The first month of Jürgen Klopp’s reign at Liverpool came to an end this past week, and there was no fairytale ending to an almost impeccable start.
Heading into the international break, a 2-1 loss at home to Crystal Palace may not have capped off what seemed to be the perfect beginning for Klopp. However, he has two weeks to reevaluate his squad and make the necessary changes to help the club going forward, especially with an enormous match against Manchester City coming at the end of the break.
One thing Klopp may be evaluating is the players who have flourished under his new “gegenpressing” system, and the players who have not done so much. Heading into his reign, the media had speculated certain players to fit Klopp well, and certain players that were certain to fail under the German. After a month of observation, Klopp will have seen whether or not this is true for certain players.
Adam Lallana: better than expected
The main issue with Lallana has always been his inability to play at full speed for 90 minutes. This fault in the Englishman was brought into the limelight when Klopp was hired, as Klopp requires high-intensity pressing for the full 90. Many guessed that Lallana would not be key in Klopp’s plans.
The reality of it is that Lallana has actually somewhat flourished under Klopp. There remain issues with his involvement in the attack, as his brilliant touch and fancy flicks still don’t seem to garner end product unless against lesser competition (Europa League, for example). But under Klopp the 27-year-old, while not scoring, has been instrumental to the attack at times.
Despite the issues with his stamina, Lallana has bough into the pressing system and has done a phenomenal job with it. He’s forced defenders into bad passes and spurred attacks through the press. Though he hasn’t scored, he’s been solid in the buildup to Liverpool’s rare goals, including a neat flick that, coupled with a nice dummy from Christian Benteke, set up Philippe Coutinho’s equaliser against Palace.
In total Lallana may wear down if Klopp continues to utilise him for long stretches, and he isn’t the most durable in terms of injuries. There is also the issue of positioning, as Lallana sometimes seems to be lost when played in wider roles, and Coutinho and Roberto Firmino are both better options in the center. But it’s undeniable that Lallana has seen vast improvements from his flop year under Brendan Rodgers since Klopp’s arrival.
Lucas Leiva: exceptional
Unfortunately, this may not last much longer. Lucas, despite only being 28, has worn down legs that, coupled with the important return of Jordan Henderson after the break, may see him placed out of the starting XI. But for the time being, Lucas has been incredible in what has been a roller coaster season for the Brazilian.
Almost shipped out to Besiktas in August, Lucas managed to play an important role under Rodgers before his dismissal. Upon Klopp’s arrival, Lucas, much like Lallana, was questioned for his ability to keep up with Klopp’s energetic style. Lucas’ pace is nowhere near what people thought the German would require.
Instead, Lucas has been arguably the best performer since the former Borussia Dortmund manager’s arrival (Mamadou Sakho could also claim that role). Brilliant in defence, and getting forward enough to even place a few shots on target, Lucas has embraced the new manager’s arrival. He may not be a starter in the weeks or months to come, but expect a big role to still be played by the Liverpool fan-favourite.
Jordon Ibe: promising
We’ve seen the on-again-off-again brilliance of Jordon Ibe before. Wonderful pace, great feet, and an unprecedented willingness to take on defenders from such a young player have highlighted his strong moments at Anfield.
We’ve also seen poor end product, lack of creativity at times in the final third (i.e. beating a defender, running to the end line, and again, the poor end product). Add those to an unwillingness to defend, these issues have plagued the 19-year-old’s development.
A loss of confidence under Rodgers saw Ibe relegated to the bench after a strong preseason, but Klopp has clearly taken a liking to the young English starlet, and Ibe seems to feel the same toward the German.
A few bright performances off the bench culminated in a start against Rubin Kazan in the Europa League, where Ibe not only shone bright, but scored his debut goal in a Liverpool shirt. That performance was enough to earn him a start against Palace where despite the loss, Ibe was a strong performer.
Much like Lucas, there may be too much talent ahead of him to see Ibe consistently placed in the starting XI, especially with Henderson and Daniel Sturridge hopefully nearing returns. Still, strong performances in various competitions could see Ibe continue to flourish under Klopp.
Joe Allen: underwhelming
We’ve seen a lot of players find their niche under Klopp, but it’s time to look at one who hasn’t. The man Rodgers proclaimed “the Welsh Xavi” has failed to impress in bit-part roles under the new manager.
Klopp’s philosophy revolves around the attack, and his preferred formation normally allows for two deep-lying midfielders. Although Henderson’s injury has opened up some opportunities for Allen, Klopp has gone with a preferred pair of Lucas and Emre Can.
When Klopp was hired, the media tried to push the idea that, despite Rodgers’ almost delusional affection for Allen as a player, the German’s arrival would be better for the Welshman. Allen is a composed midfielder with good vision and passing. Although he isn’t much of a physical specimen, Allen is also very hard working and was thought to be a good fit for the press.
Instead, when given opportunities, Allen has done what he’s always done in a Liverpool shirt. Nothing very good, but nothing very bad. A couple of tidy performances hasn’t led to supporters calling for Allen’s departure, but it’s shown that Liverpool has better options.
Perhaps the defining moment of Allen’s month under Klopp came against Rubin Kazan when a ball looked to be falling for Benteke. A striker, Benteke naturally looked to create with the ball, but as it fell, Allen went for it as well. A deep-lying midfielder who never seems to look at the goal attempting to take an opportunity from the £32.5 million man? That just can’t happen. Allen hasn’t been abysmal in the past month, but it’s not far-fetched to say that he has struggled since the German’s arrival.
The timing of the international break is fantastic for Jürgen Klopp. Now the German can assess the results of the past month, and put together the best team possible with the hopeful returns of Henderson and Sturridge. He’ll need the best team possible as they head to the Etihad on the 21st to play City.