The level of scrutiny on Brendan Rodgers this season, having acquiesced wholesale changes to his backroom staff over the summer, was always going to be more intense having spent in excess of £70 million to improve on last year’s dismal campaign, but it still seems obscene that he should be under pressure after just five games of this term.
Having seen his team slip to miserable defeats to West Ham and Manchester United though, the heat on Rodgers is being ramped up with the Northern Irishman the bookmaker’s favourite to be the Premier League’s first managerial casualty of this season.
Perhaps the spectre of a spectacled and bearded German inching over him isn’t helping, with Dietmar Hamann telling Sky Sports how he feels Jurgen Klopp is the perfect replacement for Rodgers should he be shown the door.
The dilemma facing Liverpool’s American owners is whether to pull the trigger on Rodgers whilst the opportunity to charm Klopp is still available, before the former-Borussia Dortmund coach is lured in by Bayern Munich, as many people are suggesting, as a successor to Pep Guardiola.
Klopp is said to be keen to discover where he stands on Bayern’s list of possible heirs to Guardiola before he makes a decision on where his next job will be, having left Signal Iduna Park in the summer following a seven year reign in which he morphed Dortmund into one of the most vibrant outfits in Europe and provided an early challenge to Bayern’s growing hegemony.
Klopp left the Black and Yellows in a state of decline however as his squad and his methods had grown stale, but such has been the impact Thomas Tuchel has had in Dortmund that if Klopp does move to the Allianz Arena, he will face a direct challenge from the club that he is adored by.
It is Tuchel’s team that is threatening, albeit with the Bundesliga in its embryonic stage, to gate-crash Guardiola’s farewell having made a perfect start to this season.
With four wins out four, Bayern have also made a 100% start but have required last minute winners to overcome both Hoffenheim and Augsburg having looked short on ideas as Guardiola searches for the correct formula to fit new signings Douglas Costa, Kingsley Coman and Arturo Vidal into.
Meanwhile Dortmund have been free-scoring and dazzling, hitting 15 goals in their opening four league games (on top of the 17 scored in the four Europa League qualifying matches) and in doing so recorded the best ever start to a Bundesliga season by any club in its 53-year history. They also opened their Europa League campaign with a 2-1 win over Russian side FC Krasnodar.
Factor in the 0-2 German Cup win over Chemnitzer and Dortmund have won all 10 of their competitive games so far this term, scoring 36 goals and conceding 9 in a run the club has never experienced before.
Dortmund - refreshed and purposeful
As the famous yellow wall prepares to welcome Bayer Leverkusen Sunday, a fixture they lost on the opening day of last season to set the tone for a troubled conclusion to the Klopp era which had them as low as 18th in February, they have a refreshed, purposeful and driven Dortmund to watch again.
In a move away from the direct style favoured by Klopp, Dortmund have averaged 62% possession and an 85% pass rate this season and although it is still early days, the 4-2 win at Hannover where the visitor’s registered 66% of the ball and peppered the opposition goal with 17 shots (to Hannover’s 5) suggests how their new coach is seeking dominance in matches.
The high-intensity pressing that was synonymous with Klopp has been toned down a notch, with Tuchel’s team still chasing after the ball but with more discipline, ready to use the ball patiently when they get it back.
Gone are the direct balls into the channels Klopp advocated to get his team up the field quicker and in are short, crisp passes across the pitch in order to pick off the space that will eventually open up.
Sokratis for Subotic and other moves
The most telling change in personnel Tuchel has made is the introduction of Sokratis Papastathopoulos ahead of Nevan Subotic, favouring a defender who is more comfortable in playing measured balls out from the back.
Julian Weigl, the 20 year old signed from 1860 Munich for a mere €2.5 million in the summer, has been preferred to Sven Bender in the centre of midfield and has slotted in seamlessly alongside Ilkay Gundogan, starting all 4 league games and registering a 93% pass success rate.
Tuchel is also ultra-detailed in his approach to management, having an input on diet and fitness, he has abolished carbohydrates for instance, but that appears to have had no effect on team spirit, with each player called-upon responding perfectly to his methods and demands.
According to left-back Matthias Ginter, who has seen his own form improve under Tuchel to the extent he has already racked up two goals and three assists after contributing to just three goals in his previous 84 appearances, it is “a lot of fun to be playing for Dortmund right now”.
Resurrection of Mkhitaryan and Kagawa
The likes of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Shinji Kagawa now look totally different players under Tuchel after struggling for form in the latter days of Klopp. Given more fluent service and more of the ball the trio have combined for 22 goals in all competitions so far.
Marco Reus, aiming to put two seasons of injury setbacks behind him, also has 6, although an ongoing toe injury currently sees him out, though having Adnan Januzaj, on loan from Manchester United, on hand to replace him isn’t a terrible situation.
It is an attack-line loaded with energy, trickery and pace and Tuchel appears to have them all in perfect synch with his approach.
What should Klopp do?
If Liverpool keep the faith with Rodgers and Klopp is left untouched to be lured by the resources and the pull of the Bavarian powerhouse, he will be wise to keep in mind the growing momentum of the team he left behind.
Borussia Dortmund, the team he rebuilt and ensured legendary status with, are taking the Klopp plan and evolving it. He will not want that to come and haunt him in the near future.
Written by Adam Gray
Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250
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