Today, Liverpool took a substantial step forward in their development under Jürgen Klopp by pulling a point out of a game where a loss looked imminent. After taking an early lead against West Brom at Anfield, the Baggies — known to be a tough, physical club — pulled ahead, 2-1 after two set-pieces managed goals (the first ugly, the second a thing of unfortunate beauty). Klopp, a measure of professionalism and experience, encouraged his charges with arm gestures directing up-tempo play. A few minutes later, Lovren was the recipient of an ugly tackle which appeared to damage his knee (more details are forthcoming on that injury). In a fascinating and educational substitution, Klopp didn’t bring on a like-for-like replacement, instead he folded the versatile Emre Can (one of my favorite players in the club) back into center back and brought Origi in to hunt for the equalizer. An aggressive and positive step and something Anfield are hungry for. What followed was something of an exceptional moment in the development of the current Liverpool squad.
Turning the clock a few weeks back, after a loss, Klopp focused some of his ire on the supporters who left Anfield early because the club was down 2-1. He went on to verbalize his puzzlement over such an act but highlighted how non-belief would impact the players on the pitch. I loved it. Klopp told the media (and Liverpool’s supporters) the game was not over and they could have scored many times in the remaining eight minutes, it was simply up to the players. That comment stuck.
When Origi entered the fray, the team began to press the Baggies in earnest, launching assault after assault at the Kop end of the pitch. You have to give West Brom a nod because they defended well, until Origi’s extra-time blast from long range was deflected into the back of the net, tying the game 2-2. The priceless reaction came from Klopp’s technical area as he turned to the crowd, urging them on with wild fist-pumps and encouragement. The intensity of his response to the tying goal was evident, as is this man’s passion for the game I love so much. The Anfield faithful responded with incredible volume as the players continued their assault on the Baggies in the remaining three minutes of the game. Unfortunately, luck did not favor Liverpool and they walked away with a point in a hard-fought match. But it’s what happened afterwards which caught my attention — and likely the eye of many others.
Klopp gathered his team in front of the The Kop (Spion Kop Stands), and took a few moments to thank the supporters with a team-linked bow. A couple of pundits thought that was unusual and something normally saved for big tournaments or an end-of-season kind of celebration but there was much more going on than that. From where I sit, Klopp has a large task on his hands. Not only does he need to train the players to master his system, he also needs to breed belief back into Anfield crowds after years of mediocrity. The end-of-game display of appreciation was both a thank you and a reinforcement of the the full voice they brought to the players in the final few minutes of the game as they willed their team to win. In the post-game conversation with the media, Klopp highlighted the crowd saying he’d never heard Anfield that loud and passionate since his arrival at Liverpool.
Yeah, this guy knows exactly what he’s doing. And we are extremely lucky to have him as our manager.