Connect with us

Premier League

Klopp's exit leaves a huge hole at Liverpool. Who will step in to fill it?

Find the biggest stories from across the soccer world by visiting our Top Soccer News section and subscribing to push notifications.

As fans and pundits reflect fondly on Jurgen Klopp’s transformative eight-year spell as Liverpool manager, work begins on finding a replacement who can keep the good times rolling at Anfield.

Here are five candidates with the strongest claims to one of the most desirable vacancies in world football:

Xabi Alonso

Lars Baron / Getty Images Sport / Getty

This one’s a slam dunk. Alonso is a former Liverpool player and fan favorite who’s establishing himself as one of the game’s most exciting managers at Bayer Leverkusen. He commands a similar brand of heavy-metal football in the Bundesliga, with an emphasis on lightning-quick counterattacks, and as a 42-year-old at the beginning of his managerial career, he has the energy to carry on what Klopp can’t.

Alonso understands what it means to play for Liverpool and handle big nights at Anfield. There’s still an attachment to the club – his biggest regret is not winning the Premier League as a Liverpool player – but a return wouldn’t be a premature or desperate maneuver. It wouldn’t feel like it did when Manchester United hired Ole Gunnar Solskjaer or when Chelsea appointed, and then reappointed, Frank Lampard. Those were purely emotional decisions seemingly preordained by their previous affiliations with their clubs.

Alonso would be a good fit even without his history at Liverpool. He has Leverkusen competing for their first Bundesliga title since 2011 and playing some of the most irresistible football in Europe. “He is an example of a new generation of coaching,” Leverkusen midfielder Granit Xhaka said recently.

Roberto De Zerbi

James Gill – Danehouse / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Every time there’s an opening at a top European club, De Zerbi invariably ends up on the list of potential candidates. He’s shown in such a short time at Brighton & Hove Albion how quickly he can transform a group of players and get them to execute his vision of attacking football.

But the links to Liverpool are credible. De Zerbi has already coached one of the fulcrums of Liverpool’s midfield, Alexis Mac Allister, and his coaching philosophy is similar to Klopp’s. De Zerbi’s Brighton press as a unit and counter-press when they lose possession, and they have the patience to play from back to front. Despite their abundance of talent, Liverpool operate similarly, moving as an organism rather than individual parts.

The only question about De Zerbi is whether he can provide consistent results. As exciting as his reign on the south coast has been, Brighton can be unpredictable, winning by multiple goals or losing by five. The Seagulls haven’t won more than three consecutive games with De Zerbi in the dugout, and that’s a concern. If he were to get the job on Merseyside, he may have to compromise his risky style of play to establish firmer footing.

Unai Emery

GEOFF CADDICK / AFP / Getty

A short time ago, Emery would’ve been a Hail Mary for any club looking for a manager. He left Arsenal with his reputation in tatters and with nothing but memes as his legacy. But he rebuilt his career at Villarreal, winning the Europa League in 2021 before leading the club on a Cinderella run in the Champions League. He leveraged his success there into a move to Aston Villa.

In just a year and a half, Emery has taken Villa from 14th place to the upper echelons of the Premier League, doing so with many of the players he inherited. Though he focuses more on the defensive aspect of the game, Emery’s teams thrive on energy, just as Liverpool have under Klopp. Villa play with a high line and rely heavily on wide players to do work on and off the ball. Emery would find a similar group of hard workers at Liverpool and could even find a way to use the 4-4-2 formation that has brought him so much success.

But would Liverpool hire him to be a coach or architect? One of the reasons his spell at Arsenal ended badly was because he neglected to do the kind of diplomatic work Arsene Wenger had before his departure in 2018. Emery walked into a club that needed a spokesperson as much as it needed a coach. All he wanted to do was focus on the weekend’s tactical matchup. Liverpool have a hierarchy in place that can delegate that specific task to him, but they’re still a massive club with the same politics at play. Whether he’s ready for that is unclear.

Thomas Tuchel

Richard Sellers/Allstar / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Everywhere Klopp goes, Tuchel seems to follow. Tuchel replaced Klopp at Mainz in 2009 before stepping into his forerunner’s shoes at Dortmund in 2015. While he’s forged his own path since then, making stops at Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea, and Bayern Munich, he remains Klopp’s closest body double.

But it may prove difficult to attract him to Liverpool. Though his Bayern side has disappointed at times, he wields a lot of power and has one of the most prolific strikers in the game at his disposal in Harry Kane. Tuchel hasn’t always had the best time dealing with boards and executives – high-level disputes led to his departures from Dortmund and PSG – and he could find himself arguing with the various committees and owners at Liverpool. Bayern have given him a significant say in transfers, and he’d have to give that up.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the 50-year-old won’t ever coach Liverpool. It’s a job that could make sense for him a few years down the line. He’ll continue to get offers from Premier League clubs, and given the way Chelsea unceremoniously axed him, he likely feels he has unfinished business in England.

Antonio Conte

DeFodi Images / DeFodi Images / Getty

Though Conte is the most unlikely of the quintet to land the gig, he remains an intriguing option for Fenway Sports Group to consider. The Italian is the only one on this list who’s free of contractual obligations, and he has a plethora of experience at top European clubs. If Liverpool want to establish domestic supremacy, Conte, who’s won league titles with Juventus, Chelsea, and Inter Milan, is perhaps the best positioned to deliver that.

However, like Tuchel, Conte is a difficult manager to please. He wants the players he wants and prefers water carriers and soldiers over up-and-coming talent. Conte’s style of play is also not the prettiest, and it would be easy to envision a revolt in the stands if the ends failed to justify the means. Despite his experience, he’d be a hard sell for supporters who’ve become accustomed to a certain way of playing.

But he’s a winner. That’s what counts. He’s one of just three managers to have snatched a league title ahead of a side managed by Pep Guardiola. With Guardiola’s Manchester City vying for a fourth straight Premier League title and sixth in seven years, that’s important intel to have. He can forge incredible relationships with players and create the kind of togetherness Klopp has established during his eight years in charge. Conte is emotional, and so are Liverpool. He can charge up the crowd like Klopp can, and that’s worth something.

Copyright © 2024 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Premier League

Liverpool win League Cup on Van Dijk's dramatic ET goal

Find the biggest stories from across the soccer world by visiting our Top Soccer News section and subscribing to push notifications.

Virgil van Dijk scored in the 118th minute against Chelsea on Sunday to win the League Cup for Liverpool and deliver the first trophy of Jurgen Klopp’s farewell season.

Van Dijk’s header settled a wildly entertaining final that somehow ended goalless after 90 minutes at Wembley Stadium.

Unlike the previous two finals between these two sides – which Liverpool won on penalties after 120 minutes of goalless football – they created enough chances to muster a clear winner. Each team had goals disallowed for offside, had hit posts, and produced goal-line clearances. Goalkeepers Djordje Petrovic and Caoimhin Kelleher combined for 19 saves – many of them spectacular.

The 1-0 win keeps the Reds in contention for a continental quadruple and denies Chelsea a first title since Todd Boehly’s consortium took over in May 2022. It also robbed Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino of a first title in England.

(Available to view in U.S. only)

(Available to view in Canada only)

It also comes as Liverpool deal with a massive injury crisis. Klopp fielded three teenagers in the final and had another two on the bench because of injuries to Mohamed Salah, Diogo Jota, Darwin Nunez, Dominik Szoboszlai, Trent Alexander-Arnold, and Alisson.

The last time a team had three or more teenagers on the field in a League Cup final was in 2007 when Arsenal lost to Chelsea with Theo Walcott, Cesc Fabregas, Denilson, and Armand Traore in the starting XI.

Chelsea have now lost six consecutive domestic finals dating back to the 2018-19 season. It’s another black mark against a club that’s spent more than £1 billion since Boehly’s group acquired it from Roman Abramovich in a £4.25-billion deal.

“In extra time, it’s been Klopp’s kids against the blue billion-pound bottle jobs,” former Manchester United defender Gary Neville said on Sky Sports, per Agence France-Presse. “Special managers do special things. He is a monster manager.”

Klopp has won eight major trophies since being appointed Liverpool manager in October 2015. And it may not end there: His team leads the Premier League table, is in the fifth round of the FA Cup, and has advanced to the round of 16 of the Europa League.

Mike Hewitt / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Liverpool are rebounding well from last season, when they finished outside of the Champions League places in fifth and failed to win a trophy.

But Sunday’s final was far from straightforward. Liverpool lost midfielder Ryan Gravenberch to injury early in the first half after Chelsea’s Moises Caicedo accidentally stepped on his ankle. Without a natural replacement, Klopp threw on right-back Joe Gomez and moved Conor Bradley, who had already been deputizing in that position, into Salah’s usual slot on the right wing.

Liverpool also survived numerous goalmouth scrambles and heaved a sigh of relief in the 32nd minute when the VAR ruled Raheem Sterling’s goal offside.

Van Dijk then thought he had put the Merseyside outfit 1-0 up after 60 minutes when he steered in a strong header from Andrew Robertson’s free-kick. But the VAR caught Wataru Endo standing in an offside position before freeing Van Dijk with a pick on Chelsea defender Levi Colwill.

Liverpool’s Cody Gakpo and Chelsea’s Conor Gallagher each hit the post as both teams vied for an elusive goal. It would stay 0-0 until Van Dijk made good with the game’s 42nd attempt on goal.

Copyright © 2024 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Continue Reading

Premier League

Key thoughts and analysis from Saturday's Premier League action

Find the biggest stories from across the soccer world by visiting our Top Soccer News section and subscribing to push notifications.

theScore examines the most important developments and biggest talking points from Saturday’s slate of action in England’s top flight.

New era, same old Man United

Jim Ratcliffe is now a co-owner of Manchester United, and if he didn’t understand the size of the rebuilding project in front of him, Saturday’s crushing 2-1 loss to Fulham surely hammered it home.

The good vibes that Ratcliffe’s arrival had inspired earlier this week hardly lasted. United didn’t just lose at home to an opponent that hadn’t beaten them at Old Trafford in 21 years, they collapsed entirely, allowing Fulham full control of the game, only responding for brief moments at a time. The form that helped United win their last five matches was nowhere to be seen. If anything, they played as badly as they have at any point in Erik ten Hag’s tenure. For the 14th time this season, United conceded at least 17 shots, exposing themselves to myriad counterattacks as they foolishly threw caution to the wind.

Michael Regan / Getty Images Sport / Getty

United’s problems have less to do with individuals and more to do with the system Ten Hag so desperately wants them to play. Pressing is clearly not in the DNA of many of his players, and yet he insists they do it, even at the expense of their goals-against record and the acres of space left behind. United can’t mark man-to-man, either, and often get outmuscled by bigger opponents on corner-kick routines, as they did when Calvin Bassey scored the opener in the 65th minute. Fulham’s Tosin Adarabioyo blocked Christian Eriksen from tracking Bassey’s run, and the United midfielder bailed entirely. No one helped or noticed.

Losing both Luke Shaw and Lisandro Martinez has obviously harmed their bottom line, but if United can’t function without these two players, then they have to play differently without them. They can’t afford to play such a high line or leave as much space behind them as Harry Maguire did when he tried to dispossess Adama Traore in the closing seconds. The consequence of his and United’s foolhardy approach was a 97th-minute gut punch that further derailed their hopes of a top-four finish.

Ratcliffe likely sees the chemical imbalance in the squad. Ten Hag wants to play a certain way but can’t sustain anything with the players at his disposal. That could mean a change of manager or more intentional signings. Because right now, nothing fits, and when United happen to capture lightning in a bottle, as they did in previous wins over West Ham United, Aston Villa, and Luton Town, it just doesn’t last. They’ll just continue to swing between good form and bad form until the end of the season, and that won’t get them Champions League football.

Newcastle’s season unraveling

At what point does Eddie Howe’s position come under serious threat?

Getting whooped by Arsenal is far from inexcusable, especially considering the roll that the title contenders are on at the moment; including Saturday’s dominant 4-1 victory at the Emirates, the Gunners have scored 18 goals in four Premier League matches – all wins – in February. What is inexcusable, though, is being wholly unprepared and overwhelmed right from the opening whistle. Newcastle looked lost in north London. Even the very best teams have bad days when things don’t click on the pitch, touches are a little off, and passes are wayward. But Newcastle struggled to even accomplish the most basic tasks. They didn’t look ready to deal with an Arsenal side that was always going to come flying out of the gate in response to its own meek midweek Champions League defeat in Portugal. That’s on Howe.

His players share the blame, of course.

A comedic sequence inside the penalty area led to Sven Botman’s own goal from a corner kick for Arsenal’s opener. They failed to track a simple run inside the penalty area on Kai Havertz’s tally. A sloppy turnover, of which there were many, led to Arsenal’s third marker. An inability to properly defend a corner kick (again) allowed the home side to grab a fourth.

Sure, the second half was better for Howe’s team, but only because it couldn’t possibly have been any worse than the opening 45 minutes. Arsenal had 34 touches inside the penalty area compared to Newcastle’s one in the first half, while the Magpies, flustered and incapable of handling Arsenal’s high press, lost possession 11 times in their own third of the field.

There have been some mitigating factors – Newcastle’s unfortunate injury issues have been discussed ad nauseam this season – but Saturday’s match showed two clubs going in totally different directions. Arsenal, after narrowly missing out on the title last season, have improved significantly once again and are pushing for top spot with renewed vigor. Newcastle, meanwhile, haven’t built on their brilliant 2022-23 campaign and are now almost the same distance away from fourth place (15 points) as they are from the relegation zone (17 points).

They’re conceding goals at an alarming rate – 12 in their last four league outings – and unless Howe can engineer a deep FA Cup run, this will be a lost season.

Quick free-kicks

Haaland needs to shut mouths again

Michael Steele / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Pep Guardiola was protective of Erling Haaland in midweek. “Don’t criticize, he will shut your mouth,” the Manchester City manager warned reporters after the Norwegian scored the only goal in a win over Brentford. It seems unfair for a striker who’s tallied 22 goals in all competitions, but Haaland will face scrutiny again after missing more inviting chances in City’s unimpressive 1-0 victory at Bournemouth. Many elements of the striker’s game are working fine – he excellently outmuscled a defender before his shot that preceded Phil Foden’s goal and has dominated other physical battles in recent weeks – but doubt has crept into Haaland’s finishing. One breakaway left him with only Neto to beat; the chance was on his weaker right foot, but that doesn’t excuse the timidness of the shot that floated well wide of the post. Haaland was substituted in the 75th minute. Manchester City haven’t been convincing for weeks and they, along with Haaland, must find some rhythm immediately with a run of Premier League matches against Manchester United, Liverpool, Brighton & Hove Albion, Arsenal, and Aston Villa on the horizon.

No overnight revolution at Palace

Don’t let the 3-0 scoreline fool you: Crystal Palace didn’t immediately embrace the principles of new boss Oliver Glasner and run riot. It was a routine victory over Vincent Kompany’s haphazard Burnley, who played with 10 men from the 35th minute. And although the new era at Palace started with a bang, Glasner’s work with previous clubs suggests his team is a long way from how he wants it to look. Filip Kostic averaged 12.5 crosses per game under Glasner at Eintracht Frankfurt, and it seemed Jordan Ayew, whose rush of 14 crosses included an assist for Chris Richards, was fulfilling a similar role. But don’t expect it to last. While Glasner changes his formation – he predominantly used a back-four at Wolfsburg but opted for a defensive trio at Frankfurt – he rarely deviates from his preferred approach of determined pressing and hard running. Ayew, 32, is among a considerable contingent of players at Selhurst Park whose pace doesn’t match the level Glasner demands. Plenty of changes should be expected in the summer as the Austrian forms a team to suit his philosophy.

The Bailey boom

Leon Bailey might represent the biggest individual transformation during Aston Villa’s Unai Emery era. Bailey didn’t start more than two Premier League matches in a row for Aston Villa before Emery’s predecessor, Steven Gerrard, was sacked in October 2022, but his importance in the Spaniard’s setup is growing by the week. Bailey tormented makeshift right-back Moussa Niakhate during the first half of Saturday’s 4-2 triumph over Nottingham Forest, repeatedly exposing Niakhate’s poor positioning while duping him and his teammates with trickery and pace. Bailey rolled the ball between the legs of Murillo and Felipe to assist Ollie Watkins’ opener and eased nerves when he tapped in Villa’s fourth goal. Despite starting just 13 league matches this season, Bailey has crammed in eight goals and seven assists, putting him second only to Watkins in goal contributions for his team. Bailey can become one of the key figures in Villa’s resurgence if he maintains his fitness.

Stat of the day

Are Manchester United lucky to be sixth in the table?

Tweet of the day

We should have seen that Newcastle performance coming.

Copyright © 2024 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Continue Reading

Premier League

Key thoughts and analysis from Saturday's Premier League action

Find the biggest stories from across the soccer world by visiting our Top Soccer News section and subscribing to push notifications.

theScore examines the most important developments and biggest talking points from Saturday’s slate of action in England’s top flight.

Chelsea look like a team again

Have Chelsea finally turned a corner? There have been plenty of false dawns before, but their performance against Manchester City on Saturday was too disciplined to ignore. Mauricio Pochettino asked his players to “be brave” before the match, and they were. They chased City all over the park, forcing turnovers in crucial areas while marking the likes of Kevin De Bruyne out of the game. Chelsea defended and attacked as a unit, which they’ve rarely done in the year-and-a-half since co-owner Todd Boehly began playing musical chairs with the furniture at Stamford Bridge.

What was most impressive was the way they stuck with City even as they passed the ball around the park, probing for an opening. Chelsea didn’t give the hosts a free inch. They pressed with the kind of precision that was hopelessly absent from some of their slapstick performances that plagued the early months of Pochettino’s reign. If anything, it was City giving away free yards, especially on the counterattack.

Darren Walsh / Chelsea FC / Getty

Naturally, Chelsea conceded ground over the life of the match, and eventually, the equalizer came off an unlucky deflection. They could only hold on for so long. But that’s because they gave so much in all areas of the field. They didn’t just park the bus and hope for a result from the beginning. They battled, expended energy, and put themselves in a position to take home a positive result. That’s why Pochettino decided to swap leading scorer Cole Palmer for Trevoh Chalobah in the 71st minute: The 1-0 lead was too precious to give up. Chelsea, after all, entered the match in 10th place. It would’ve been foolish to risk throwing it away when the tide was so clearly turning in City’s favor.

“It’s important that the players realize that football is really competitive and to reach the level we want, we need to suffer,” Pochettino told the BBC.

In truth, Chelsea have shown incredible team spirit since losing 4-2 at home to Wolverhampton on Feb. 4. Enzo Fernandez and Moises Caicedo have added bite to Chelsea’s midfield, and the misfiring Nicolas Jackson is evolving into a reliable provider, if not a finisher. The Blues overwhelmed Aston Villa to advance in the FA Cup, outfoxed Crystal Palace’s low block in an impressive 3-1 win, and went toe-to-toe during a battling draw with City.

Maybe there’s a reward for patience.

Liverpool’s test of resources, resilience

In an ideal world, Jurgen Klopp would’ve preferred the fourth official to display the No. 11 on his board with a small portion of the match left and Liverpool cruising to victory. Instead, Mohamed Salah was hurried onto the pitch in the 44th minute after Diogo Jota became the second of three players to suffer an injury in the 4-1 win at Brentford.

Trent Alexander-Arnold, Alisson, Dominik Szoboszlai, the luckless Thiago Alcantara, and long-term concern Joel Matip were already ruled out of the trip to west London. Jota, Curtis Jones, and Darwin Nunez were added to that list on Saturday.

Salah’s return to contention and instant contributions to his team’s attacking cause couldn’t have been more timely. For his assist, he collected the ball between the lines and quickly sprung a side-footed pass to Alexis Mac Allister’s feet. For his goal, he preyed on a defensive mix-up and showcased his surprising level of strength to easily resist Nathan Collins’ challenge before slotting into the far corner.

One theme of this season has been how teams have dealt with absences. Eddie Howe failed to create a siege mentality or, with the exception of Lewis Miley, successfully lean on academy graduates during Newcastle United’s spate of injuries and suspensions, so his side gloomily trudged away from the European places. Others fared much better with setbacks, like Tottenham Hotspur soldiering through periods without James Maddison, Micky van de Ven, and Cristian Romero, Manchester City navigating long stretches without De Bruyne and Erling Haaland, and Fulham dealing with regular disruptions to their center-back contingent.

Now, it seems like it’s Liverpool’s turn to cope with a busy treatment room. Salah’s comeback has already lifted Klopp’s side, but potentially losing both Jota and Nunez means there could be a thorough examination of the Salah, Cody Gakpo, and Luis Diaz trio during a one-and-a-half week spell that features four matches.

Upcoming matches for Liverpool

Date Competition Match
Feb. 21 Premier League Luton Town (h)
Feb. 25 League Cup final Chelsea (Wembley)
Feb. 28 FA Cup Southampton (h)
March 2 Premier League Nottingham Forest (a)

And the game after that burst of matches? A visit from Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City on March 10.

Quick free-kicks

Arsenal’s confidence soaring

Make that 21 goals in five Premier League matches for Arsenal. What a turnaround for a club whose title prospects had seemingly come and gone. The Gunners went the preceding six games with just five goals scored, leading many to question their recruitment up front. That conversation ended quickly. Even Kai Havertz, an often confusing figure in the attacking third, has joined in on the fun. With leading striker Gabriel Jesus in and out of the lineup, secondary scoring has never been more important, and nine different players have picked up the slack in recent games. That’s a byproduct of Mikel Arteta’s style of play, which closely resembles Guardiola’s criss-crossing passing football at Manchester City, allowing everyone to participate in the buildup. And with three of their next four Premier League matches against defensively porous sides, Arsenal’s goal rush should continue.

Newcastle invite trouble

Marc Atkins / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Martin Dubravka’s slip in the 2-2 draw with Bournemouth was more than a goalkeeping gaffe. It was a peculiar passage of play by Newcastle. The Magpies aren’t known for playing it out of the back: Fabian Schar is their only defender who’s fully comfortable with the ball in his own third, and their goalkeepers, Nick Pope and Dubravka, are shot-stoppers rather than modern ball-playing ‘keepers. So, attempting to evade Bournemouth’s press was a bad idea. The Cherries, among the league’s top tacklers in the final third, cut off passing lanes and picked their moments to swarm. Sven Botman, Dan Burn, Anthony Gordon, Sean Longstaff, and Botman again were under pressure before Dubravka’s panic set in. He touched the ball with his right, and then, in his haste to get the ball to Schar while Dominic Solanke closed him down, the same foot slipped beneath him. Solanke’s easy tap-in was simply an example of Newcastle succumbing to one of their weaknesses and Bournemouth playing to their strengths.

Discount City at your peril

Manchester City are inevitable. Even on their worst days, they can get by. No one on City’s roster is happy about the 1-1 draw with Chelsea, and yet it’s a draw that keeps them within touching distance of first place. They remain four points off Liverpool with a game in hand because of Rodri’s 81st-minute deflected equalizer at the Etihad. It’s a goal that keeps the nerves off edge. Instead of dwelling on their first home loss in 34 matches – a run dating back to November 2022 – City can continue to look forward. The draw buys them time. That’s why City are impossible to count out. When they’re playing as badly as they did on Saturday – leaving yards of space behind them, practically inviting Chelsea to score on them – they get a kick save from Ederson that keeps the score in check. Even when they’re struggling to create solid chances, they retain enough of the ball to force their way through. They’ve conceded first in five of their last 11 league matches, and what difference has it really made?

Stat of the day

Haaland is allowed to have bad days.

Tweet of the day

They say title races come down to the smallest details.

Copyright © 2024 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Continue Reading

Trending