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Wednesday 7 December 2016

Pied-piper Klopp has charmed Liverpool

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp

There is one certainty about the looming and always frantic holiday season ahead. On Merseyside, it's going to be a Jurgen Klopp Christmas.

He doesn't look like the man himself but he would pass an audition for Santa's Head Elf without any problem.

But in the wrong light and with his eyes wide, he could do a job as Scary Elf, the one sent to punish Scouse kids who've been bold.

Daniel Sturridge must feel like he's had an early visit. Klopp has packed a lot in the last few weeks and sorting out his sicknote striker was the top priority.

Smiling in that manic way of his, Klopp managed to sound like the caring uncle rather than a ruthless taskmaster but the impact was the same. Sturridge is off the bench and playing.

Not just playing. Against Southampton last night, he showed why he is worth the effort and he did it for Klopp and for his future.

When Sturridge is right, when he's mentally fit for the battle, there is no more elegant striker in world football or more effective.

Carve

Give him a sniff in any situation and he can carve through defences like a very sharp knife through soft cheese and he did it twice in a first-half purple patch which effectively decided the game.

He was involved in Liverpool's third scored by Alberto Moreno just before half-time and as each goal went in, Klopp's wild grin threatened to stretch his face beyond breaking point.

Klopp can do no wrong or put it another way, he's doing it all right.

Just remember, 12 months ago, Brendan Rodgers was battling with the confused mind of Mario Balotelli and couldn't buy a result.

These are the same players but you would never guess.

Sturridge is the headline at the moment but he has switched on the whole squad and in less than a month has turned a demoralised bunch of no-hopers into a team and booked a Capital Cup semi-final slot.

Confident

The third came from Daniel Origi and was scored by a supremely confident player in a supremely confident team.

He absolutely lashed the ball into the back of the net from 30 yards and turned what was a reasonably competitive game into a cakewalk.

Jordan Ibe was in the same mood after a wonderfully crisp and incisive attack down the left by Origi and Moreno opened the door and he drilled a low cutter in at the right post. Origi grabbed a second and then his hat-trick and the rout was complete. It was explosive football and the bank of Liverpool supporters were in a ferment of delight. Who could blame them?

This wasn't just a great Cup win on the road but a statement of intent. In a topsy-turvy season, any club capable of stringing seven or eight wins together won't be far from the top at the end of it all and Klopp's Liverpool might just be the one to do it.

Klopp's assault on the emotional centre of Liverpool has been done artfully and without any apparent pretence. He wants to become part of it.

He has avoided the kind of overt declaration that Rodgers was so fond of and wants to be Mr Normal when it is more than obvious that he is anything but that.

He is making Liverpool proud and confident again by what he is doing on the training ground but more importantly, what he is doing with hearts and minds.

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