Klopp Delivers On His Promise

Liverpool's quite transfer window signifies Klopp's faith in youth
Kristan Heneage
Tue, September 10, 11:42 AM

For football fans, the transfer window is a nerve-wracking time in which Twitter and YouTube are go-to sources of information.

Regardless of how a club conducts its business, it can leave fans feeling a sense of disappointment. It becomes less about the problems fixed and more about what couldn’t get done or who went elsewhere.

Despite talk of a shocking return for Philippe Coutinho, in the end, Liverpool was content to add goalkeeper Adrian, Harvey Elliot and Sepp van den Berg.

If the incomings were somewhat understated, there was no great hole left by those that departed Anfield — Daniel Sturridge perhaps the most high-profile of the seven first-team players that left this summer.

 

On paper, this could send fans to panic stations (and in some cases did). The idea of not adding someone significant implies a football club is standing still, and that is equated in the Premier League to going backwards.

As Tottenham Hotspur showed last season, however, there can be a benefit in continuity. It’s not unfair to say Spurs league campaign was difficult, but in the Champions League, they orchestrated a memorable run to the final in which none other than Liverpool bested them.

Perhaps the obsession with transfers is the fascination with something new and exciting. That is not to say that teams don’t need to buy and sell, but rather, the notion that new faces always equal better outcomes is not entirely true.

Adding a big name could very easily disturb the balance Jurgen Klopp has spent years fostering. Benching a big-money signing could draw criticism and once again add excessive pressure to the situation.

Any new face that did come in would likely be doing so to sit in reserve. Jurgen Klopp knows that, and in his eyes, that new and exciting edge is already at Liverpool. The success of the Community Shield was a good litmus test for Klopp’s approach and reaffirmed just how close they are to rivals Man City. That belief has so far been validated by Liverpool’s flawless start in the Premier League.

Klopp has developed a handful of stars during his time in management. At Mainz, he gave a debut to Neven Subotic and oversaw the development of Andre Schurrle.

While at Dortmund, his successes included Mario Gotze and striker Robert Lewandowski. Part of what facilitated the emergence of those players was an extended stay. Klopp enjoyed seven years at both clubs and is now approaching his fourth year at Liverpool.

Upon his unveiling back in October 2015, he said, “When I am managing a club I think each young player should smile because the door is wide open for him. He has the chance to do anything.”

On his second day in the job, the German coach paid a visit to the club’s Kirkby Academy to watch the under-18s take on Stoke City. Just over a fortnight, later the words of support were backed up by his actions. Klopp handed a debut to Liverpool-born Connor Randall - as well as first starts to fellow rookies Cameron Brannagan and Joao Carlos Teixeira - in the Capital One Cup tie with Bournemouth.

Utilising Pep Lijnders as a liaison between the first team and the academy, Klopp has remained in constant communication.

“Pep is an outstanding coach and a really good person,” Alex Inglethorpe, Liverpool’s Academy Director, said in 2015. “He speaks four or five different languages and knows all the young players inside out. He’s a real asset at Melwood and here. The fact we’re on split sites isn’t an issue. The relationship is strong.”

Last season saw Klopp turn to his academy players during the FA Cup meeting with Wolverhampton Wanderers. Rafa Camacho and Curtis Jones started the game, while Ki-Jana Hoever came on as a substitute. Liverpool ultimately went out, but Klopp remained positive on the contribution of his youngsters.

That group, along with Rhian Brewster and new arrivals Elliot and Van Den Berg will be pushing for inclusion during the season — all with their manager’s backing. Brewster gave a good account of himself in pre-season, scoring in all three of Liverpool’s opening games, with big things expected from the England youth international.

The hope is he, and those like him can replicate Trent Alexander-Arnold. Since his debut in 2016, the right-back has emerged as a recognised starter for Liverpool and an England international.

Replicating his emergence is no easy task, but part of Klopp’s ethos is to give youth a chance, and by shunning a big name arrival in the summer, he is staying true to his word.

 

By Kristan Heneage

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