Jurgen Klopp was all smiles as a hectic first week as Liverpool manager ended with a creditable draw at Tottenham.
The 48-year-old former Borussia Dortmund coach has been received by adulation bordering on hysteria since replacing sacked Brendan Rodgers – but now it was time to get down to the football.
And the German declared himself satisfied with a point after his first experience of Premier League football as Liverpool manager.
Full-on Klopp never sits still
Klopp has made much of his desire for “full-throttle football” at Liverpool – preferring a “heavy metal” approach to the game as opposed to what he called the “silent symphony” of passing favoured by Arsene Wenger at Arsenal.
And it will be a style in the manager’s own image if the first glimpse of Klopp in the Premier League is anything to go by.
White Hart Lane’s press box offers a low-down, close-up view just feet behind the visiting manager – and watching Klopp is a show all of its own.
He was at the centre of the action even before the game, standing in the centre circle to see his players warm up before turning his back on them to observe, with equal intensity, Spurs’ players going through their paces.
Klopp made a low-key entrance in front of a bank of photographers before taking his seat. In fact, he took his seat for only 30 seconds and did not return until the 31st minute. And only then for a few seconds.
Every piece of pressing, which he so loves, was greeted with applause with hands above his head, while crucial pieces of defensive work were saluted with a clenched fist.
It was not all praise though.
He turned to Liverpool goalkeeping coach John Achterberg to complain at how they had marked at a corner and teenager Jordon Ibe felt the rough end of Klopp’s tongue when he was too slow getting ready to come on as an 87th-minute replacement for Philippe Coutinho.
Klopp smiled as he engaged Spurs counterpart Mauricio Pochettino in conversation on a couple of occasions in the second half, then turned to embrace Jerome Sinclair at the final whistle as the youngster was denied an appearance just as he was about to come on.
He then joined his new Liverpool players in the centre circle before acknowledging the applause of the travelling supporters, both parties delighted to be in each other’s company.
“I’m satisfied,” Klopp said of the draw. “Football is a result sport.
“We need all the results, we have to try and improve, work together and do the things together we want to see. The nil on the right side is OK, the nil on the other side doesn’t give you the same feeling.”
Liverpool fans lifted
One of Klopp’s first statements of significance as Liverpool manager was to say everyone at the club had to turn from “doubters to believers”.
And proof of the galvanising effect the charismatic German has had was not only seen in the giant flag bearing his image in the away section, emblazoned with the slogan “We Believe”.
On the trains heading to White Hart Lane out of Seven Sisters – and around the Seven Sisters Road – there was a spring in the step of Liverpool’s fans and an air of genuine optimism inside the stadium judging by the noise even before kick-off.
There was a staleness to the latter days of Brendan Rodgers’ time in charge, on and off the pitch, but this has been lifted by the arrival of a manager who forged an unbreakable bond with supporters at his previous clubs Mainz and Borussia Dortmund.
Liverpool fans rallied noisily any time their men chased down Spurs’ players, especially when Tottenham keeper Hugo Lloris was hurried into a second half clearance, knowing this was what they can expect to see more of under their new manager.
They rose to team and manager at the final whistle. It may have only been a point at a ground where they won 5-0 on the way to almost winning the league in 2013/14 – but Liverpool’s fans had seen enough to justify their early faith in Klopp.
The Sturridge dilemma
Klopp has been acquainting himself with all facets of Liverpool life since touching down at John Lennon Airport on a private plane from Dortmund – and discovered another on Saturday.
And this is that he cannot rely on Daniel Sturridge as the England striker was once again missing through injury.
With £32.5m summer signing Christian Benteke sidelined with a hamstring injury and Danny Ings out for the season with knee ligament damage, the last thing Klopp needed was for Sturridge to suffer a knee problem – a slight one it is said – in a training ground challenge with Ibe.
“Afterwards he had a little pain in the muscle – I’m not a specialist for this but we screened him only to be sure,” said Klopp.
“There is a little bit of swelling but nothing serious so we will have to see. I hope on Thursday he will be ready to play.”
No-one questions Sturridge’s talent and he proved his importance when fit with two goals in Liverpool’s 3-2 win against Aston Villa at Anfield, the final victory for Rodgers.
The problem is the number of times the 26-year-old is absent. Can Klopp really be convinced he can count on him? A study of the statistics suggests not, and that is even before the questions about whether the languid striker can fit into his pressing style are answered?
In Sturridge’s first two seasons at Liverpool, his appearance record was respectable. In 2012/13, after signing from Chelsea, he played 14 league games out of 18 he was available for at a rate of 67.4%.
Sturridge played 29 out of 38 in 2013/14 at a rate of 66.52% – but that has dropped alarmingly since then.
Last season, plagued by a variety of injuries, Sturridge’s ratio was reduced dramatically to 21.93%. He figured in only 12 games out of 38, playing only 750 minutes out of 3,420.
Sturridge took his time returning this season and has been available for three out of nine league games.
This rate is going to have to improve significantly as Klopp demands maximum fitness and effort from every player.
Klopp’s pressing problem
Klopp’s “gegenpressing” style is well-known – high intensity pressure on opponents.
It was clear from the first whistle at White Hart Lane that he is already making this demand of his players – and when Spurs keeper Lloris was chased and hustled into a rushed clearance in the second half, Klopp turned to his backroom team with a huge smile and a clenched fist.
The problem Klopp has is whether he has the players to suit this new style and whether they are built to last the pace of a physically taxing system. It takes exceptional fitness to maintain the physical approach Klopp wants for 90 minutes.
Adam Lallana and Coutinho ran themselves into the ground before being substituted but it may be that the stricken Ings – who Klopp will not see until next season – is the player best suited to what he wants with his busy, tireless style.
Will Sturridge or Benteke fit the bill?
There must be doubts but there was encouragement for 20-year-old Belgium striker Divock Origi as Klopp revealed he wanted to bring him to Borussia Dortmund before he went to Liverpool from Lille.
“We are going to have a lot of fun with this player,” said Klopp. Time will tell.
Klopp’s after-match calm
Klopp’s news conferences promise to be hugely entertaining – but at White Hart Lane he was calm and measured, almost giving off an air of relief that he could talk about a football match after his hectic first few days in the spotlight.
He praised his players and understood he had only had three days to work with most of them. The real work will begin this week at Melwood.
Klopp’s smile beamed around the room on several occasions but he was suitably sombre when asked for his thoughts on the death of former Everton manager Howard Kendall, provoking a sadness that has united Merseyside’s football community.
“I don’t have the right words for things like this – give me time”, said Klopp, perfectly understandably.
Even in this low-key performance, it is clear Klopp will be an exciting addition to the Premier League.
Klopp’s first few days on Merseyside have revealed what cars he likes to drive, where he is going to live, how little he enjoys having his photograph taken while out for a meal – and now we know more of how he will fare as Liverpool’s manager.
For all the excitement about his appointment, only dreamers would expect him to turn up and transform a team that has struggled this season in a matter of 90 minutes.
It was important Klopp avoided defeat, showed something of what Reds fans can expect in the days ahead and also gain knowledge of what he has and what he needs to do.
Klopp left White Hart Lane with a tick next to all those boxes – so ended a satisfactory day without the dream start of a victory.