Wednesday 18 September 2019

Klopp hails Liverpool's strength in depth ahead of punishing schedule

Jurgen Klopp. Photo: Andrej Isakovic/AFP/Getty Images
Jurgen Klopp. Photo: Andrej Isakovic/AFP/Getty Images

Andy Kelly

Jurgen Klopp believes he will need to test the depth of his whole Liverpool squad as his team enters what could be a defining few weeks of their season.

Progression in Europe will be determined by key games against Paris Saint-Germain and Napoli while an unremitting Premier League schedule will include hosting Everton and Manchester United as well as tough trips to Bournemouth and Wolves among others.

A lack of sufficient quality further down Liverpool's squad was generally accepted as a major reason why the team fell short last season and was addressed by significant investment in summer signings.

Klopp believes now is the time he needs to make full use of that additional strength.

"We have to. Hopefully we can. It's quite difficult to change what we always had to around the end of December. We played December 30 and Jan 1 and had to make eight or nine changes.

"It never feels what you want to do because of rhythm, tuning, other important stuff as well. Three, four, five, six changes if you can.

"It is then about different options for different opponents. It's good to have different players to close different spaces, hopefully it stays like this."

Among those still on the fringes at Anfield is Dominic Solanke, the young striker staking his claim for consideration with a stellar week for England U21s, his four goals against Italy and Denmark including one outrageous back-heel finish.

Klopp has sympathy for the fact the 21-year-old has still not played a single minute at senior level for his club this season and is clear on what makes him think Solanke's time at Anfield will come.

"His quality. His attitude. You saw it now as he is not coming from the best football situation in his life but he plays these games for England which is good. There is a long career to come.

"At the end of his career, Dom Solanke will not really know about these two or three years. He's only in the situation he is in because he is so good. That is why people already think about why he doesn't play.

"With himself and with his family, everything will be fine and that he can make the career he has in his mind. I hope that will be here. Can I be sure we will see that? I really hope so. He is only here because he has the quality to help us. That's it."

It remains to be seen if a loan move could be a January option for Solanke to find more playing time but for now Klopp wants him to be ready if called upon.

"Divock Origi is a really, really good striker and is in a similar situation. That is because of the quality of the other boys, no other reason.

"Form can drop, there could be injuries - you have to be ready.

"How can Llorente (play) at Tottenham? It's when he's needed. That's how it is.

"They have the benefit of training and all the things we offer here. If you don't play, you still have to improve.

"It's about the player. In the moment when it's clicking like crazy in training, I'm not blind, I'm watching."

Klopp has a virtually full squad to pick from for today's tricky trip to Watford - Adam Lallana missing out with a minor issue - and with the added boost of Sadio Mane agreeing terms on a new contract which will keep him in red until 2023.

Klopp does not underestimate the importance of securing another star player on a long-term deal.

"We all know that these players could earn a lot of money at a lot of clubs around the world. It's about do they think they are in this moment at the right club, it's obvious that they think that, so that is good.

"Now we're in a situation where players don't want to leave, we need to perform constantly at our highest level - that's the next challenge."

New contracts of course did not stop Luis Suarez or Philippe Coutinho swapping Anfield for Barcelona, even if it emerged this week the Catalans would have to pay a £100m premium for any other Liverpool player coveted in the next two seasons.

Klopp is phlegmatic.

"I don't ask players: 'Is there one club that would make you forget everything?'

"For Phil it was Barcelona, we didn't know about that. I'm not sure even Phil knew before they called."

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