Liverpool 2 Wolves 0: Klopp’s rousing reception, quality awaits Slot, Elliott for England?

It was time to say goodbye at Anfield. Jurgen Klopp soaked it all up before and during his final game in charge of Liverpool with popular players Thiago and Joel Matip heading for the exit too.

A football match broke out after Klopp savoured every second of You’ll Never Walk Alone and there was barely a dry eye for those in red.

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Alexis Mac Allister opened the scoring after Nelson Semedo had been sent off, with the VAR upgrading an initial yellow to red, for a poor tackle on the Argentina midfielder.

Jarell Quansah made it 2-0 before the break with his second goal in two games, prodding in from less than a yard out, and the game was as good as over.

Harvey Elliott impressed again but this game was about one man and his last game at Anfield as Klopp bowed out in style.

Klopp’s fitting send-off

Anfield Road was a sea of red. Thousands of supporters lined the route to greet the Liverpool team coach on its arrival just after 2:30pm. The atmosphere in the sunshine was more akin to a big European night than a final-day fixture with little at stake.

They had come to pay homage to the man who made their dreams come true. The booming renditions of “I’m so glad that Jurgen is a Red” were laced with emotion. “Danke, Jurgen. You made the people happy,” declared one banner. Another read: “Thanks, Jurgen. Honorary Scouser.”

Fighting back tears during a stirring rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone before kick-off, Klopp, 56, bowed his head and put his hand on his heart as his wife, Ulla, held up a Liverpool scarf in the stand behind him.

The message, “Doubters, Believers, Conquerors”, was the centrepiece of a vibrant Kop, while a mosaic across three sides of the ground read: “Danke, Jurgen. YNWA.”

Klopp had to keep his emotions in check during You’ll Never Walk Alone (Peter Byrne/PA Images via Getty Images)

Klopp had used the final programme notes of his Anfield reign to repay the compliment. “To the supporters, I have only thanks and love,” he wrote. “Everything we have done has been because of you, with you and for you. I have referred many times to the banner on the Kop that says ‘Unity Is Strength’ and this is a belief we have all lived up to.

“The important thing is that it continues so that my successor can have the same benefits I’ve had. After Sunday, I will be a supporter, too, so hopefully, I can play my part in that. I have never walked alone. You will never walk alone. LFC will never walk alone.”

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This wasn’t just a farewell to an icon and his backroom staff, this marked the end of an era and the Kop went through their back catalogue to acknowledge those who had played a part along the way. Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, Georginio Wijnaldum, Divock Origi and Jordan Henderson were among those celebrated in song.

But there was no doubting who was the centre of attention — the most transformative figure in Liverpool’s history since Bill Shankly. This was a fitting send-off.

James Pearce

The Real Jurgen Klopp, a series from The Athletic

What will Slot make of a squad packed with talent?

Arne Slot will be confirmed as Liverpool’s new head coach this week. It is an almost impossible act to follow but you can see why the Dutchman is backing himself to build on Klopp’s work.

Liverpool’s Premier League title challenge faded during the run-in — they took just 12 points out of the last 24 on offer — but this is a gifted squad in need of some fine-tuning rather than a summer overhaul. There is a lot of potential to unlock.

Mac Allister celebrates the opener (Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images)

High on the summer shopping list will surely be an elite holding midfielder. Wataru Endo proved to be a great addition after arriving from Stuttgart last summer but aged 31, he’s not a long-term solution. More quality is needed in that department because Liverpool cannot rely on Mac Allister as their No 6.

The World Cup winner has enjoyed an excellent first season at Anfield, is coming into his prime at 25 years old and is one of the players Slot will build his team around — but Mac Allister is so much more effective when he’s got a licence to get forward and influence matches in the final third. The final day of the campaign reinforced that notion as he made a fine run to meet Elliott’s inviting cross with a glancing header into the far corner.

Mac Allister completed 38 of his 40 passes (95 per cent) and won all seven of his duels.

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Seven goals and seven assists from 45 appearances is a decent return and when Mac Allister was substituted 20 minutes from time, he departed to a standing ovation. Mac Allister arrived towards the back end of one era and now looks destined to play a leading role in the next one.

James Pearce

Elliott for England?

Klopp recently said one of his biggest regrets this season was not playing Elliott more. If he had, the 21-year-old’s claim for a spot in Gareth Southgate’s England squad for the European Championship this summer would be even stronger.

It has been a breakout campaign for Elliott, initially making his impact from the bench before finishing the season as one of Liverpool’s in-form players.

His assist for Liverpool’s opener was a prime example of the creativity and quality he is showing more consistently around the opposition penalty area. It was a perfectly weighted cross giving Mac Allister the simple task of guiding it into the corner.

A great header from Alexis Mac Allister to give Liverpool the lead over 10-man Wolves! 🔴 pic.twitter.com/HMjH2UzcQs — Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) May 19, 2024

He was a constant threat throughout, roaming across the pitch to link with team-mates as Mac Allister and Endo provided a shield behind him.

Elliott excelled again (Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

Southgate is unlikely to bring too many new faces into his squad, but Elliott has been the star of the England Under-21s this season and his late-season form should put him firmly in Southgate’s mind.

Andy Jones

What did Klopp say?

“I’m completely surprised I’m not in pieces already,” Klopp said on the pitch after the game. “I’m so happy about being part of this family, about this atmosphere, so happy about being us. Thank you so much.

“Thanks for ignoring my request completely to not sing my song…(Anfield holds up his speech with the song again) if you sing it next year that would be funny. For whatever reason it doesn’t feel like an end, just the start because I saw a football team today full of talent, belief, youth, creativity and desire. That’s one part of development.

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“I’ve had too much attention. People said I turned them from doubters to believers — that’s not true. This club is in a better moment than for a long time. Wonderful stadium, training centre, team and you — the fans, a super power of world football. Wow!

“Since today I’m one of you and I will stay a believer 100 per cent. I saw a lot of people crying and that will happen to me but change is good and if you go into that with the right attitude then everything will be fine. The basics and new coach (and Klopp launched into an Arne Slot chant).”

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(Top photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

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