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Liverpool scrutiny justifies Klopp's status after most impressive achievement


He’s getting a bit like Santa is Jurgen Klopp – delivering a ­present for the Liverpool fans every Christmas.

This is the third year in a row he has been top of the Premier League over the festive period, but, in so many ways, this is the most ­impressive achievement of the lot.

I need to preface this by saying straight away that you get nowt for being top at this time of year – except scrutiny.

I know that. So does Klopp. You’re there to be shot at and this year far fewer games have been played at this stage than in any previous year.

But the fact remains that the ­majority of teams who are top at Christmas go on to win the league, so it means something.



Jurgen Klopp has led Liverpool to the top of the table for the third Christmas running
Jurgen Klopp has led Liverpool to the top of the table for the third Christmas running

And I can tell you that it means ­everything to Klopp this year after the injury nightmare he has endured.

Honestly, he will wonder how it can even have happened – let alone that his team are four points clear and eight ahead of Manchester City, who are still probably the biggest ­challengers for the title.

Two years ago, being top was pretty impressive because they were seven points clear of a City side possibly the best-ever in the Premier League on Boxing Day. Last year was mind-blowing – 10 points clear and romping away.

But this year to have done it with all the injuries they have had – and to so many of his most important players – is not just impressive, it’s ­remarkable.

I heard a stat that said Liverpool have had 19 different players out at different times with injury or virus.



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It’s been an extremely interesting start to the season for Jurgen Klopp’s men.

They got their title defence off to a shaky start as they edged out a seven-goal thriller against Leeds, before going on to conceded seven in a hammering by Aston Villa.

Virgil van Dijk’s season was ended by injury in the 2-2 draw at Everton, leaving the title favourites looking far less secure at the back – especially with Alisson’s injury worries too.

But there’s no slowing down in what is going to be a busy campaign – with Klopp ensuring his men continue at full pace as they bid for more title glory.

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That makes it the most impressive of the lot. And it tells us a lot about what Klopp has achieved at Anfield, too.

I’ve heard people say he can’t be considered a great manager until he has retained the title. I don’t agree.

Never mind that he has been up there for three ­seasons in a row and won plenty of other trophies too, ­including titles in Germany.

Look at the teams he has ­defeated – Bayern in the Bundesliga, City over here.

But being top at Christmas against the odds shows us the work the ­manager and his staff have put in, the process they are following, which is not just for the first team, but the entire squad and, in fact, throughout the club.



Klopp has brought the best out of youngsters like Rhys Williams
Klopp has brought the best out of youngsters like Rhys Williams

They have had to not only utilise the whole squad, but plenty of younger players, too. He’s already used 29 ­different players in the Premier League and Champions League, and kids like Curtis Jones, Neco Williams and Rhys Williams are regulars.

Jones is 19 and he’s already made 16 appearances this season. They’ve all come in and done magnificently, as have Diogo Jota, Caoimhin Kelleher, Nat Phillips and Leighton Clarkson.

You can’t be top of the league and in the Champions League knockout using 29 players unless the fringe players have really stepped up. And that tells you every single one of them buys into his process, into his philosophy.

Don’t be fooled by Mo Salah and Sadio Mane throwing a bit of a strop when being taken off in games – they buy into this squad.

You can see it everything they do and particularly in how they play when so many stars are missing.

Klopp has improved just about every single one of them, too.

That is remarkable as well. Jones is from Toxteth, so I had no doubt he’d be top class, but his progress has been astonishing.

He has real knowledge for a kid and reads the game, which, for me, is the key to becoming a top player.

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Curtis Jones has stepped up with aplomb amid Liverpool's injury crisis
Curtis Jones has stepped up with aplomb amid Liverpool’s injury crisis

 

But look at Gini Wijnaldum. He’s got even better this year. So has ­Jordan Henderson. He bosses ­midfields now.

Jota has been a ­revelation, Matip has stepped up, Fabinho, too, and Andy Robertson is a revelation in his consistent class.

We are speaking about players in a way we’ve never spoken before. It’s the sign of a great coach and by great I don’t mean good, I mean now up there with some of the best around.

Imagine for a second if he were suddenly available at the end of the season – not that there’s even a one per cent chance of that happening – every single top club in Europe would be interested.

There’d be a queue round the block. He is the Christmas present for ­Liverpool fans – and they will hope he keeps on giving all the way to May.





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