new 20,500 seater stand being opened just in time for the start of the 2016/17 Premier League season. The opening of the new stand has boosted the capacity at anfield up to 54,000 and, according to Jurgen Klopp, will “help the team massively on matchday on and off the pitch”. Whilst the next phase of the Anfield re-development is yet to be confirmed, it is widely reported that the Anfield Road end of the stadium is the next stand to get a makeover. Just like everything else associated with the club currently, exciting times lie ahead.
Are Liverpool title contenders this year? In my opinion, definitely. For me, they may need one or two more signings to mount a real challenge, but no Europa League Thursday night matches will act as a huge advantage for the team. The key now is to find the consistency which they have lacked in the past few years.