Jürgen Klopp Q&A: Bundesliga expert Alex Howell runs the rule on Liverpool's new manager

It's been a fairly hectic week for Liverpool Football Club, even though it's been an international break since last Sunday.

After a dismal draw in the 225th Merseyside Derby, Brendan Rodgers was given the sack for a poor run of form and just a few days later, the club's supporters could barely believe the fact that Jürgen Klopp is officially their new manager.

The charismatic German is renowned for his sensational seven-year spell with Borussia Dortmund, whom he lifted to back-to-back Bundesliga titles, a Champions League final and a DFB Pokal amongst other silverware-laden memories.

The 48-year-old, who left Dortmund in May, was unveiled on Friday afternoon as the British media swooned over him deep in the bowels of Anfield.

Since, social media has been swarmed with various quotes and pictures as Reds the world over begin to dream about what Klopp could bring to the table on Merseyside.

In the aftermath of his official unveiling, VAVEL Liverpool editor Charlie Malam spoke to VAVEL Bundesliga expert Alex Howell to see what the hype is all about.

Q: Jurgen Klopp is officially now Liverpool’s new manager - but is Merseyside, and indeed the Premier League, the right destination for him?

AH: Obviously it's too early to say that Jürgen Klopp's tenure at Anfield will be entirely successful and it'd be naive for me to proclaim that the former Borussia Dortmund man will instantly slot into the groove of the Premier League; but one thing worth noting is the similarity of the situation the Black Forest native inherits on Merseyside, to the one he faced at the Westfalenstadion in 2008, and we all know how that one ended up.

In terms of style the Premier League is not too dissimilar to the Bundesliga, so in that sense it seems the perfect league for Klopp to join after his short lived sabbatical. He has a good grasp of the English language, as I'm sure you'll be aware, so the infamous cultural barrier many foreigners face shouldn't be an issue for Klopp. It's been a feeling in Germany for quite some time now that a move to England was the well thought out next step for Jürgen Klopp and finally that has come to fruition.

As for Liverpool FC, for me at-least it seems the most natural fit within the league. As anyone who knows anything about Jürgen Klopp will tell you, he's a huge football romanticist and the lure of turning a struggling Reds side, so to speak, back to former glories will have been what appealed to the former Dortmund man the most. It just seems a natural fit between the two.

Q: He’s come highly recommended from various ex-professionals and pundits worldwide throughout the course of the week. Is Klopp as world-class a manager as people are making out?

AH: As with the last question, you just need to look at his time with die Schwarzgelben, as well as his earlier stint with 1. FSV Mainz 05, to see his credentials. What Klopp achieved with firstly a relatively unknown Mainz side, and secondly a downtrodden Borussia Dortmund team is quite frankly a miracle; or maybe not when achieved twice...

There's a reason why effectively the whole of Germany, and perhaps world, took note of Klopp's work - the sheer unorthodox approach and perhaps unknown way of doing it as well as the sheer audacity to win back to back titles against Bayern Munich, which was unfound in the country for many a year.

For those who may not be aware, when he arrived at Borussia Dortmund the club was on its knees. Years of managerial instability and financial turmoil contributed to the very real threat of relegation for one of Germany's premier clubs. What he transformed die Schwarzgelben into over an eight year period will have lasting impacts on German football for many years to come. Two Bundesliga titles, one DFB Pokal, two DFB Super Cups and a Champions League Final appearance would've seemed a mere pipe dream when Klopp took over at the Westfalenstadion, but he made it happen.

Even on a smaller scale, his time at 1. FSV Mainz 05 shows his qualities; transforming a perennial underachieving 2. Bundesliga side into the Europa League qualifiers is something that only ever usually happens on Football Manager, but once again Klopp made it happen. 

That's why "Kloppo" is so highly rated. 

With all the positives and praise that has been attributed with Klopp’s arrival - are there any flaws? Is there, for example, something he should/shouldn’t have done at Dortmund?

AH: The one continual major criticism of Klopp in his time in the Bundesliga, was his inability and perhaps stubbornness in regards to his famous style of play and formation. When the going got tough in his well documented swansong year at the Westfalenstadion, Klopp failed to adapt as many of the sides his team came up against had worked out how to play against his high octane style of play and a repeat of this in the Premier League could spell disaster for Klopp. 

Another thing often aimed at Klopp was his sometimes questionable transfer policy. Despite the captures of Robert Lewandowski, Mats Hummels and Ilkay Gündogan for relative peanuts there were also a number who's time at Borussia Dortmund was not as fruitful as the previous trio, most evidently Adrian Ramos, Ciro Immobile and even Henrikh Mkhitaryan (who has began to flourish under Thomas Tuchel, mind) but maybe that's me trying to pick criticisms of Klopp, as no manager can claim a clean slate when it comes to poor transfers.

Q: The reaction to his appointment, and even simply the Reds’ interest in him earlier in the week, has stirred great excitement - but should supporters be wary of expecting too much, too soon?

AH: I think one thing for Liverpool fans to take in heed, is that at both clubs before Liverpool it's taken time for Klopp's works to bear fruit. It took three years at Borussia Dortmund for example for the first League title, so as previously mentioned it'd be naive to expect instant success; although an upturn in the recent mediocrity under Rodger's should be easily within Klopp's powers. 

But one other thing for Reds fans to take note, when the trophies did come, it wasn't trophy as a singular. 

A lot of comparisons have been drawn between the fanbases of Liverpool and Dortmund, but is it possible that Klopp can develop a relationship similar to the one he had with Dortmund fans, with the supporters at Liverpool?

AH: Has he not got one already?!

One of the main cogs in the success Jürgen Klopp enjoyed at Borussia Dortmund was the bond he had between himself and the fans. This resonated with the squad to form somewhat of a siege mentality, or a never say die attitude. It's vital for Klopp that he achieves the same on Merseyside, but it looks more of an when than if, as he already looks well on his way to forming a similar bond to the one he had on the Ruhrpott. 

Q: We’ve all heard the term ‘gegenpressing’ when it comes to the style Klopp will look to bring to Anfield - but can you tell us more about what that phrase actually entails?

AH: The literal translation of the term is "against pressing", which in actual fact couldn't be anything further from the truth.

In actual fact the Anglo-German term means "Counter-Press" and is a more dynamic and action based take on the infamous style of Pep Guardiola's FC Barcelona. As a slight resemblance, Klopp's style should in some ways mirror Luis Suarez, Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge in their pomp in the regards that opposing teams have no time to breathe; it is constant press, press and even more pressing.

The aim of that is to win the ball high up the pitch where eleven men cannot be behind the ball and thus in a perfect world Liverpool score every time. It requires physically fit players (which may seem obvious, as all players should be fit, no?) and more importantly mobile players so that the press can be efficiently carried out so in that sense players like Jordan Henderson and James Milner should perform wonders under Klopp, but don't hold me to that!

Another thing key to "gegenpressing" is holding a high line. If there isn't a high line, there is too much space to press allowing sides to play out and then pick passes further up the field and hurt the defence, and this was one of the main inefficiencies in Klopp's final year at the Westfalenstadion. Whilst i'm not saying that Klopp will transform Dejan Lovren into the next Franz Beckenbauer, in theory the Reds should defend as a whole much better although at the moment that may not be too much of a task. 

Klopp himself commented on the style with, "gegenpressing is the best playmaker there is" and in many ways he's correct. If it works Klopp's teams are unplayable a good example of this would be the away game at Manchester City in 2012; I'd recommend all Liverpool fans at-least take a quick look at Dortmund's tactics that night or even just Marco Reus' goal. 

Continuing tactically, his favoured formation in Germany seemed to be a 4-2-3-1- are there any other systems he’s particularly inclined to using?

AH: Although Klopp most definitely favours the 4-2-3-1 it's not to say that his sides can't field in other systems. His sides have been well known to take to the pitch in 4-3-3 or even 4-4-1-1 formations, but I think although the presence of "gegenpressing" will remain a constant the formation adopted to carry it out will depend on Klopp's verdict on the personnel LFC possess. 

During his time with Borussia Dortmund there was no doubt that the strength lay in the attacking midfield, much the same as Liverpool you could perhaps say, with players such as Shinji Kagawa, Marco Reus and Mario Goetze all fielding for Klopp.

One difference however is that die Schwarzgelben mostly operated with a single top quality striker, firstly Lucas Barrios then Robert Lewandowski and finally Pierre Emerick Aubameyang. Those in reserve were often a step below in quality to their fellow strikers, the difference at Liverpool is that there are two quality centre forwards in Daniel Sturridge and Christian Benteke. This will be the main dilemma the Stuttgart born manager will face when deciding his system to deploy at White Hart Lane next weekend and finding a balance between the plethora of midfield options and the quality of Benteke and Sturridge will be crucial for Klopp and the Reds in the months to come.

Despite their post-Christmas revival, Klopp’s final season at Dortmund was a little disappointing - as they finished 7th. Should that be concerning to Liverpool fans?

AH: The general consensus in Germany was that Klopp could be afforded one "bad" year after changing Borussia Dortmund's fortunes around so quickly. But on a more general basis, how often do managers stay in a role for eight years and have a perfect season every year? Not very often, if at all. After so many good seasons, the chances were that after an annual pillaging by Bayern Munich and the ageing of other players, that Dortmund were eventually going to break, so to speak, and a new man would be required at the helm - that happened to be last season.

On paper and from an outside perspective you could easily brandish Klopp's last season at the Westfalenstadion as a complete failure, but as mentioned in the question itself Klopp managed to turn it around from the post-Christmas mire and part with die Schwarzgelben having climbed ten league places and qualifying for Europe; that alone should be of more promise to Liverpool fans than the early season struggles.

Q: Do you think there could be any possibility of him looking at some of his former players at Dortmund when he comes to tweak his squad in January? Or any other potential players in the Bundesliga which he may have taken a liking to in previous years?

AH: It's very hard to say in all honesty. I think most Liverpool fans would be willing to admit that players like Marco Reus and Mats Hummels are most probably out of reach for the Reds despite the nouveau Klopp connection. We could see a move for some younger or bit part players at Borussia Dortmund, like Neven Subotic or Jonas Hoffmann despite the former enjoying a good start to the season under Tuchel. 

I also think it'd be a very sensible opinion to conclude that Klopp will look at the Bundesliga for new signings. This is the league that he handpicked players like Ilkay Gündogan and Mats Hummels as well as Marco Reus and turned them into world class players, although Reus returned to Dortmund from Borussia Moenchengladbach for a fee of around £15 million. An example of a potential transfer target could be Patrick Herrmann, as Klopp does love a good fast winger (see Jakub Blaszczykowski at Borussia Dortmund) and Herrmann was a thorn in the side of Klopp in-particularly last season.

To conclude I think it'd be very naive of Klopp not to turn to Bundesliga for some of his earlier transfer targets, at-least if he has managed to wrangle control back from the dreaded transfer committee. 

Finally, in your opinion, do you think Klopp will be a success at Anfield?

AH: In a word, yes.

It'll take time, as always you've got to bear in mind that at the two clubs he's managed the shortest tenure he's had is seven years. But once his work has began to bear fruit at either respected club before, it has been the start of some very good times for firstly Mainz and secondly Dortmund fans. 

The match between the two, Liverpool and Klopp, just seems right. Jürgen Klopp is a romantist and Liverpool need someone with true character (sorry Brendon) and determination to give the club some purpose once more. Klopp should prove to be a breath of fresh air on Merseyside. His well publicised man management skills, in tandem with is coined "gegenpressing" style suit the Premier League down to the ground in theory and although the proclamation of a first League title in over 20 years have been met by ridicule in certain quarters (despite the literal mistranslation as Klopp said "titel" which means "trophy"), it may not be a too far of a claim.

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