When Mainz’s sporting director Christian Heidel revealed the club’s new manager in an understated and hurriedly arranged press conference in February 2001, the confusion among the smattering of local journalists swiftly turned into derision.
“The whole table roared with laughter,” Heidel told Raphael Honigstein in his biography of the then rookie coach Jurgen Klopp, Bring the Noise. “They all cracked up. They took the piss out of us the next day in the papers.”
Almost 22 years on, Klopp has enjoyed a supremely successful management career which has brought plenty of support, success and interesting stats.
Saturday, 21 January 2023 will be indelibly inked in the record books across all sources (see the headline) as Jurgen Klopp’s 1,000th game in management. However, Neil Critchley may have something to say about that.
The former Liverpool youth-team coach was at the helm for two of Klopp’s first 999 games in management, taking charge of an embryonic squad for a pair of cup games during the 2019/20 season. The 5-0 defeat to Aston Villa in the Carabao Cup quarter-finals and the FA Cup fourth-round replay win over Shrewsbury Town will go down on Klopp’s record but the German boss wasn’t in the stadium for either match.
Liverpool’s involvement in the Club World Cup explained his absence against Villa – he led the Reds to victory in Doha the following day – but Klopp gave his first team (and himself) the night off against the Shrews as the replay fell during the Premier League’s winter break. Even James Milner made it to Anfield that night, watching from behind a home dugout devoid of his boss.
When Mainz were consigned to fourth spot in 2003, one position below the three promotion places, after their fate had been decided on a tragic final day for a second season in a row, Klopp’s side was mockingly branded: “The Unpromotables”.
The curse was finally broken in 2004 as Klopp became the first manager in the club’s history to steer Mainz into the Bundesliga. It came down to the last game again but the banner which Klopp put in his team’s dressing room before kick-off proved prescient. It read: “Jaaaaaaa!”
With just 54 points, Mainz recorded the lowest tally of any team to be promoted in Bundesliga history at the time. Few cared as just two years earlier their record of 64 points was the most of any team that failed to secure top-flight promotion.
Borussia Dortmund’s Bundesliga crown in 2011/12 was remarkable for a vast number of reasons.
Ilkay Gundogan succinctly summarised Borussia’s strengths during a campaign in which they not only nabbed a consecutive league title but earned the club’s first-ever domestic double: “We dominated the opposition, Klopp-style.”
Despite mathematically securing the league crown before the season’s conclusion, Klopp demanded his side keep their foot on the throttle, inspiring a remorselessness which earned Borussia 81 points, the highest tally in the history of the Bundesliga at the time according to The Analyst.
Bayern Munich have since surpassed that record but the fact that Klopp could inspire a Dortmund team competing on a fraction of the Bavarians’ budget to such lofty heights ensures that the achievement continues to resonate.
Repeatedly failing on the grandest of stages is a privilege few have the honour of achieving. Liverpool’s defeat in the 2022 Champions League final to Real Madrid was the third time Klopp had collected a runners-up medal in the European showpiece, equalling the record set by Marcello Lippi with Juventus. Klopp’s opposite number in 2022, Carlo Ancelotti, is the only coach to have ever reached the Champions League final more often than the self-proclaimed “Normal One”.
His Liverpool side had already been bested by Los Blancos in 2018, five years after Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund were undone by an 89th-minute winner from Bayern Munich’s Arjen Robben at Wembley.
Klopp did wrap his hands around the famous big-eared trophy in 2019, steering Liverpool past Tottenham Hotspur at the end of a sensational season which still carried a tinge of disappointment from their league exploits.
In 2018/19, Liverpool finished with an unbelievable 97 points. At the time, the highest tally in the club’s history. Yet, it wasn’t enough to topple Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, who racked up 98.
In the 119 seasons of English top-flight football which took place before 2018/19, Klopp’s Liverpool would have won the title with that tally 117 times, when adjusted to three points for a win per game.
In 2017/18, Guardiola’s City clocked in at 100 points and all the way back in 1888/89 Preston North End’s Invincibles won 18 of their 22 matches, drawing four.
Fortunately for Klopp’s nearly men, they only had to wait 12 months before snatching the crown themselves, racking up 99 points just to make sure of a 19th top-flight title for the club.
It’s become a familiar touchstone in the search to quantify Klopp’s otherworldly success that his Liverpool side equalled the longest winning run in English top-flight history, racking up 18 consecutive victories between October 2019 and February 2020.
However, what goes forgotten is the sequence that led to this history book bothering run. Before drawing 1-1 with Manchester United, Liverpool had won their previous 17 matches in a row. Therefore, between March 2019 and February 2020, Liverpool won 35 of their 36 Premier League matches, dropping just two points from a possible 108.
John McKenna’s 69% win record during his time at the helm between 1895 and 1896 ensures that Klopp (61%) can’t lay claim to the all-time honour of Liverpool’s most-winningest manager. However, even if we discount the fact that he was operating in an era when the halfway line didn’t exist and the crossbar was a new-fangled addition, McKenna only took charge of just 36 matches (W25 D3 L8).
Klopp has taken charge of a great deal more, winning hearts, minds and trophies in a career which is no longer laughed at, but lauded.
Player ratings as single Ake goals knocks Gunners out of FA Cup
Manchester City knocked Arsenal out of the FA Cup at the Etihad Stadium as the fourth round kicked off on Friday night, with Nathan Ake the unexpected star of the show with the only goal.
The Gunners made a bright start and right-back Takehiro Tomiyasu stung the palms of City goalkeeper Stefan Ortega after only a few minutes. Leandro Trossard was the architect of a few moves down the left in those early stages, exposing City’s preference to have right-back Rico Lewis operate as an auxiliary central midfielder.
The hosts caught their first sight of goal courtesy of a loose ball that threatened to let Erling Haaland in. Matt Turner was quick to rush out, but as the ball popped up into the air, Haaland attempted the acrobatic – think Zlatan Ibrahimovic vs England in 2012 – but Tomiyasu dropped back onto the line.
Midway through the first half, Ortega’s strong left hand stopped Trossard putting Arsenal ahead after the £27m Belgian drove in-field from his flank. City had their own chance from a Belgian soon after when Kevin De Bruyne whipped a left-footed shot just wide of the far post.
Trossard made another Arsenal chance when he put a teasing cross into Eddie Nketiah at the near post, with the in-form striker sending his flick just wide. It didn’t really feel like an action-packed first half, yet the opportunities kept coming as Haaland missed the target under pressure from Gabriel.
Trossard aside, none of the big players on either side had particularly stood out in the first 45 – the likes of Haaland, De Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez and Bukayo Saka had all be disappointingly quiet.
Given that, it was perhaps fitting that the eventual breakthrough came from an unlikely source. Substitute Julian Alvarez changed things by taking on a shot from distance that rebounded off the post. Jack Grealish recycled it and found left-back Ake, who passed the ball into the far corner of the goal like a seasoned striker.
Both managers made numerous changes to try and shift the balance of the game in their favour as the minutes ticked away. It achieved little as far as the spectacle was concerned, breaking up any potential for a bit of rhythm or momentum.
City dug in in the closing stages, squeezing Arsenal out whenever the Gunners threatened to make something happen in or around the box – in particular Ortega made a couple of vital smothers when Arsenal sub Gabriel Martinelli injected some pace for the hosts.
GK: Stefan Ortega – 8/10 – Needed to make saves from the start, keeping City in it when Arsenal were arguably stronger in the first half. Stayed strong throughout and never looked as though he was going to be beaten.
RB: Rico Lewis – 6/10 – Spent a lot of time in the middle of the pitch as per instructions from his manager. Clearly a good player but it gave Trossard too much space, albeit not his fault.
CB: John Stones – 5/10 – Often looked vulnerable because of how Lewis was playing. A suspected hamstring injury then ended his night before half-time.
CB: Manuel Akanji – 7/10 – Had to switch positions after Stones was taken off but put in a dominant performance regardless.
LB: Nathan Ake – 8/10 – Finished with great composure to put his team ahead and put in a solid defensive shift as well, with Saka hardly given a sniff.
CM: Kevin De Bruyne – 5/10 – Narrowly missed with a great curling effort in the first half and slightly improved after half-time but was far from his best.
CM: Rodri – 5/10 – Unusually sloppy with the ball by his standards.
CM: Ilkay Gundogan – 6/10 – Did both sides of the ball pretty well but not always on the same page as the forwards ahead of him.
RW: Riyad Mahrez – 4/10 – Not really himself. Didn’t have enough of the ball to make any real impact and was withdrawn before an hour had passed.
ST: Erling Haaland – 5/10 – Attempted the spectacular early on and also took a whack to the back of the head before half-time. Didn’t get his usual quality service.
LW: Jack Grealish – 6/10 – Gets an assist for his layoff to Ake and City’s best forward on the night.
SUB: Aymeric Laporte (45+4′ for Stones) – 7/10
SUB: Julian Alvarez (58′ for Mahrez) – 7/10
SUB: Kyle Walker (58′ for Lewis) – 7/10
SUB: Bernardo Silva (75′ for De Bruyne) – 6/10
Pep Guardiola – 7/10 – The way he set up the team didn’t make sense when Trossard kept causing problems down City’s right. Changed shape early in the second half and the substitutes definitely did make a positive impact overall.
GK: Matt Turner – 6/10 – Stood little chance with the only goal. Always keen to come for crosses or rush off his line.
RB: Takehiro Tomiyasu – 6/10 – Had the first early chance with a good foray forward.
CB: Rob Holding – 5/10 – Got physical with Haaland and took a yellow card for it with 50 minutes still left to play. The danger of getting another saw him removed at half-time.
CB: Gabriel – 6/10 – Did enough to put Haaland off in a key moment.
LB: Kieran Tierney – 6/10 – Would have expected a tougher test from Mahrez. Didn’t offer much going forward to take advantage of that.
CM: Fabio Vieira – 5/10 – Had one shot that missed the target and didn’t do enough otherwise.
CM: Thomas Partey – 5/10 – Didn’t stand out and was surprisingly replaced at half-time.
CM: Granit Xhaka – 6/10 – Successful in stopping City play their usual sparkling game, although a couple of hesitations in key moments were almost costly.
RW: Bukayo Saka – 4/10 – Just 23 touches of the ball tells its own story.
ST: Eddie Nketiah – 5/10 – Couldn’t find the target with a chance in thef first half. The service wasn’t there for him and he touched the ball only slightly more than Saka.
LW: Leandro Trossard – 7/10 – Gave City real trouble from the start and created a number of chances in the first half. Much quieter after the break.
SUB: William Saliba (46′ for Holding) – 6/10
SUB: Albert Sambi Lokonga (46′ for Partey) – 6/10
SUB: Gabriel Martinelli (66′ for Trossard) – 7/10
SUB: Oleksandr Zinchenko (66′ for Tierney) – 6/10
SUB: Martin Odegaard (74′ for Saka) – 5/10
Mikel Arteta – 6/10 – Took no risks with Holding on a yellow card and later responded to going behind by making chances immediately. Couldn’t get one over on his old mentor.
Player of the match – Nathan Ake (Man City)
Wolves finally set to sign Brazilian talent from Flamengo
Wolves are finally set to conclude the signing of Joao Gomes after winning their stand-off with Flamengo, sources have confirmed to 90min.
90min revealed earlier in January that Wolves had agreed terms with Flamengo, but at the point of exchanging contracts the Brazilian club did not return documents at their end.
Wolves then struggled to communicate with Flamengo and it emerged that talks had begun with French side Lyon, who made a bid worth €19m (£16.7m) – that was €2m more than Wolves offered.
However, despite Lyon’s determination to persuade Gomes otherwise, the player refused to move to France. Instead, he insisted he wanted to move to the Premier League and even new Lyon owner John Textor made a personal trip to try and convince him to no avail.
Now, after accepting the Lyon move won’t happen, Flamengo have greenlighted the Wolves deal and given permission for Gomes to join them. The transfer is on course to be finalised over the weekend.
On this edition of Talking Transfers, Scott Saunders hosts Toby Cudworth & Graeme Bailey to discuss some of the latest transfer news. On today’s agenda: Dusan Vlahovic, Anthony Gordon, Enzo Fernandes, Amadou Onana, Malo Gusto, Nicolo Zaniolo, Pedro Porro, Weston McKennie, Milan Skriniar, Maiximo Perrone & more! If you can’t see this embed, click here to listen to the podcast!
Kieran Trippier signs new Newcastle contract
Kieran Trippier has committed his future to Newcastle with a new two-and-a-half-year contract.
The 32-year-old England international was the first signing made by Newcastle following the Saudi Arabia-backed takeover, joining from Aletico Madrid in a £15m deal in January 2022.
Trippier’s previous deal was due to expire in 2024 but he is now tied to the club until 2025.
After putting pen to paper, Trippier said: “I’m absolutely delighted that I’ve extended my contract here. I’ve got a lot of thank yous to make to the manager, owners, fans and my team-mates.
“When I first arrived here, they made me feel so welcome and I want to help the club achieve great things. It’s a positive moment for us players in the club and there’s no place I’d rather be.”
Newcastle United head coach, Eddie Howe, added: “It’s a fitting reward for the season he’s had. He’s been outstanding both on and off the pitch, showing real leadership at a difficult moment when he first arrived, and now he’s excelled in a team that’s doing well.
“I can’t praise him enough for everything he’s given the club.”
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