The boss on COVID-19 situation, Spurs, 'best' Ox and Jota's goals

Press conferenceThe boss on COVID-19 situation, Spurs, 'best' Ox and Jota's goals

Published 17th December 2021
By James Carroll and Chris Shaw

Jürgen Klopp discussed a number of key topics with the media ahead of Liverpool's trip to Tottenham Hotspur this weekend.

The manager previewed Sunday’s Premier League clash during a press conference on Friday afternoon, including the latest on the three suspected positive COVID-19 cases in his squad and the form of Trent Alexander-Arnold.

Read a summary of the rest of his briefing – which touched on the current COVID-19 circumstances, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s recent displays and Diogo Jota’s goalscoring – below…

On Sunday’s game going ahead and ‘any concerns over the integrity of the competition’ with some fixtures being postponed…

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I don’t know. We have now in the moment games to play and Thursday-Sunday is a tough rhythm. We have no information about Tottenham, I don’t know anything about [it]. I have no idea if they train since today, from tomorrow or since a week. I have really no idea. It’s difficult to get any kind of information which is part of a preparation for a game. Integrity of the game? I don’t know when these games will all be played. Where is the space for them to be played? I don’t know all these kinds of things. We don’t think we shouldn’t play on Sunday, honestly. But I say that now. If in two hours when the players arrive here and we have six, seven, eight more cases then of course we cannot play. But in a situation like we are now, we can play and we would like to play. That’s it, pretty much.

On the difficulty in football terms of preparing to face a Spurs side who have not played for two weeks…

I have no idea in this moment what we can expect. After this press conference we have the analysis meeting; they will use old pictures obviously. We still don’t know what we can make of that, maybe we’ll have a little idea about the system, stuff like this, but that’s it pretty much because we have absolutely no information. But it’s not about now our preparation for the Tottenham game. That’s difficult. But for them it’s difficult as well, I know that – who wants to not to play for two weeks and all of a sudden you have to play again? It’s all not easy. I just think with all the things we are discussing and we don’t know, is there the solution? I don’t see it in the moment. But more transparency I think would really be helpful. So we know in this moment three players are probably not available. If they will be available we will say it. If they were a false positive and we realise that then we will say that and everybody knows they are now available. In the moment, nobody knows at all. I have no idea if Manchester United… I heard a number of players but I have no idea who the players are, I have no idea who had the virus at Tottenham. I don’t know if it’s necessary to know who, if it’s necessary to know how many. But knowing nothing in a really public world is quite strange.

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On Oxlade-Chamberlain’s impact in recent weeks…

Just good. It’s pretty much the best Oxlade since I’m here. I know he was more spectacular in moments and scored wonderful goals against City and stuff like this, really good goals for us, last year Burnley, all these kinds of things. But it’s a completely new quality, like calming the game down, being not only the sprinter with the ball or the shooter, stuff like this, but really being involved in all the different things we do on the pitch. It’s a massive step. I’m really happy with Ox in the moment and hopefully it stays like this.

On his ‘transparency’ when discussing the COVID-19 situation…

I don’t see it like that, we just don’t have anything to hide. Our first and most important concern is that the boys are healthy. Like all of us obviously. But now in this environment here, the boys and the staff and all these kinds of things. When that’s not the case, so if somebody has the flu and you ask me in the press conference I say he has flu. If somebody has a broken toe, if I know it I say it’s a broken toe. That’s how it is and how it is now with these things. I don’t know. I know it’s difficult because one is a pandemic and the other one is an individual injury but still we have to find a way to get through all this.

And I really think the exchange of information is pretty helpful because I think all the misleading and wrong information misleads a lot of people. So that’s just a problem. Just say how it is and then carry on from there. Now for example, I know all the anti-vaxxers out there will say Klopp said they were vaccinated and now they got the virus – yes and that’s exactly what everybody told before, it doesn’t deny you getting or saves you not from getting it. You can get it but you get through it properly in the right way. That’s how it is, that’s what the vaccination is for. Yes, it makes it rather more unlikely to get it but unfortunately the boys had the booster too late for the infection now – if they are infected. That’s the situation and I think really we should talk about that because there are so many things out there which I just don’t understand. How can you blame somebody who gets the virus, especially when he wants to get vaccinated? There’s no chance. You can get it. Get through it and start from there.

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On whether the Premier League would benefit from a break due to the current infection rates of COVID-19 in the country…

First of all, I’m not against stopping the league, I just don’t see the 100 per cent benefit of it. Between stopping the league and carrying on there are different levels which we can talk about. Stopping the league means we stop now for one week, for two weeks [and] means five, six games [in] two weeks, probably? So, when do you want to play them? Maybe at one specific point it’s not in our hands anymore and somebody else would stop the league then it would be like this, but as long as we can decide it or whatever [then] when do we want to play the games is one thing? The other thing is we just play on, which is really difficult – pretty much impossible because we have now not only smaller squads because step by step players will get infected, that’s how it looks in the moment and hopefully we can break the chain somehow and these kind of things, but it’s not unlikely that it will happen.

We have a game on Sunday, we have then a game on Wednesday in a competition, [then in January] FA Cup where, if I am 100 per cent right – and tell me if I am wrong – the opponent [has] no real testing regime and the vaccination rate is really low. But we don’t know anything about it and we don’t get any kind of information because it’s football and we have to play against them. Three days later we play another football game and then we have the incredible thing, all of us pretty much, [playing on] the 26th [and] 28th. With reduced squads, smaller squads, you cannot play that schedule, that’s another thing. Can you play on? Yes. Can you use youth players, academy players? Yes. Can you play then every three days? No. That’s the thing, even when you stay healthy it’s already tough, but when you are not complete then it’s really tough, or it’s impossible and that’s the thing. There are obviously some things we have to talk about and maybe we see it as a chance because the schedule was always really, really, really tough for us, on the edge, if not over. Now we see it’s really too many football games and there is no space for any kind of rescheduling or whatever. Then we realise that we can do better.

On whether Jota is underrated despite being the Premier League’s joint-second top scorer behind Mohamed Salah…

And he should have scored in the last game [against Aston Villa] as well! Diogo is an incredible player. Players underrated or under the radar, I don’t know why you always ask me that because they are not under my radar. If people do that, how can I change that? Diogo is an exceptional player, Mo is an exceptional player, by the way Sadio Mane plays really, really good in the moment. He is just unlucky in the last moments – yesterday, it would have been a penalty, tries to stay on his feet and then Mo can finish it off. It’s great, but all of these boys have incredible quality and that’s why they come into these positions and they come in these situations. Diogo has developed in the last few months a proper killer instinct, that’s true. He is there in the moments, he is in the right spaces, he brings himself into good positions. I think his link-up play, especially on this half-left with Sadio, is exceptional and I really like watching it. He is still young and there is still really a lot to come from him but it’s already good, so good for us.

Published 17th December 2021