Monday 23 September 2019

Klopp: Nobody celebrates the half-time whistle of the season

Jurgen Klopp welcomes Arsenal to Anfield this evening before Thursday’s crucial trip to face Manchester City at the Etihad. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire
Jurgen Klopp welcomes Arsenal to Anfield this evening before Thursday’s crucial trip to face Manchester City at the Etihad. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Chris Bascombe

Jurgen Klopp has urged his Liverpool players to deliver "the season of their lives" as he warned his rivals that the league leaders have not yet shown their best form ahead of a critical five days in the title race.

Arsenal travel to Anfield today, before Liverpool's much-anticipated trip to Manchester City on Thursday. Klopp's side have dropped just six points at the halfway stage, but the manager wants more from his team.

Asked if his side have reached their potential, he replied: "No. We had our moments. We had very good moments. There are a lot of really good parts but was there a game where I thought, 'It is not possible that we can be better?' No. It was not there yet. We have to improve in pretty much everything.

"There is a lot to come from the boys, but so far the steps are really OK.

"It was said we lost a bit of our spectacular (style) when people were asking, 'It's good you don't concede, but where is the free-flowing football?' and I sit here and think it is like a kid getting a nice present for Christmas and then asking, 'Where is the other one?'

"You always want something else or a bit more. We had to develop. It's not a new style, but we had to step a bit aside to start again."

There was no sign of Liverpool feeling extra pressure from going top in their wins over Manchester United, Wolves and Newcastle United. The possibility of success is becoming more real, but Klopp believes talk of Liverpool as favourites for the title is premature.

"Nobody celebrates the half-time whistle of the season. It gets really exciting when you have five games to go and you are six or seven points up," he said.

"People don't see it, but I'm a pretty calm person. Not during the 90 minutes but in general. I don't get that easily excited about different things. It's only about us.

"If we lose a game people will immediately see it as slipping through our fingers again or whatever, and that's just not our situation.

"We have to train, we have to work, we have to play, we have to fight, all these things and try to make the best of this season.

"We were not the hunters and now we are not the hunted or whatever. We are just a football team who want to play the best season of our lives. But that was actually the plan last season as well and the year before. You can always make the next step, especially with the quality we have around.

"You need luck with injuries and you need luck in games. You can't always have influence on it. You see the players are now more mature, 100 per cent, but that's normal. We brought fantastic players in and all the other players matured here.

"We had difficult situations. Losing those finals is not nice. It's not like we go out the next day and say, 'What happened yesterday?' You carry it with you.

"Even defeat in a final is good for something and you learn from it. It has been a year with a lot of highs and a few hard, hard lows, but a better year for Liverpool, for sure.

"Going to the Champions League final was a brilliant ride. Of course we had the massive low in Kiev, which was hard to take. You smell how it feels when you are that close, and you want to go again."

Reminded how most teams who top the table going into New Year go on to win the title, Klopp said: "They never had Man City on their back, they never had Tottenham on their back. Tottenham have got better each year, like we did.

"It's just the position we have is absolutely good. But we play Arsenal and in five days, we play Man City, so why are we talking about points we have and points we don't have? I don't feel like a [league] leader, we don't feel as leaders of it. There is absolutely no difference.

"We have to play the best football we can play. If we play an 80 per cent game against Arsenal, we lose 100 per cent. That's our situation. All the rest is talk.

"The first part of this season was better than we expected points-wise, that's clear, you cannot plan to get 51 points in late December, it's not possible."

Meanwhile, midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is scheduled to return from his knee injury before the end of the season. He could start full training in February, much earlier than first thought.

Striker Dominic Solanke is to make a decision on his future in the next 48 hours, with Crystal Palace, Brighton, Fulham and Huddersfield all hoping to secure a loan deal or a permanent move. The England U-21 striker is seeking regular Premier League game time. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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