2023: The birth of Jurgen Klopp's 2.0 era at Liverpool

It has been another year to remember at Liverpool, both for good and bad, but 2023 ends with the Reds embarking on a fascinating new chapter under Jurgen Klopp.

Has it really been over eight years since Klopp arrived at Anfield and became the most important thing to happen to the club in decades?

Time flies when you're having fun, and the joyous memories that the German has masterminded since October 2015 have been iconic, making us all hope he never leaves.

But half of 2023 was a real grind for Klopp, and there were worrying periods when he looked jaded by what was happening around him, as Liverpool's 2022/23 season became a disaster by the high standards set in recent years.

January was painful, with three concerning defeats suffered away to Brentford, Brighton and Wolves in the Premier League, and it soon became clear that a top-four finish wasn't on the cards.

An eventual fifth-place ranking was woeful, especially considering the expectation levels on show at the start of the season, when another title tilt looked likely.

Not only was missing out on Champions League football a massive setback, but a 5-2 defeat at home to Real Madrid in the competition was of the worst Anfield losses in years, further signalling the numerous issues in Liverpool's team.

A hangover from 2022/23 seemed evident, as the Reds failed to pick themselves up again after coming painfully close to winning an unprecedented quadruple, and by the time the campaign reached its conclusion, it was obvious that significant changes were required.

While the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk and Andy Robertson fell well below the elite levels we have come to expect of them, Liverpool's biggest issue was an ailing midfield - one full of players either past their best or rarely available.

Watching Fabinho, Jordan Henderson and James Milner unable to cover the ground they once did became hard to watch, while Thiago, Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were of little to no use because of their lack of availability.

Curtis Jones and Harvey Elliott remained works in progress - they still do - so Klopp didn't have one genuinely excellent option in the middle of the park.

Harvey Elliott and Curtis Jones

While the Liverpool manager has sometimes been accused of showing too much loyalty to players who need to be shipped off to pastures new, there was a ruthlessness about his summer transfer approach, and the manner in which he completely reinvented his midfield.

Fabinho and Henderson were informed of their newfound squad status, and neither appeared to accept it too happily. Before we knew it, both were suddenly off to the soulless Saudi Pro League.

Milner, Keita and Oxlade-Chamberlain weren't offered new deals, leaving on free transfers instead, and it was time for Klopp to fully embrace his 2.0 era at Liverpool.

Alexis Mac Allister arrived as a perfect fit from Brighton, and Dominik Szoboszlai was a hugely exciting acquisition from RB Leipzig, but nobody saw the signing of Wataru Endo coming in.

Ryan Gravenberch was a more divisive addition, but still undoubtedly someone with a high ceiling, considering he has even been compared to Jude Bellingham in the past, in terms of their potential as players.

What we have seen since August has whet the appetite for the big second chapter in Klopp's tenure, with Liverpool completely reborn with fresh blood in their ranks.

Alexander-Arnold and Van Dijk have found their groove again - the latter is back to being the best in the world in his position - and the midfield rebuild has given the team a completely different complexion.

Dominik Szoboszlai - Propaganda

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - Wednesday, November 1, 2023: Liverpool's Dominik Szoboszlai during the Football League Cup 4th Round match between AFC Bournemouth and Liverpool FC at Dean Court. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Szoboszlai, in particular, has been a revelation, drawing comparisons with Steven Gerrard when it comes to his drive in midfield and ability to score from distance. He has dipped of late, but he is a superstar.

Liverpool have got themselves into a title race - one that they are arguably third-favourites to win, in truth - and it is a position few expected the Merseysiders to be in at Christmas back in the summer.

Are the Reds back to being almost perfect, as was the case between 2018-2020? No.

There are still flaws within the squad, whether it be the fact that many of the midfielders are still young and maturing, or that Luis Diaz, Darwin Nunez and Cody Gakpo are not consistently making an impact in attack.

Liverpool shouldn't be expected to be any better than this currently, though, seeing as the 2.0 era is very much in its infancy, and a top-three finish is still the more realistic aim.

That doesn't mean the Reds can't go all the way in the Premier League this season, or win the Europa League and domestic cups, but they will feel more equipped to be an even greater force next year, and beyond.

Jurgen Klopp - Pro Shots

Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool vs Manchester United - Pro Shots

There have been doubts from some about whether Klopp had it in him to build a new Liverpool team and go again, but he is showing that he is in it for the long haul, hopefully even extending his say at Anfield beyond 2026.

It remains to be seen what the 56-year-old's decision will eventually be regarding his future, but he looks happy and hungry again, which can only bode well.

As a whole, 2023 wasn't Klopp's greatest as Reds boss, given the disappointing nature of that January to May period, but the rise of his new team has got us all believing in future glories once again.

Who knows what 2024 will offer, but on the evidence of the first four months of this season, there could be plenty to celebrate, with the bare minimum being that the current campaign lays the foundation for future glories.

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