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exclusive Jurgen Klopp has proved he can thrive without big money... now he needs to do it again

Solid start for Klopp and Reds as Salah on song and defence in control at Norwich

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Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates with team-mates after scoring their side's third goal against Norwich

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates with team-mates after scoring their side's third goal against Norwich

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates with team-mates after scoring their side's third goal against Norwich

Liverpool didn’t need to get out of second gear to start the season with a 3-0 win at Norwich on Saturday night.

While it was not a perfect performance, plenty of boxes were ticked for manager Jurgen Klopp.

First and foremost, the return of Virgil van Dijk changed the look of the Liverpool team in an instant, with the return of the main man at the back certain to have a big influence on the whole team.

Klopp has eased Van Dijk back cautiously after almost a year out of the game with the knee injury he suffered at Everton last October and a game against an outclassed Norwich side was the perfect game to return in.

Van Dijk and his defensive partner Joel Matip will have tougher tests than they had at Carrow Road over the next few months, but getting the duo back was a huge boost.

Klopp will also be pleased to see his strikers getting off to scoring starts, with Diogo Jota, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah getting on the scoresheet with good finishes.

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Dioga Jota is pursued by Todd Cantwell.

Dioga Jota is pursued by Todd Cantwell.

Dioga Jota is pursued by Todd Cantwell.

I would still have some concerns about the performance of Sadio Mane and the attacking unit as a whole, as they lacked the dynamism that made them so special until Norwich began to tire and they could take advantage.

Yet these are the kind of games that Liverpool were struggling to break teams down in last season and to win 3-0 away from home in the Premier League has to fuel confidence.

The problem last season was finding a way to get past teams that had ten men behind the ball for much of the game and then hit Liverpool on the break to snatch wins.

It happened time and again in games at Anfield, but I’m pretty sure that will change with the fans back this season and time will tell if I’m proved right on that.

The one area that is concerning me right now with Liverpool is the midfield, with James Milner, Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain all picked last night.

It was a line-up that failed to provide balance and while that should change when Klopp gets a chance to pick Jordan Henderson, Thiago Alcantara and Fabinho in midfield, I still feel they need to freshen up that area with a new signing.

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Gini Wijnaldum has gone and he played nearly every game last season, so I feel there is a need for a fresh face to be added in that area, even though Klopp feels young lads like Curtis Jones and Harvey Elliott can fill that void.

Klopp suggested on Friday that he simply doesn’t have the money to make new signings right now and suggested clubs like Manchester City and Chelsea will always have a financial advantage thanks to their sugar daddy owners.

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Jurgen Klopp looks on approvingly as Norwich City are put to the sword.

Jurgen Klopp looks on approvingly as Norwich City are put to the sword.

Jurgen Klopp looks on approvingly as Norwich City are put to the sword.

Paris Saint-Germain’s signing of Lionel Messi this week was another example of oil money being pumped into football and making the playing field uneven for everyone else, but Klopp and Liverpool have proved they can thrive without an open chequebook and now they have to do it again.

Liverpool’s owners are so fortunate to have Klopp leading the club because when you look at the money spent by the two Manchester clubs and Chelsea this summer, it is taking some brilliant management to keep my old club in the mix here.

It feels like the ‘big four’ in the Premier League are pulling clear of the chasing pack and in the case of Man City, Man United and Chelsea, that’s primarily because they can sign the best players in the world when they want.

I would expect Man City to win at Tottenham today and you can envisage a scenario that sees City, United, Chelsea and Liverpool winning a majority of their games in a four-team title race.

City have signed Jack Grealish and might get Harry Kane, United have got Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane in and now Chelsea have spent big on Romelu Lukaku.

They are signings that excite fans and raise standards and while I’d love to see Liverpool getting in the mix for those big signings, it’s just not going to happen.

Instead, Klopp is trying to bridge the £100m a season spending gap in transfers with his brilliant management and he will need to do that again as he tries to match opponents that have gone up a level for this season.

One point we can all agree on is that this feels like real football again, with fans back in the stands adding the ingredient that was so badly missing last season.

Getting football on at a time when we were all locked in our homes and everything else was shut down during the pandemic was welcome, but the football we got was not authentic.

It was basically training games with points on the line and I have to give credit to the players for putting on a show last season in difficult circumstances.

Some people in football may have taken the fans for granted in recent years, with ridiculous ticket prices meaning too many people have been pushed out of the game.

Yet the club’s owners must now appreciate that the product they are selling is far less attractive when the paying public are not there watching.

To hear Liverpool fans singing Allez, Allez, Allez once again last night after almost 18 months of empty stands at games was an absolute joy.

And those scenes have been replicated right across the Premier League, starting with Brentford’s game against Arsenal on Friday night.

The atmosphere created by a sell-out crowd at Old Trafford inspired the Manchester United players to a big win against Leeds yesterday and this is what football is all about.

Supporters are so important to set the mood in a game and having them back and singing their hearts out has changed the mood of the Premier League this weekend.

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