Klopp’s reboot has Liverpool back in contention
MANCHESTER, England (AP):
Last season's problems feel like a distant memory for Liverpool.
Jurgen Klopp's reboot has had an immediate effect, with normal service seemingly resumed at Anfield despite losing several players in the off-season and disbanding many of those who led Liverpool to the Champions League and Premier League titles in recent years.
It remains to be seen if Klopp can push Manchester City like he did during their epic rivalry from 2019-22, but they are moving in the right direction again.
"We had a tough year last year, and it was not always fun for all of us, and this time it looks like it is different," Klopp said.
If last season represented a painful transition for Liverpool, it was short-lived. The sale of Sadio Mane to Bayern Munich and several injuries to key players like Virgil van Dijk saw Liverpool, who had come within two games of winning a quadruple of trophies the year before, finish the next campaign empty-handed.
The six-time European Cup champions missed out on Champions League qualification for the first time since 2016 by finishing in fifth place in the standings.
That was still better than had looked like being the case until Liverpool mounted an 11-game unbeaten run at the end of the season.
There were concerns, however, that there would be more pain this year after the departures of Jordan Henderson, Roberto Firmino, Fabinho, James Milner and others.
While it was accepted a refresh was needed, the fear was that there was too much change too soon, with Henderson a surprise exit. The signings of Alexis Mac Allister, Dominik Szoboszlai, Wataru Endo and Ryan Gravenberch would need time to gel.
So much for that theory. Liverpool have racked up seven straight wins in all competitions and are unbeaten so far this season.
They will go into Saturday's English Premier League game against Tottenham sitting second in the standings, two points behind leaders City.
The top of the league has a familiar look again after City and Liverpool turned the title race into a personal battle throughout four seasons when the Merseyside club lost by a single point on two occasions and won the championship in 2020.
Klopp's Liverpool also reached three Champions League finals - winning one - and won every other major trophy over that period.
There were no guarantees the German coach would be able to do it again, especially up against the financial power of City, backed by the Abu Dhabi royal family. Rebuilds are rarely quick. Certainly not when replacing talents like Mane, Firmino and Henderson.
But Klopp's coaching expertise and guiding hand have been a constant influence during a period of such change. After all, Liverpool have not only lost leading players but has also had to cope with the exits of two sporting directors Michael Edwards and Julian Ward.
Against that backdrop, it is even more impressive that Klopp's signings have proved so effective so soon.