I am so impressed by Jürgen Klopp’s wonderful Liverpool team. They’re excellent to see and I congratulate Jürgen and the players. We can’t count any chickens until the title’s a mathematical certainty but what is happening at Anfield this season, so far ahead in a division as powerful as the Premier League, is indeed exciting. I really do feel we’re seeing something uncommon in world football.
The Liverpool side I had been part of playing some fantastic football also, was quite resilient and won a lot of trophies. It is a different age today with a big emphasis on different tactical systems and sports science and that I don’t think there’s anything Jürgen leaves to chance, however, in many ways, I see Liverpool today doing lots of what we did.
Like almost everyone else in those days, we’re always organized in a 4-4-2 formation but Jürgen has a slightly different system. His group adapts the way that they play to different competitions — the way they shifted their way to conquer Flamengo in the World Club Cup in Qatar last month proved to be a prime example of their intelligence — but, somehow, Bob Paisley had a very similar depth of understanding of football.
Paisley — such as Bill Shankly before him understood psychology; he knew how to manage players working under pressure week in week out, knew precisely how to get the very best out of them in each match. Each player I see at Liverpool today is playing their best football. Look at just how Andy Robertson and Jordan Henderson have grown under Jürgen. They’ve come on so much better.
Perhaps Liverpool is a bit too reliant on their entrance three for goals, maybe too much goes via Roberto Firmino — that with James Milner is one of my favorites — but we had been reliant on Kenny Dalglish and David Johnson.
In my era we had great individual players but, like Liverpool now, we had been very much a team. Not conceding is their beginning point, but they constantly feel that, given a chance, Mohamed Salah or Sadio Mané or Firmino will get them a target; we were the same with Dalglish.
While I watch Robertson and I see how he times his runs out of left-back and instances the delivery of his crosses, I enjoy it. It’s precisely how we played. Everyone knew precisely what they were doing, exactly the way to grind teams down and what was perfectly timed. Some people’s favorite Liverpool staff is the slightly later one of John Barnes, Peter Beardsley, and John Aldridge, and they were brilliant. But soccer’s all about winning and that’s exactly what we did.
Ray Clemence was a goalkeeper who reassured you, that was always speaking to defenders, and Liverpool now is afforded a similar sense of security by Alisson. Virgil van Dijk’s central-defensive excellence empowers them to be explosive but they also have a brilliant captain in Henderson. He addresses the little issues that crop up in games, and he is not afraid to have a go. He sorts things out on the pitch, so making sure individuals are guarded. Last season Trent Alexander-Arnold could sometimes become a little exposed at right-back, but that is not happening anymore.
Everybody at Liverpool is playing from the skin, however, they care. Back in September, I was happy to see that a gap involving Mané and Salah in the conclusion of a win against Burnley. Mané was upset that Salah had not given him the ball when he was in a good place and it showed he cared. They dropped out but it was short and soon abandoned. That happened much in our own day; we had been self-policing.
We also partied a lot more than modern footballers. There was much more alcohol and we had lots of alternatives. That can not happen today. Players now have social websites but boredom is a possible problem today. It gets the relentless professionalism of Jürgen’s team even more remarkable, but just titles and time will determine the way they ultimately come to be in comparison with past Liverpool sides.
Alan Kennedy played for Liverpool from 1978 to 1986, winning five league titles and two European Cups