John Aldridge: Klopp has put Liverpool back in the hunt for Top 4
Champions League football appeared to be a million miles away for Liverpool in the first few weeks of this season – but Jurgen Klopp has changed all that in a hurry.
Swansea were seen off at Anfield this week, another good test for a rapidly improving Liverpool side, and the confidence returning to the club, on and off the pitch, bodes well for the rest of this season and beyond.
The fans are smiling again and you can see the players share their joy, with the expectations of what can be achieved growing by the week.
Having beaten Chelsea and Man City away from home in comprehensive fashion since Klopp arrived, Liverpool have a massive chance to push for a top-four finish this season – and I’m not just viewing this through my red-tinted glasses!
When you consider that they have now played Arsenal, Man United, Everton, Spurs, Chelsea and City away from home, all of the toughest trips of the season are out of the way.
Of course, they need to start winning at Anfield to make the most of the opportunity in front of them, but hope is back in the hearts of Liverpool fans.
Changing a manager is not always the solution to a club’s woes, but what we have seen at Liverpool in the last few weeks confirms that it can have a massive impact if the right candidate is appointed.
It’s hard to believe how quickly things have turned around since Klopp replaced Brendan Rodgers at the start of October, with the players who looked unmotivated not so long ago springing back into life under their new leader.
The win at the Etihad Stadium was one of the best away performances I can remember from a Liverpool team in some time and it comes on the back of another fantastic away win against Chelsea a few weeks earlier.
I’m not getting carried away and suggesting Liverpool are the finished article under Klopp because clearly that is not the case, especially when they come up against defensive sides at Anfield.
Yet what we can say is that the depressing gloom that was hovering over the club before Klopp arrived has been lifted and in a season when nothing seems to be predictable, Liverpool are right in the mix to finish in a lofty position.
Rodgers must be looking on and wondering what has happened to his players, as they now appear to be desperate to charge down every ball from the first to last whistle.
Klopp appears to be a very clever man and everyone has to be impressed with the way he has gone about his business since arriving at Anfield.
His beaming smile is so engaging and he just comes across as a genuine fella, which will be very much appreciated by the people who support Liverpool.
Klopp has also shaken up a dressing room that needed a new direction and a few of the players who thought they were the leaders of the Liverpool pack may now be wondering whether they will be quite so important in the new regime.
Daniel Sturridge, Christian Benteke, Jordan Henderson and a few more will have to fight for their place in the team, which is a wonderful position for Klopp to be in as he looks to get the best out of his squad.
After waiting months and months for Sturridge to return from injury, Liverpool fans could be forgiven for questioning whether he will now get into Klopp’s line-up.
As I watched Liverpool run rings around Premier League title favourites Manchester City last weekend, I couldn’t help but think that the absence of Sturridge in recent months has been more than a little over-hyped.
It became clear long ago that Liverpool could not rely on a striker who is injured far more often than he is fit. And when you saw the classy performances of Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino at the Etihad Stadium, Sturridge’s absence was quickly forgotten.
Okay, so Sturridge has got a magnificent goals-per-game record that confirms he is a class act, but he seems incapable of staying fit for more than a few weeks.
Klopp has turned Liverpool around to a point where they no longer need to rely on Sturridge, which is a wonderful achievement in itself after just a first few weeks at the club.
They have a Capital One Cup quarter-final against Southampton tonight and by the time we get to Christmas, everything could be looking very rosy in the Liverpool garden.
The primary issue that now needs to be addressed is the worrying form at Anfield, which is the next phase of the operation Klopp has started in such promising fashion.
This is where Sturridge and Benteke could come into play, because Klopp has shown that he does not need to be dependent on a lead striker when he is up against attacking sides away from home.
Players like Coutinho and Firmino will open teams up with their inventiveness and it now looks like the squad needs tweaking rather than a complete overhaul.
Klopp would be wise to try and make one addition to his squad in the January transfer window and he might well think he needs to add to his options on the flanks as he looks to put his stamp on the team.
However, he has already shown just what he can do it without spending a penny in the transfer market and that’s what all of the top managers are capable of.
Liverpool are very lucky to have this charismatic man at the helm and don’t be surprised if the Champions League anthem is playing once again at Anfield next season.