Turn The Page: Is Jurgen Klopp In The Middle Of A Slump Or A Rebuild?

Liverpool are either preparing to go again or adjusting to a fall from grace
07:00, 04 Feb 2023

There are two ways one can look at Jurgen Klopp as he endures his most difficult moments since those early days of rebuilding and renewal at a then-troubled Liverpool. Either the German has come to the end of a cycle that is far longer than most head coaches receive these days, but ultimately still past its sell-by date. Or he stands on the precipice of building something only his rival Pep Guardiola at Manchester City has managed to do in recent years. Klopp might be building a second great team at Liverpool.

Coaches rarely get a chance to regenerate these days. While even misfiring managers used to get years to instil their ideas, now you’re lucky if you get months. Even successful managers often get short shrift. Taking Klopp and Guardiola out of the equation, the last time the Premier League title was won by a manager who spent more than three years in his job was Manuel Pellegrini in 2014.


Jose Mourinho was a club legend at Chelsea who returned to win the Premier League title for a third time. Four months into the following season he was sacked with the club in freefall. Claudio Ranieri entered Premier League folklore by leading Leicester City to an incredible 5000/1 title win. He was sacked eight months later with the Foxes struggling. Antonio Conte took Chelsea to another Premier League title but it all imploded at the end of the following season. 

Winning a Premier League title is a huge undertaking and a career pinnacle for both managers and players. In the modern landscape, it is even harder to do it more than once. Teams are unlikely to stick with managers as they rebuild. Once the owners have tasted success, they are unlikely to settle for less. This leads to high manager turnover as desperate sides look for a path to that next title.

But it wasn’t always this way. Sir Alex Ferguson won the English top flight more than any other manager in history. But the key to his success was the fact the Manchester United hierarchy would always let him build for another go. Trophyless seasons would pass, with all the uncertainty they brought with them around results, recruitment and performances. But the manager’s position was never part of this uncertainty. Ferguson was the totem, the constant allowed to shape the ongoing direction of the club.


Should Klopp be allowed to act as that totemic figure for Liverpool? In over seven years at Anfield, he has lifted the club’s first league title in 30 years, taken them to three Champions League finals while securing their first win in that competition since 2005. The former Borussia Dortmund head coach has also picked up the FA Cup, EFL Cup, Club World Cup and UEFA Super Cup. In short, Klopp has been a roaring success.

It says everything about the astronomical expectations he created that the idea of Liverpool doing the quadruple was such a tangible possibility last season. Ultimately, the act of doing something no club has ever done caused the Merseysiders to melt. Was it a case of a team being at the end of their cycle? Or was it merely the pressure of doing something that is so difficult, no team has ever done it? Perhaps coming tantalisingly close, with the title race going to the wire and Liverpool losing a Champions League final, simply took the wind out of their collective sales.

Liverpool’s present reality, sitting ninth in the league table and knocked out of two domestic cups that they won last season, is probably attributable to all of the above. Yes, they are at the end of their cycle. This is a fact Klopp himself has acknowledged through his deeds. Sadio Mane, rightly or wrongly, has moved on. Divock Origi, Georginio Wijnaldum and Xherdan Shaqiri are gone too. Meanwhile, new talent like Darwin Nunez, Luis Diaz and Cody Gakpo have arrived in their place. Klopp has been quietly going about this rebuild for a little while now. 

But is it enough? Fans feel the retooling is happening at too slow a pace. The midfield is creaking. There is an overreliance on veterans such as Jordan Henderson and James Milner. Klopp himself is becoming spikier. More closed off to criticism. The siege mentality has been activated. Is he starting a new cycle or is he a man at the end of his tether? 

At the moment that is unclear. We are either in the middle of the rebuild or the beginning of the end. But Klopp has earned the right to write his own ending. The most successful Liverpool manager since the 1980s has taken this club from mediocrity to supremacy once. He should get first dibs on doing it again.

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