After spending a month playing away from Anfield as the finishing touches were being completed, Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool unveiled the renovated stadium with a 4-1 victory over the 2015-2016 Premier League Champions, Leicester City. The stadium had 8,000 more fans packed into it. While it was not that noticeable watching it on a screen, the noise within the ground could have only helped the players.
The match was emblematic of everything the club has been under Klopp’s leadership. The football was fast and exciting. Roberto Firmino, Daniel Sturridge and Sadio Mane ran circles around the Foxes’ defense. The midfield three of Adam Lallana, Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum kept possession very well with their passing and also pressured Leicester all over the pitch with their non-stop running.
There were random injuries, such as the one that befell Dejan Lovren in training the day before the match. That led to a patchwork defense that started Lucas Leiva instead of Ragnar Klavan. The lone Leicester goal was also sadly typical of Klopp’s Liverpool since it came because of a defensive breakdown.
Still, the energy around Anfield kept the team from losing focus after the score became 2-1, and they went on to harness that energy and turn it into two more goals. Instead of wilting under the expectations like they could have, the players turned up the pressure on their opponents instead.
They all seem to have finally settled into their roles. James Milner, who continues to be deployed at left-back, held his own against Riyad Mahrez. Henderson, filling-in as a defensive midfielder, dominated the middle of the pitch and it was his long pass that found Sturridge which led to Mane’s goal.
With his finishing being the skill that he lacked the most over the last few seasons, Lallana scored a tremendous screamer that can only boost his confidence. Lastly, despite being moved out into the left wing, Firmino still scored two goals and continued to excel at opening up space for the rest of his teammates.
Sturridge’s presence in the starting lineup was a bit of a surprise, but he showed his commitment to the club with a fantastic performance despite making only his second start this season. The English striker could have shown his resentment towards Klopp by playing more selfishly and looking for his shot. Instead, he worked wonders with the other two players in the top of the formation and was unselfish when he laid the ball out for Mane to score.
The renovation of the main stand is a clear sign that the Fenway Sports Group are committed to making the club better. They could have pushed to build a new stadium in another place in the city but they chose to keep the legend of Anfield and significantly increase the capacity instead.
Klopp has clearly shown that he and the group are working together by buying talent who will still improve for the right price rather than acquiring expensive players who would only be short-term solutions.
While the club may not win the Premier League this season, incremental progress for both the present and the future is a smart strategy for management to pursue since it would be difficult for them to compete in the market that other clubs such as Manchester City, United and Chelsea operate in.
This is definitely a new era for Liverpool. The energy is renewed both on the field and in the stands. Justice for the 96 has finally happened. The players are committed to their coach and the system that he has implemented. Who knows what the future holds for everyone involved in the club but it certainly looks much brighter than it did a year ago.