Jurgen Klopp wants it his way to get Liverpool's season back on track
Jürgen Klopp has marked his most testing week as Liverpool manager by declaring that progress is more important than results and his players must not be obsessed with the outcome as they play Arsenal at Anfield tonight.
The German concluded his first three months in charge at Anfield this week - a period in which he has struggled to rediscover the form which delivered the peak 4-1 and 3-1 autumn wins at Manchester City and Chelsea respectively.
But while admitting that victory over Arsène Wenger's side, and Louis van Gaal's underperforming Manchester United on Sunday, would "change the situation" in Liverpool's season, he insisted it was presently more important for the side to "follow their way" than win.
"What we have to do is think first of all about the performance and not about the result," said Klopp, who yesterday added QPR loan signing Steven Caulker to his injury-wracked defensive ranks.
"If we have the chance to play our best football against Arsenal, we should do it.
"We should really try and not focus from the first second on the result. We should play free football, defend lively with a lot of passion and have the best understanding in offence."
Klopp finds himself in the rare and enviable position of having time on his side, at a club whose supporters were desperate to see him hired and whose American owners are convinced he is their man.
However he insisted that he always takes the longer view, because to do otherwise is psychologically crippling for any squad.
"I always feel like I have time," he explained. "Only at the end of the season (do) I feel like I have none. I have only one understanding of development and of making success, and that's by going step by step. The result is almost always a result of the performance; sometimes it's not.
"You can defend like a handball team and make one goal and win the game - you have three points more but you cannot use it.
"That's what we did in a few games and then we had a few problems and we can't make step after step after step. That's what we have to accept in this situation.
“In this year we are only completely focused on trying everything to make [something] that when we are old and grey we look back and say: ‘That was really worth it . . . we found new friends, had success’ all those things.
“That’s why I don’t like to think too much in a season what can we do. It’s an agreement. You have to try things. Bad performances can happen and are not that serious – even with new players. You can’t say sell him get a new one.”
In an impressive statement of intent to enshrine his defensively intensive, counter-attacking philosophy in his players, Klopp said he wanted to win individual games with his every fibre – pointing to his abdomen to reinforce the point.
“But I know the only way to influence this is to focus on the performance. To be successful, you need results in a row, you can’t win, lose, win, lose. To achieve that you need a plan to follow over a longer period and that’s what we try to do.”
The 48-year-old was describing a pattern of inconsistency which has plagued Liverpool, who have not won more than two successive games since their late November run kick-started by the win at the Etihad.
The size of the task involved in cohering the squad at his disposal is compounded by the huge turnover of players in the past two years.
It is likely that only two players – Simon Mignolet and Kolo Toure – will start tonight from the Liverpool side who shot into a 16-minute 3-0 lead against Arsenal and annihilated them 5-1 at Anfield two years ago next month.
That was as good as it ever got for Klopp’s predecessor Brendan Rodgers.