Jurgen Klopp is now the overwhelming favourite to succeed Brendan Rodgers as Liverpool manager – even if the German insists he has yet to make a decision one way or the other.
If and when former Borussia Dortmund boss arrives, he will have a bustling in tray to take care of, with the Reds suffering from a number of issues that continue to linger.
We know Klopp is a powerful personality, but can he stamp his authority at Anfield and guide Liverpool back to the top of the English game?
If he is entertaining that level of ambition, here are five tasks that will be high up on his list:
1. Sort out the defence
After three years and almost £80m outlay on defenders, Rodgers was no closer to resolving the problem of a back line that has always conceded goals, and worse, has always had a calamitous mistake in it.
When he was at Dortmund, Klopp could call on World Cup winner Mats Hummels and imposing Serb Neven Subotic as his two rock-solid centre-halves, but he won’t have the same foundations at Anfield. The Reds are a centre-half and left-back short of a defence, and there are still questions over the keeper, which is why Rodgers was forced to use a five-man system that he hated.
How he organises his defenders will be the first challenge for the new boss.
The Liverpool backline has not convinced in recent months
2. Replace Steven Gerrard
Emre Can was supposed to be the new Gerrard, and Rodgers once said he’d be the best midfielder in the world. But he simply hasn’t settled in the holding role, with the pace of the game in the Premier League too hot for him. Instead, Can has been used as a centre-half, and he clearly isn’t one.
Klopp must find a solution to the taxing problem of how to replace Gerrard – though in James Milner and Jordan Henderson, he at least has two central players of genuine quality who looked good in the brief period they played together.
Getting Henderson back could be the key.
Big miss: Henderson’s absence has been keenly felt
3. Find the right combination up front
Liverpool have goals in them – lots of goals, if they could ever find their shooting boots. Even this season as Rodgers changed his formation on an almost weekly basis to find a solution to his problem of profligacy, there was the suggestion of an attack which was ready to deliver.
With Daniel Sturridge back and Christian Benteke about to return, Klopp must decide if he wants to use them in combination, or alternate the pair, to take the physical pressure off the fragile Sturridge.
Danny Ings has been excellent since forcing his way in the side, and Coutinho, Lallana, Firmino and Henderson all have the ability to contribute 5-10 goals a season, so getting those numbers out of the forwards is the key.
Decision time: Which of Liverpool’s forwards should be starting?
4. Win over the fans
It won’t take too much, because there is a real groundswell of opinion behind the German, but he must realise that Liverpool’s supporters have a keen sense of history and tradition.
They never really warmed to Rodgers, despite his obvious respect for the club. Why that was the case is a complex equation, but Klopp must tread carefully in his opening weeks, to ensure he gets a frustrated and now cynical fan-base onside, as Rodgers – and certainly Roy Hodgson before him – never did.
Anfield has been like a church at times over the past year, with the fans almost resigned to one struggle and disappointment after another. If he can get Anfield rocking like he did the Westfalonstadion in Dortmund, then he will have a powerful force behind him.
Charismatic: Klopp was a firm fan favourite in Germany
5. Pick the right staff
Klopp must appoint a coach who knows not only the Premier League, but also the traditions of Liverpool.
Robbie Fowler springs instantly to mind. He already works for the club, and there is no greater hero amongst the fans. An appointment like that would generate a tidal wave of positive reaction amongst the faithful, but also give the new manager an idea of what it means to be a Red.
Kop legend: Fowler would be a clever appointment as coach
Fowler knows the club insideout, and he also knows the Premier League, and how different that is to the rest of European football. Even with his vast experience of the continently game, English football will come as a culture shock to the German, and if he can find a coach who can offer him an insight into the way it all works, then it will offer a massive benefit.
Source: Mirror (UK)