Wednesday 19 June 2019

Jurgen Klopp criticises Gary Neville's 'office' views after suggesting Liverpool do not have the squad depth to rotate

Jurgen Klopp has laughed off suggestions Liverpool should abandon the Champions League to focus on winning an English title (Nick Potts/PA).
Jurgen Klopp has laughed off suggestions Liverpool should abandon the Champions League to focus on winning an English title (Nick Potts/PA).

Jack Watson

Jürgen Klopp has taken aim at Gary Neville after the former Manchester United defender turned Sky Sports pundit suggested that Liverpool did not have the squad depth to compete in several competitions.

Neville, who won just ten of his 28 games at Valencia in 2015/16 before being sacked, pointed to Liverpool’s front three as lacking cover and said that they should forget the Champions League altogether during an interview with The Times. “The drop in quality below them, if there are injuries or playing Wednesday, Saturday, I think it will take its toll,” he said.

As he prepares to face Tottenham, PSG, Southampton, Chelsea (twice), Napoli and Manchester City in the space of three weeks, Klopp suggested that Neville doesn’t understand what it’s like to manage a team from the safety of his “office”.

“How would that work? We don’t play Champions League or what? Gary should come over and tell me exactly how that works,” said Klopp.

“How do you prepare for a game when you don’t focus on it? I don’t understands, do we play with kids or what? To focus on one competition can only be if you are out, or nearly out, or of if it’s late in the season.

“Last year I don’t even think Gary would have said ‘let City win the Champions League. Sitting in an office talking about football is different to doing the job.”

After heavy investment in the playing squad over the last 12 months, Liverpool are better to equipped to rotate than they ever have been during Klopp’s time at Anfield. Jordan Henderson, who was a big part of Liverpool’s success last season, has been used sparingly and Adam Lallana and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is still making comebacks from injury.

A set-back like that would normally restrict Liverpool, but the emergence of Naby Keita has allowed them to alter their team a little more, so much so that £43m summer signing Fabinho has not played a single minute.

The Liverpool manager insists that the Brazilian midfielder, who is said to be the player that this team has been crying out for, is fully fit and says it will take time for him to settle.

“We had similar questions about Robbo [Firmino] and Oxlade {Chamberlin]. Fabinho is full of energy and desire. It’s not nice to tell him he’s not involved but he’s come from another league with a different system, it takes time. The plan was and still is that he will make us better.”

Tottenham were due to host Liverpool at their new ground, the opening game in their initial schedule, but will instead hold the game at Wembley, which means this will be Klopp’s first visit to the national stadium since seeing his side taken apart by Maurico Pochettino’s team one year ago.

The 4-1 defeat in October 2017 was a turning point and prompted the beginning of an 18-match undefeated streak, including an upturn in Dejan Lovren’s form after being substituted early in the first half.

“It was a very difficult game for us because we made big mistakes around their goals,” said Klopp. "It was after we won 7-0 against Maribor. It was kind of a wake-up call for the players.

“I could have changed five or six players that day,” he added on Lovren’s 20th minute substitution. “I would never judge a player on 20 minutes of his life.

“Unfortunately he [Lovren] is not fit at the moment, but I am sure he will be back in a pretty intense period with seven games in the next three weeks.”

Klopp has Simon Mignolet available again after a finger injury, Lallana is out for the game and faces a battle to be ready for next weekend while Oxlade-Chamberlain continues his recovery from a ruptured cruciate ligament.

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