Wednesday 21 March 2018

Jurgen Klopp lays down law to under-performing Liverpool players

Jurgen Klopp
Jurgen Klopp

Chris Bascombe

Jürgen Klopp, the Liverpool manager, has warned his players not to test his patience as he demanded an immediate response to a dismal defeat at West Ham.

Klopp was furious with his side after the 2-0 loss, making his feelings known publicly and privately in a dressing-room rebuke.

He has called for a vast improvement in Tuesday's Capital One Cup semi-final first leg at Stoke. Having been supportive of his squad since taking over in October – and offered them a chance to reprieve themselves at the Britannia Stadium – Klopp cautioned that his tolerance had its limit.

"Yes, of course, always,” Klopp said. “But I build it up again after this so it’s not that I lose it forever because that’s not allowed. I always say the truth to the players. You have to have two views on the game so even when we have won I will say the truth.

“After West Ham I really was not satisfied because it was not enough so we had a talk about this. We were not really concentrated and not 100 per cent in our will in the situations around the two goals and that is not OK. Now we have to take the next chance, which is against Stoke.

“Sometimes you need to give the players time straight after a game and other times you need to give them information. That’s what I did and there was not too much back. It was not enough and we have to change. If we play like this then it is possible for everybody to win against us and that is not allowed. The next day we spoke again about the game and now we take information about Stoke.”

Klopp’s options remain limited, especially with Daniel Sturridge and captain Jordan Henderson still unavailable because of fitness and injury worries.

He said that he accepted as much of the blame for recent below-par performances. “I felt responsible at West Ham,” he said. “That’s how I am. I always feel much more responsible for defeats than for victories because I think about what I should have done differently before a game to avoid situations like that.

“It is easy for a manager to say, ‘I cannot score the goals or defend the goals’ – that is only part of the truth. If it was the whole truth then why are we so well paid? We have to be responsible for the common things. It is easy to say, ‘But I told the players to do this, this and this’. Yes, I told the players, but maybe not before the game against West Ham and now I have to think about whether I am telling them too often or not often enough?”

Despite a clamour for changes now that the January transfer window is open, Klopp has been consistent in his view that the current squad will be given an opportunity to prove their value. Even the loss at Upton Park has not shifted his position, but it has been clear since a change in management that the players have until the end of the season to ensure they are part of Klopp’s long-term plans.

He has already made his first move in the transfer market, securing midfielder Marko Grujic for £5 million. The Serbian teenager had an Anfield medical on Monday but is not due to make the move until next summer.

The most pressing concern is scoring goals with Liverpool’s record of just 22 in 20 league games being the worst in Anfield history.

“First of all, sorry,” Klopp said. “The mother of all goals is the opportunities, the chances, so we have to have them and then you have to use them. We need to be more concentrated, more greedy, more disciplined, more everything.

“We are often in situations where we can score goals and we don’t use them. We made goals in several games – six against Southampton – so we know where the goal is, but we have big problems with injuries with the strikers so we have to work, it’s not dreamland. We know the numbers and it’s not good but we can do better.”

Liverpool won on their last visit to Stoke, the first game of the Premier League season, but were heavily beaten 6-1 there in May. Klopp has no intention of reminding his players of that display under previous management. “I’m not crazy. Why should I show them such a bad day?” he said.

Meanwhile, Klopp says Stoke’s transformation under Mark Hughes – going from a long-ball side to playing a more purist brand of football – has demonstrated the quality of his rival manager.

“Mark Hughes has done a brilliant job there,” Klopp said. “Maybe one of the biggest changes in football is how Stoke played a few years ago and how they play now. I have big respect for what he is doing there. They have good scouting and good style of play.”

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