Liverpool’s Jordan Ibe Looks Set to Thrive under Jurgen Klopp

klopp ibe

Under Jurgen Klopp, Jordan Ibe has shown some positive signs. He produced a late assist in Liverpool’s 3-1 victory over Chelsea, and he followed that up, in the midweek, with a long-range winner against Rubin Kazan in the UEFA Europa League. He also performed well in Liverpool’s next match, a 2-1 loss to Crystal Palace, and now, finally, Ibe appears well positioned to make the transition to first-team regular.

In many ways, this comes down to the faith Klopp has placed in him. Fitness concerns have forced Liverpool to re-assess the make-up of their team in recent weeks, and Klopp clearly feels that Ibe can do the job for him. “He is a very good lad, a very skilled player and a really big talent – he is fast, strong, good at dribbling,” Klopp enthused after Ibe’s decisive contribution against Rubin Kazan. “He has a lot to learn, but has a really good base. He feels good at the moment and we could see it tonight. Like everyone, he has to work hard – he is very young and has a long way to go. He has to learn and if he is prepared to listen, everything will be good.”

Like many high-grade youth prospects, Ibe finds himself in the situation Klopp described above. At just 19 years of age, he is still a little raw, a little rough around the edges. He occasionally holds on to the ball when he should consider laying it off for a teammate, but when you view this within the context of his strongest attributes – pace, power and an ability to beat a man – it’s clearly worth investing the energy required to refine his game.

By way of evidence, Ibe’s goal in Russia highlighted his qualities. Here, Roberto Firmino played a slick first-time pass into Ibe’s feet. He then drove towards goal, using his speed and dribbling to work an opening. That opening soon presented itself on the edge of the area, and following a precise finish with the inside of his right foot, the talented winger had driven home Liverpool’s winner.

Ibe carried on that momentum into his next match, against Crystal Palace, and even though Liverpool failed to secure victory during the encounter at Anfield, he provided some insight into what he might eventually become for the Reds. Down the right-hand side, the ex-Wycombe Wanderers man combined beautifully with fullback Nathaniel Clyne. In the 32nd minute, for instance, Ibe received the ball out on the touchline, and Clyne, in customarily energetic style, made an under-lapping run to receive possession. The ensuing cross may have been cut out, but about 10 minutes later, the two players turned their understanding into something more tangible.

This time Ibe drifted inside, and as he collected the ball in a right-of-centre location, Clyne sprinted down the flank to provide an option. Ibe soon obliged his run with a well-weighted through ball, which Clyne hit across the box first-time. Adam Lallana helped on its way, playing a neat backheel into the path of Philippe Coutinho. The Brazilian then did the rest, opening up his body to curl his shot beyond the clutches of Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey.

It was yet another glimpse of the burgeoning association between Clyne and Ibe, and though that will be extremely important as they grow together at the Merseyside club, what’s equally important is Ibe’s unique set of abilities. Indeed, he is one of the few options for Liverpool, in the final third, who play with genuine pace and directness. Whereas the likes of Coutinho and Lallana are more creative, playmaking outlets, Ibe injects a level of sheer athleticism. “He needs our help and we need him. That is the truth,” Klopp admitted. “With his speed, he is very different to most of the players I know.”

In that sense, Ibe can be the point of difference in Liverpool’s attacking ranks, and speaking recently, he intimated that this would be key to the amount of game-time he sees under Klopp. “I’m hoping my attributes — pace and strength and being able to go past people — will suit the way he wants to play and I can get some opportunities.”

Against Palace, for example, he tended to stay high and wide out on the right, while left-winger Coutinho almost always drifted infield to exchange passes with his teammates. This dynamic gave Liverpool a greater level of balance, as Ibe’s width acted as a counterpoint to Coutinho’s preference to play more centrally. Late in the game, the duo highlighted this when Coutinho came inside and whipped the ball out to Ibe, who was sitting on the touchline. The fleet-footed winger then curled a brilliant cross into the box, one which wasn’t far away from finding the head of Lallana.

The move may not have worked out in the end, but this was still an excellent illustration of the variance Ibe can provide to Liverpool. He can add speed and strength, or a hint of the English game, if you like, to a group of attacking midfielders who are otherwise more inventive in their approach. This could make him a real weapon in the future, but in order for that to happen, he must continue to rack up the minutes.

Fortunately he’s operating under Klopp, a man with a big reputation for developing top prospects. “He obviously did a great job at Borussia Dortmund,” Ibe said recently. “The fact that the young players he brought in were a big part of the success is very encouraging for guys like me. Of course, those youngsters at Dortmund didn’t just become a little bit better either — some of them, like Robert Lewandowski, have become players who are operating at the highest level in the Champions League. Hopefully he can help me and some of the lads here do the same.”

Reaching the level of Lewandowski won’t be easy, but at least Ibe has the man who facilitated the Polish striker’s rise to help him in his quest for excellence. In addition to Lewandowski, Klopp also harnessed the talents of Mario Gotze, Ilkay Gundogan and Shinji Kagawa in Germany, and his task is now to bring about the same type of improvement in Liverpool’s young footballers. There is no guarantee he can do so, of course, but if the Reds give him the same amount of time that he had at both Dortmund and Mainz, then there’s every chance he can deliver the kind of development they crave. And as it stands, Ibe is probably at the top of Klopp’s list for ongoing attention.

After all, he’s young, he’s talented and, at least at Liverpool, unique in terms of his skill-set. That makes Ibe a great candidate to thrive, and with Klopp overseeing his progress from the touchline, the youngster will be hoping his new manager can maximise his potential.