Jürgen Klopp outlined the thought process behind his line-up changes as Liverpool prepare for their latest Premier League task on Thursday night.
The Reds kick off 2020 with a home fixture against Sheffield United having posted successive wins over Leicester City and Wolverhampton Wanderers since becoming world champions in Qatar.
After rotating more heavily in the early stages of December, Klopp made only a single change to his starting XI for each of those league matches.
Asked if that recent consistency of selection is a result of the alterations at the beginning of last month, during his Sheffield United preview, the boss said: “[Xherdan] Shaqiri would have played the last game [but for injury], so it would have been two [changes] probably, but it didn’t work out.
“Rotation is only one thing you think about; how do you change a line-up because of freshness? Yes, when you feel it’s really busy then you have to make changes, but in other situations what we try to make sure is the pieces we put on the pitch fit together.
“So, when we played Everton at the beginning of the month and made five or six changes, we were sure this offensive line, for example, will click together. That’s why we did it.
“Then we had the games after that, more intensity, we get numbers and all that stuff. It’s not that I sit there and think, ‘Come on, let’s play them today.’ It’s just how it can work together and sometimes, and not very often, but sometimes the next game as well is a little bit in mind if it’s only three days.
“You have to make sure you have line-ups for all the games but the focus is always on the next game, obviously. We did it because we could do it and we will do it when it’s appropriate, that’s how it is.”
Liverpool emerged with three points from a hard-fought affair against Wolves on Sunday, settled by Sadio Mane’s goal late in the first half.
And Klopp explained why, despite being satisfied with the final result, it was important he and his players acknowledged the performance could have been better.
“We were not happy with all parts of the game; we were happy with the result but the game gave us a lot of space for improvement. You don’t have to be a super football brain to see that,” said the manager.
“We had a very good first half, a long period where we really played around their formation and others when we were direct, and we caused them a lot of problems. Then we didn’t do that anymore and it was immediately a different game.
“They changed a little bit at half-time; they were kind of angry and came out like this, a bit braver. They changed the game and you feel that. They had not a lot of shots on target but they missed the target by a pretty small margin in some moments. We felt that.
“I told the boys what I think we should have done better, of course, immediately after the game. But it’s not about that – I was really happy about the result. But, of course, we have to work on performances.
“We never did, and should not start, lying to ourselves that everything is fine when it’s not, because we have to make sure we improve. We will do, 100 per cent.”