Thursday 8 December 2016

Klopp hits back at Henderson doubters

Chris Bascombe

Published 27/08/2016 | 02:30

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp Picture: Getty
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp Picture: Getty

Jurgen Klopp could be forgiven for wondering if the season ahead will be designated the year of the Liverpool scapegoat.

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Following victory over Arsenal, the fans' displeasure was directed at Alberto Moreno.

After last weekend's defeat by Burnley, it was captain Jordan Henderson who came under most scrutiny as he struggled to adapt to a holding midfield role.

In both instances, the Liverpool manager felt compelled to offer a robust defence of his under-siege player, and, in the case of his captain, he has gone further and stated that he would have sold Henderson during the summer if he had had any doubts about his capabilities.

Today's trip to Tottenham revives memories of Klopp's first game in the Premier League last October - a goalless draw where the first glimpses of the coach's dynamic style were witnessed.

Henderson was still recovering from injury at the time, and to some extent has been playing catch-up since after succumbing to a chronic heel issue last season. A knee problem suffered in the Europa League win against Borussia Dortmund continued his run of bad luck.

He travelled to Euro 2016 short of match fitness and the burden of having to replace the irreplaceable in Steven Gerrard for club and country has proven as tough as anticipated.

"I see him every day in training so if I doubted him then he would not be here," said Klopp.

"I have no doubt. I like this player and he is very important for this club. There is absolutely no doubt. He is a wonderful skilled player and his attitude is outstanding.

"He always wants to work and work hard. He is still a young player even though he has played a lot of games.

"It is about decision making. Just more what you need to do rather than what you want to do."

Nursing

With Emre Can nursing an ankle injury despite travelling with the squad to north London, Henderson may assume the deep midfield position again.

There is a sense that Henderson may be trying too hard to impress, making up for lost time over the past 12 months.

Equally, Klopp believes the lack of success at Anfield recently means there will always be sterner criticism of those players who have been around longest during a barren spell.

"A Liverpool player that is at the club with not so much success in recent years is always doubted a little bit," said Klopp. "They always have to show they are not the reason we have not made the next step.

"Of course that is not the reason. There are more reasons for not being successful and means these players are always trying to convince everyone. Stay cool, try to play football, it is not that difficult. Not only for Jordan, but for other players."

Ten months on from his last visit to Spurs, Klopp could see today's performance as a reference point for how far his Liverpool have developed.

In the immediate aftermath of his first game, the German insisted he did not require "magic dust" to sprinkle over the squad.

"I still don't think I need magic dust," Klopp reiterated yesterday. "There was a big sign of quality last season. Plus, now there are quality players in defence, in midfield, on the wing and other players who can still improve like Divock (Origi), Phil (Coutinho), even Roberto (Firmino) can make the next step. Even the English guys can make the next step."

Meanwhile, Mauricio Pochettino has warned that Tottenham Hotspur are still some way from playing their best football this season even though they have taken four points from their first two games.

With so many Spurs players back late this summer, Pochettino said that his training sessions are still focused on fitness, rather than tactics.

"We had a lot of players involved in the Euros and we are in the process of trying to build their fitness and how we can adapt their situation to the team," Pochettino said.

"We are not in a period to work on small details. We are very focused to try to give the team more quality in fitness and consistency.

"It's impossible after the Euros with a very short break to recover to start again.

"To start the Premier League after two weeks' training, to start international competition, it's very tough for the players.

"We want to create the possibility for our players to be fit for the whole season.

"After the international break we can start to work on small details and develop different possibilities to play linked with our work on the pitch."

While Spurs surpassed expectations last season, Pochettino said that was a learning season, and that this term the team would show something closer to their real level. "

"Last season people had a big question mark about how we would develop our squad, our team," Pochettino said.

"It was very hard work to improve and develop our style of play, because it wasn't only collective, it was individual.

"For a lot of players it was their first season, like Dele Alli. For Eric Dier it was his first complete season as a holding midfielder, a new position for him. We have all learned and a lot and will be better for it." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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