Liverpool Too Old to Succeed


Liverpool needs answers, and I have them; this team is too old, Klopp's history tells us so.

Soccer twitter can be hilarious, a mix between absurd takes, well-intentioned but incomplete analysis, memes, and utter trolling that creates a scenario where it's a place where logic and competent reasoning goes to die. But every once in a while, those forces combine to reach a sensible conclusion.

In this case, as it concerns Liverpool, the viral social media theory of Klopp's seven-year curse led me to find what I believe is the cause of Liverpool's problems this season.

The basis of the theory is that when you look at Klopp's Dortmund team, all of a sudden, seven years into his tenure, the club fell off a cliff. The same club he had once taken to a champions league final and multiple Bundesliga trophies suddenly finished seventh in the league, and he and the club agreed to part ways.

Now seven years into his tenure at Liverpool, the club finds themselves near midtable, leading some to label it Klopp's seven-year curse.

It was strange enough of a coincidence for me to look into it, and in that, I found a significant correlation that makes complete sense in the context of Klopp's playing style.

At Dortmund, Klopp was renowned for what was coined, "heavy metal football," and although he modified it at Liverpool, the core of it remained the same. Heavy, volatile pressing meant to destabilize the opposition. The key to the playing style is immense organization and relentless athleticism. You can coach the organization but not the athleticism. For that style to work at its best, the squad must have players at their physical athletic peak who can do the type of running required and quickly bounce back and do it again throughout the season.

And it may seem like common sense that a younger team would be better, but that is not always the case. For one, some coaches with less physically demanding styles prefer older players with the experience and soccer IQ to execute their tactics and manage the team to perfection. Think Ancelloti and Real Madrid. Liverpool entered last summer's champions league final with four starters 30 years old or older, while Real Madrid had 6. 

With that said let's look at the average age of Klopp's Dortmund teams compared to the rest of the league and where they finished.

2008-09: 25.8, 8th youngest team, 6th position

2009-10 24.4, 3rd youngest team, 5th position

2010-11, 23.8, 2nd youngest team, Champions

2011-12, 24.3, 3rd youngest team, Champions

2012-13, 24.5, 5th youngest team, 2nd position, Champions League final

2013-14, 25.5, 10th youngest team, 2nd position

2014-15, 26.2, 13th youngest team, 7th position

You'll notice that in the two years Klopp won the league with Dortmund, he had the second and third youngest teams in the league. When they reached the champions league final, they were 5th youngest. Those were teams with the legs and physical ability to carry out his pressing demands to the level his preferred style of play needed.

Now let's look at the average age of his Liverpool teams. We'll leave out the 2015-16 season since he wasn't hired untill October.

2016-17, 25.6, 2nd youngest team, 4th position

2017-18, 25.5, 2nd youngest team, 4th position, Champions League final

2018-19, 26.2, 8th youngest team, 2nd position, Champions League winner

2019-20, 26.6, 6th oldest team, Champions

2020-21, 26.8, 5th oldest team, 3rd position

2021-22, 27.7, 3rd oldest team, 2nd position, Champions League final

2022-23, 27.0, 3rd oldest team, TBD

He's managed so maintain some level of success even has team ages this time around, but it loses its consistency. For example, while last season was a success, the year before that, they kicked off their season with a 7-2 loss to Aston Villa in a game where Virgil Van Dijk, Firmino, Salah, Robertson, and Trent all played and needed a last gasps header from Allison to qualify for the champions league.

This Liverpool team, as currently constructed, is too old to perform the physical demands Klopp's playing style needs, which is a good thing. That means with a refresher of the squad with much younger faces, one of the greatest managers in history will be back at his best.

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