Liverpool's Premier League title triumph is the culmination of five years of outstanding work from Jurgen Klopp.
While the German's famed use of "gegenpressen" (counter-pressing) has featured prominently throughout his spell in charge, Liverpool’s style of play has evolved smoothly season by season.
The Reds' management team have correctly identified and recruited the type of players they needed to make progress, and the quality of their football has consistently improved.
Klopp’s side have not always been brilliant at producing lightning-fast breakaways.
These forwards did not have the pace or dynamism to penetrate defences with incisive runs, so Liverpool were not very dangerous on counter-attacks.
Coutinho’s departure to Barcelona midway through 2017/18 paved the way for the Mane-Firmino-Salah triumvirate to flourish, and they have tormented Premier League rivals ever since.
One reason counter-attacking was not initially a top priority is that it took Klopp time to build a defence capable of withstanding pressure.
Liverpool conceded 92 goals across his first two seasons. This kept them out of title contention, so Klopp focused on defending from the front.
Their intense closing down helped protect a rather unreliable backline.
In 2015/16, Liverpool pressed ferociously, winning possession inside the final third five times per match.
It was a number they were unable to match in the following three seasons. But this campaign they have rediscovered their appetite for closing down in advanced areas.
Liverpool top the Premier League rankings, winning the ball back 6.7 times per 90 minutes inside the final third.
|Season||Goals conceded (PL rank)||Set-piece goals conceded (PL rank)|
|2015/16||50 (8th)||15 (18th)|
|2016/17||42 (5th)||12 (12th)|
|2017/18||38 (4th)||8 (7th)|
|2018/19||22 (1st)||8 (2nd)|
|2019/20||21 (1st)||5 (5th)|
During that period he also introduced academy graduate Trent Alexander-Arnold, turning him into a first-team regular and a star of their starting XI.
That group of top-class defenders have made all the difference at the back.
Liverpool have conceded considerably fewer goals, and a longstanding vulnerability at set-pieces is no longer an issue.
The presence of a dominant goalkeeper in Alisson and imposing centre-back in Van Dijk has made a monumental difference.
Klopp’s Liverpool always play at a relentlessly high tempo, but in the past five seasons they have continually added strands to their tactical options.
|Season||Open-play crosses/90 (PL rank)||Long passes/90 (PL rank)||Set-piece goals (PL rank)|
|2015/16||14.7 (9th)||62 (17th)||16 (7th)|
|2016/17||14.8 (7th)||68 (13th)||20 (3rd)|
|2017/18||14.4 (5th)||62 (15th)||13 (11th)|
|2018/19||12.8 (7th)||59 (15th)||29 (1st)|
|2019/20||18.0 (2nd)||64 (5th)||17 (1st)|
Both full-backs supply quality end product from wide areas.
This allows Mane and Salah to move infield and become additional strikers, and it makes opponents wary of dropping too deep and giving them time on the ball.
In 2019/20, Liverpool have been just as threatening when they pin sides back as they are on quick transitions.
Alexander-Arnold’s outstanding set-piece deliveries have added a threat.
And the full-backs also strike long passes with unerring accuracy, meaning Liverpool can change the point of their attack quicker than in the past.
It has been a feature of the team’s development this season, and those lengthy passes also increase the side’s potency on the break.
Liverpool’s progress under Klopp has been gradual but impressive.
They have developed into a sophisticated team who can successfully combine force with finesse.
It is difficult to find flaws, so it will be fascinating to see what the German has planned for the champions' title defence next season.