Saturday 23 March 2019

Klopp needs to find a way to plug 'Pool's leaky backline

Jurgen Klopp was frustrated Liverpool only left the Emirates Stadium with a point.
Jurgen Klopp was frustrated Liverpool only left the Emirates Stadium with a point.

Sachin Nakrani

Jürgen Klopp has conceded Liverpool stand no chance of winning the Premier League title this season after they threw away a 2-0 lead to draw 3-3 with Arsenal, but insists his team are progressing and will continue to do so under his management.

Liverpool's defensive capabilities have come under renewed criticism following a chaotic encounter at the Emirates Stadium on Friday. The visitors led through goals from Philippe Coutinho and Mohamed Salah either side of half-time and looked on course for a fourth successive away victory. However, they found themselves 3-2 down after Alexis Sánchez, Granit Xhaka and Mesut Özil hit back for the hosts in the space of five frenzied minutes.

Roberto Firmino salvaged a point for Liverpool but this was undoubtedly a case of two points dropped for the Merseysiders, particularly given each of the goals they conceded were, to varying degrees, down to individual errors, with the goalkeeper Simon Mignolet badly at fault for Xhaka's on 56 minutes.

Liverpool have now conceded three or more goals five times this season and, before Manchester City's fixture against Bournemouth on Saturday, find themselves 17 points behind the leaders having played one game more. Klopp has joined Antonio Conte, Mauricio Pochettino and José Mourinho in accepting his team will not be crowned 2017-18 champions but remains wholeheartedly optimistic about their long-term prospects.

"We are on our way and we have to keep the team together and improve," he said. "That's a job for the future - this year, I don't think anybody expect Man City and maybe Man United can think about winning the league. We have to qualify for the Champions League. That will be a fantastic situation. Not the dream but a fantastic situation."

Liverpool sit in fourth ahead of their St Stephen's Day encounter with Swansea City at Anfield, and having also qualified for the last-16 of the Champions League this can be viewed as a positive campaign for them. But there remains frustration among the fans and bafflement from outside observers regarding Klopp's faith in his defensive players, with Gary Neville suggesting the manager has to "get rid" of the likes of Mignolet, Ragnar Klavan and Dejan Lovren if Liverpool are to challenge for major honours.

"To avoid mistakes completely is impossible - you to have learn from them," said Klopp, having refused to comment on a fresh move for Southampton's Virgil van Dijk during next month's transfer window. "A lot of players in this squad are young enough to learn and that is what they will do.

"Ask any team how often they have outplayed us - pass this, pass that, get in the box and score; that doesn't happen against us. Set-piece goals happen but even there we are better, and we score more often than we concede. We are a very good football team."

Jordan Henderson will definitely not face Swansea having suffered a suspected hamstring injury in the early stages of Friday's game. The captain was replaced by James Milner who, like his manager, believes Liverpool's squad is young enough to improve.

"It's not about changing our style of play, but for a few minutes we need to be able to shut up shop," he said. "We've got the hard bit - going out and being good enough to pull teams apart. The easy part is the bit that we're not doing well and it's something we can learn easily and quickly."


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