Friday 23 March 2018

Reds focused amid Coutinho saga

Jurgen Klopp with his skipper Jordan Henderson Photo: PA
Jurgen Klopp with his skipper Jordan Henderson Photo: PA

Jason Burt

Liverpool have not been distracted by the ongoing saga of Philippe Coutinho wanting to move to Barcelona, according to Jordan Henderson.

The captain said that the players had not discussed Coutinho's desire to go and Liverpool's insistence that the Brazilian would stay beyond the end of the transfer window, which closes this week. Liverpool have rejected a series of huge bids from Barcelona for their playmaker, the third and highest of which has been €125m, which would amount to the biggest fee received by a British club for a player.

A fourth bid may be lodged this week following the completion of Barcelona's deal to bring in French forward Ousmane Dembele from Borussia Dortmund for an initial fee of £97m (€105m), which will rise with add-ons, as they try to shore up the club in the wake of Neymar's departure.

Coutinho has submitted a written transfer request and is said by friends to be "sad" and frustrated that he has not been granted his dream move but Henderson insisted it had not unsettled the dressing room.

"As players and professionals, you expect things to happen, especially when transfer windows are open and stuff like that, that's the nature of football at times and you've got to get on with it," he said.

"As players, you focus on what's important - that's playing football and doing your job. And I've felt we have done that brilliantly over the last few weeks. We need to carry that on."

As the team's captain, it might have been expected that Henderson - who has already told Coutinho he wants him to stay - would have spoken to the rest of the players, but he said that was not the case and was not necessary. "We have just continued to get on with the job as normal. We have started pretty well, we always want to improve and hopefully we can now kick on against Arsenal."

Liverpool go into the encounter having qualified for the group stages of the Champions League - where they will face Spartak Moscow, Sevilla and Maribor.

"We feel as though we are in a good moment," Henderson said. "We've started well - we've four points from six and would have liked six from six but there are still a lot of positives to take from the games. There are still a lot of things to work on but that's always the case. But we played excellently in the first 20 minutes against Hoffenheim so we have to be confident going into the Arsenal game before the international break."

There have been plenty of goals - an average of 4.4 a game for the past eight fixtures - when they have come up against Arsenal. Liverpool boasted the best record against the top six sides in the Premier League last season and under manager Jurgen Klopp have lost only once at home against one of their rivals (Manchester United).

It has been a tough summer for Liverpool, who have faced frustration in the transfer market. Holding on to Coutinho, however, remains the priority before Thursday's deadline, even if the club are braced for another effort from Barcelona to prise him away.

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