Four years on and now cool Klopp is cruising
To see him in the opening minutes, as he waved his arms and turned to his assistants in exasperation, you may have thought nothing had changed.
Jurgen Klopp looked to be teetering on the brink of fury as Liverpool’s clash with Sheffield United began to take shape and it would not have been the first time he had experienced such emotions on January 2 as manager of this club.
Klopp is not a man who gives any thought to anniversaries, but this date will always carry some significance.
It was on January 2, 2016 that Liverpool suffered the most harrowing defeat of his embryonic reign — a 2-0 loss at Upton Park that had no redeeming features.
Those who saw Klopp at close- quarters that day realised they were dealing with a man who would not suffer fools.
The German erupted in the dressing room and told a squad that just lost home and away to West Ham for the first time since 1963-64 that things were going to change.
Liverpool were always going to progress under Klopp — a manager who Fenway Sports Group had wanted to appoint in 2012 — but few could have envisaged back then the improvement and transformation that has taken place in the last four years.
When Klopp loses his cool now, it has nothing to do with the fact his team won’t press or hunt in packs as was the case back then when they allowed Michail Antonio to run 90 yards, unchecked, to convert a free-header.
The emotion he shows these days comes from his desire to see football perfection and to see this well-oiled team moving serenely through the gears. You sense Klopp feels they are capable of achieving it.
What Liverpool have done over the past 12 months is extraordinary but there is no indication they have reached the ceiling of their ability.
They toyed with Sheffield United and there was never going to be any outcome other than a home win once Mohamed Salah had scored after four minutes.
This was the 18th consecutive Premier League victory at Anfield — since a 1-1 draw with Leicester last January — and the sequence the second longest winning run at home in the club’s history. Only Bill Shankly’s team from 1972, who managed 21, can better it.
It is now 51 games since they have been beaten at Anfield and the inevitability about them winning matches can be judged by the fact this was the 38th consecutive time they have scored the opening goal and gone on to be victorious.
These statistics would have been scarcely imaginable when Klopp showed his volcanic side in East London on January 2, 2016. On January 2, 2020, Liverpool look every-inch champions-in-waiting — yet nobody will sing about it.
The Kop is keeping a lid on the songs about titles, perhaps scarred by the failures since 1990. If they don’t win it from here, it would be the most calamitous collapse in history.
Somehow, though, you don’t see it coming. They have changed in four years. Now they are serial winners.Daily Mail