Jürgen Klopp answered questions about Liverpool’s plans for their forthcoming FA Cup fourth-round replay against Shrewsbury Town at Anfield during his pre-West Ham United press conference at Melwood on Tuesday afternoon. Read on to see what the manager had to say to reporters…
Jürgen, there have been various responses to what you said regarding the replay after Sunday’s tie. What are your thoughts on those responses?
Maybe we should start with the most important thing: I feel a bit sorry for Shrewsbury because after the game obviously everybody spoke about what I said and not about the brilliant performance of Shrewsbury. I thought I said it directly after the game but maybe I didn’t make it clear enough [and] all the rest of what I said then was for the outside world more important. So the next thing is we want to go to the next round, that’s the plan. We are a Premier League team, Shrewsbury is a League One team and they could get a draw from that game for different reasons and why should our U23s not be able to do that [go through]? It’s not that we gave up or something like that, that’s another important thing I think.
Then, I have to make decisions – it’s not that I want to make popular decisions or whatever – which are based on the situation we are in. Some other people did some other decisions when they thought before the season about this season. Whoever it was, OK and the FA tried to do something with moving games to midweek to decrease the intensity of the period a little bit, but at the end it came out. Whoever was involved in that, and if somebody from our club was involved forgot to say ‘no’ or whatever, I don’t know exactly how it was discussed. The situation we ended up in, they gave us two weeks. In the first moment we are just human beings and thought ‘two weeks, OK that’s it’ and it was not clear which week you get. Then we started going into it and saw that if we get the second week then we will probably play a Champions League game in that week, that would mean our mid-season break would have ended Tuesday – that’s nine days I think. We cannot then make a week off or whatever and say there are two days to prepare for Atletico Madrid in this case, that’s not possible. The other week, the first week, was obviously for all the Champions League teams the better week because there’s no Champions League game and then it came up that there could be a potential replay. Because we plan in the long-term – we cannot plan [quickly], especially when there’s a really decisive period of the season coming up – I decided around about three weeks ago, when we knew we were in the next round [of the FA Cup], that we will have a mid-season break based on a letter, not only but as well, based on a letter which we got in April 2019 where we were asked to respect this mid-season break, and we do that.
I know how it sounds now. I don’t want to be in the middle of all these discussions, I’m not a revolution guy who wants to show the world how strong I can be or whatever. It’s absolutely not the reason. If people think I am lazy because I am not at the game I cannot change that, people can name me whatever they want to name me, I cannot change that but I’m not too much interested in it because the only responsibility I feel is for my players and, to be 100 per cent honest, very much for all the players as well. If we react now in the way that we always react – ‘OK, we have to do it, we have to sort it somehow, whoever will be here will have to play and we’ll find a way to do it’ – nothing will change and I think all people in football agree that things have to change and that people have to speak. So how is it possible that at the end, and I don’t know who was there from each club, I know the FA said that all the clubs agreed but no sports-responsible people were there, not the manager, not the sporting director and that’s what we need. That’s what has to change as well because otherwise next year we have exactly the same situation. It’s obviously difficult to find two weeks where you can give all the Premier League teams a week off and then a week to prepare the next game, because that’s what we will do.
And not only the next game. This week of rest for the players, it’s not a ‘break’, it’s not that they don’t train or whatever – we send coaches wherever they go. The players are smart enough to go with four or five players to the same place and we send coaches. So they train but not here at Melwood, not football, just to keep the body going a little bit. Then we have another week leading to the Norwich game and to the rest of the season, which is a very important part of the season. Weeks ago when we had to decide it nobody knew we would win the next two or three Premier League games, we could have lost them and then we are in a different situation, maybe people would discuss it differently, I don’t know. We had to make the decision then and I made a decision. Now it looks like people expect from me something different, so I cannot do what all the people out there want. Could I be here for the game? Of course I could, but that’s again a complete misunderstanding of management and coaching. I don’t come here for showing up for the team, one or two days training and then tell the boys. It’s like all the good coaches from the past could still come in, like Fabio Capello could go to the Italian national team two days before a game and tell them everything they have to do and everything will be fine. It’s not like this, they need their coach and that’s Critch. They need their coach and they get their coach. They get all our support and we try everything as a club to win that game, and it’s possible. It’s not easy, how we all saw when we saw Shrewsbury playing, but it’s possible and that’s the only thing that’s important. But the mid-season break is now something that has to be settled for the next years and all the different parties together have to find a solution and it will not be like this year again. That it’s possible that you have one – maybe not, maybe yes – that’s just not how it should be and that’s the situation.
Is the mid-season break as important for managers as it is for players?
No. I said it a couple of times, we do it to make the standpoint clear. I’ll say it again: if people call me lazy, if people call me disrespectful to cup competitions, it’s all not true but that’s not important because everybody has a right to have an opinion, I have no problem with that. But I am responsible for my players and I decided for them, for us, for the whole group, with the coaches that this is the mid-season break and it has to be the mid-season break for the next years because that’s what everybody needs and if you just react in the same way, then nothing will change. That there’s a discussion now is really good. I got a lot of support, message-wise. It’s not that everybody got asked obviously, but they send me still messages saying this and that but obviously all the people were in a similar situation, like we are, every year trying to find a way to go through the season. That’s absolutely OK, it’s our job, we do that. But if then in these long-term plans is a mid-season break, then it has to be a mid-season break and you cannot get it away a week before you have it, that’s just not possible.
You said about the mid-season break and having individual training programmes to go through themselves. So, with the likes of some players who haven’t been playing or are coming back from injury, would their programmes be more intense than others? There are suggestions of ‘why aren’t they getting the game-time if they’re just coming back from injury?’ So that programme will be more intense for them?
We made a decision three weeks ago and that was for this squad and not for the players. Would a game more or less help? Yes. Would it make the overall difference? No. That’s it. It's a standpoint as well; that’s the mid-season break, it’s not that we can decide. Again, the plan was – and I don’t want to always go back to that, but I don't understand why nobody thinks [about it] – the associations or whatever brought us into this situation we already had in December, do we play the Carabao Cup or do we play the FIFA Club World Cup? I am not sure it was 50/50 or whatever it was, but we were in the situation and had to make a decision. Why did we have to make a decision? There is the schedule, find a way that it is normal. People asked us to play against Aston Villa. Because in England nobody thought it was really important to be there [in Qatar]. We went there and we realised if we would not have been there, or if we had sent the kids there, it would have been a massive statement to the outside world that we are not interested in what the whole world is interested in. It was a really big tournament for all people, apart from England and maybe Germany – I am from there and they never really thought about that as well – or Europe, let me say it like this. We were in that situation.
Now we are again in the situation where we have to make a decision, but usually you have a schedule – like we all have a schedule – that you can rely on. That’s it, that’s what we said: the mid-season break needs to be a mid-season break from next year on for everybody. It is mainly for the Champions League teams or Europa League teams because they have the most busy schedule with the international games. These teams have only four days, can prepare [for] five days [for] a game and that’s just not like it should be. How I said, I don’t want to be the guy who has to make that decision, but when Shrewsbury scored for 2-2 I felt a little bit [like] maybe it is destiny. Now we have to stand to it and that’s what we do and that’s it.
Is it better not to have replays at all in the fourth round if things can’t be changed?
Yes. For that, and again, I heard there were really clear opinions about that and the financial situation for the lower-league teams and I respect that. The most time still of my life, I worked and played for lower-league teams and I understand that situation 100 per cent, but the replay cannot be the solution. We have to find different solutions. There are solutions. I think the Oxford manager said last week they have nine games in February. Shrewsbury fights for the league, so I am not 100 per cent sure... that day they could have won the penalty shootout, why not? They were rather on the winning side than we were on the winning side in that game, so if they win the game then they have the fifth round. Good, another boost. They have the penalty shootout and then they can go to the next round. I am not sure how many games they have, but they have not a squad for playing now constantly three games a week at the highest level. That’s why Shrewsbury, with the quality they have, are not higher in the competitions.
It’s for the moment, it’s a solution for the moment but for the long-term it's not a solution for these teams as well. We all have problems after that unbelievable busy December and January, going now in that period where the decisions will be made for the whole season. You only create the basis and from now on the decisions will be made: who goes to Europe, who goes to Champions League, who will be champions, who stays in the league and all that stuff. They will be now made, nothing is decided yet. The replays really, they causes everybody problems. For the financial side, we have to find a solution because nobody wants to take money away from the smaller clubs. I know traditions, it is always difficult to break with traditions and even more difficult when you are not from the country, but I love cup competitions. In seven years at Dortmund, I think I was three or four times in a cup final – won it not so often but was there, so it means we won all the other games until then. It's nothing to do with that, it’s just that I have to see the bigger picture and that's what I do.
That means the players will have their programme and I will not be there, not because I don’t want to be here or I have planned differently, I'm absolutely not important in that part. But it’s not about showing up and wearing my training gear or touchline gear and showing the world I am here. It is about the best thing for the boys and that is their coach. Critch did really, really well with Aston Villa. The goals we conceded there, forget them, but the game they played was exceptional and with a similar performance, the boys have a chance, 100 per cent, against Shrewsbury. You never have more than a chance before a game, nobody knows how it will end. The boys have a chance and I hope they will make it.
Do you think the FA will make any changes as a result of you taking this stance?
I have no idea. Look, it's always like this, I said now what I said and other people find explanations – I would not want to say excuses. We said it before, if it was like this, then all the people, clubs involved, have to think differently and have to discuss these things differently. If I would imagine a discussion like that, it’s all the people sitting in there, then it's like, 'The winter break will be there, but the potential FA Cup replay…’ Yeah, OK, done, that point. That’s how the players’ situation is discussed in the moment and that’s what has to change. We’ve said that now – not only me – a lot of times because, again, we now have another Copa America in the summer – the Copa America was last year already – and European Championships again. Not only our players, a lot of top, top class, world-class players, again no break in the summer. Again. '21 where it usually would have been a summer for everyone, Club World Cup and UEFA already plans now a parallel tournament for all the other teams who are not involved there, so we fill now that break as well.
That is not possible anymore and it's uncomfortable that as a normal person, I have to constantly talk about it. It’s not that I think it is my main problem: my main problem and I thought the whole night last night after we made the analysis was only West Ham. But today you want to talk about it, but I don't want to be the person who is the shouter for everybody. It’s not nobody else, a lot of coaches do it [too], but it’s now a moment where we have stay strong and say, ‘No, we cannot do that like this anymore’ because if we don’t start a discussion, all the rest is only grabbing more. It’s just only doing more and here another game, there another game, here another competition, here a bigger Champions League... of course it’s from the club's point of view interesting, clearly, but we are part of the club and we talk to all of the important people in our club as well. It's completely normal.
We want to play football as often as possible, but that’s the key word: ‘possible’. You cannot play constantly. The big sports in the whole world, whatever it is, all have breaks. In America, the big sports where there are always world championships, they have four months off. Nobody knows where they are, summer camps or whatever. It’s very intense. Here it's constantly playing through and that's all good, but the players cannot do that. We limit careers, we limit performance levels, that’s how it is. Why should I now sit here and do that, it would be the easiest thing for me to say, ‘I am there on Tuesday or Wednesday’ and now everybody would be happy. ‘Jürgen is there and then everything is fine’ - that's the wrong statement. Again, from a football point of view, these boys need their coach, not me standing there and acting like their coach. They need Critch and they will get Critch, that’s it.
Would you possibly be involved in the situation at an earlier stage when it comes to maybe the scheduling for next season?
If I have time. That’s my problem. If, I don’t know, in the mid-season break or whenever, if we sit together and talk. It is no problem to do that, absolutely no problem. I don’t want to discuss it in public. Ninety-nine per cent of all the things we discuss, I would never speak about it in public because it is just do it, but in the end it must be the right solution. We all work on it and the right solution doesn’t mean the right solution for me, it means the right solution for the specific problem. Of course, if somebody asks me, it is no problem to talk about it. I said pretty much everything already and now in these kind of press conferences, so they just have to record it and I don’t have to come there.