Jürgen Klopp on Liverpool's 'rock solid' aim, Van Dijk's journey and more

Press conferenceJürgen Klopp on Liverpool's 'rock solid' aim, Van Dijk's journey and more

Published 22nd January 2022
By Sam Williams

Jürgen Klopp has detailed Liverpool's determination to maintain the 'essential' defensive solidity that has produced three consecutive clean sheets.

The Reds go into Sunday’s match at Crystal Palace having conceded just once in four outings since Naby Keita, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah departed for the Africa Cup of Nations.

During the third part of Friday’s press conference, Klopp was asked about the importance of this and more.

Read a full transcript below…

On Liverpool recording three successive shutouts and finding improved solidity at a time when Keita, Mane and Salah are absent…

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It’s essential, the only way you can do it. When you lose key players for injuries or tournaments or whatever, the solution is not that you will be flying in the next game and you say, ‘OK, now we score five or six’ and you create chances like hell and all these kind of things. Wherever they are on the pitch, whether they are strikers, midfielders or wherever, [when] you lose key players you have to adapt. In our case it was 100 per cent clear that we have to be solid, rock solid. It’s a clear agreement, maybe you don’t see it all the time, but ‘defending first’: we have to be organised, that is the basis for everything we do and in this moment I can see outstanding commitment to our defending, that’s how it is.

Really, everybody is 100 per cent involved in everything because they understand it’s now more important than ever and that’s helpful. That we didn’t concede then, I don’t know all the situations but probably [is down to] Ali as well, that he made a couple of important saves, that’s clear. But that was clear: we have to do it like this, we have to put defending above everything to have a chance for results – and we want to have results. It’s not about that you fly through all periods of the season [with] three, four, five-nil results or whatever. You have to win football games 1-0, that’s how it is. I like them as well. I don’t like the 90 minutes most of the time but afterwards I take them like I take all other results! That’s obviously necessary and the boys understood.

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On whether he takes greater satisfaction from winning games without key players…

It’s not greater satisfaction, no. I know we can do it without them, do I want to do it always without them? Why [would I]? It’s just to react on these kind of things, to stay in the game, to stay on top of the game for as long as possible, all these kind of things. But we all do that with no time, it’s not that while they are still here we train like they are not here anymore, that makes no sense. So when they are gone you have three days until the next game: ‘Now, let’s have a look.’ That’s the situation so that makes it really tricky. I don’t get more satisfaction, it’s as good as it is when they are here and we win football games. I was never in doubt that it is possible but I knew always that it’s difficult because players of their quality, you don’t replace like this [easily], it’s just not the case. I am looking forward to when they are back but I like as well the response of the squad in the moment, that’s true.

But we have now this one game, Crystal Palace, and I can’t remember that we spoke a lot about that yet [in the press conference]. This is our final at the weekend, then we have a week off, so this is our final. Again, the Brazilians go to Brazil, Taki goes to Japan, I think that’s it pretty much so some others will have a little rest, which is good, and then we go from there. It’s a really important game, Crystal Palace, and if we would have lost the game last night, which is possible, this would have been a completely different press conference because of one result. That is the world you are living in, we have to deal with these results. We cannot always change our perspective… we have always to work with all the information we have and this time we try to use it for being the one team Crystal Palace doesn’t want to face on Sunday. But we come anyway.

On Virgil van Dijk’s return this term and whether the consistency of his availability has been a surprise given the seriousness of last season’s knee injury…

I’m not surprised, pretty much about nothing that happened, because it was not that it was just this kind of [upward] curve always going and going and going. There were obviously little bumps in that, that’s normal. Virg had to learn to deal with a lot of things, like that some physical things are just not available like they were before. That will all come, and came, back, but it’s not that from the first day it was like this so you have to adapt to these things. There are worries, I had bad injuries myself and you cannot ignore that. When you are an intelligent person, like Virg obviously is, you cannot just ignore everything and say, ‘Who cares?’

So yes, the way back to your best is a bumpy one and he did exceptionally well. I think the biggest difference was after COVID, that’s why I mentioned that because we still don’t understand 100 per cent [the illness] and because the boys want it always, I see when they can’t. That was the case in one or two games but it looks now [like] we are over that as well, so really pleased with all the development in all these things. Especially long-term injuries, we deal now with really well. Dr Andreas Schlumberger is a massive help there, the structure he implemented is incredibly helpful, so yeah, it’s good.

On whether Liverpool need to be ready to take advantage of any potential slip by Manchester City in the title race…

Look, the problem is not the situation – the problem is that you ask about it, to be honest. What is our situation? Is it 11 points [behind] with a game in hand? If I would sit here and say, ‘I can smell that we’ll get them’ that would be really crazy and if I would sit here and say, ‘We don’t even try’, that would be crazy as well. The only thing we can do is win football games, we cannot wait for a slip, we cannot really influence a slip of City. The only thing we can influence is our performance so I thought it’s a good idea to do exactly that: just win as many as you can. This group did it. I’m not sure when it was, two years ago or three years ago, we won the last 15 games or something like this. It was never easy, not for one second. We needed last-second goals, at Newcastle Divock’s shoulder, that’s what we needed then.

So nobody knows what will happen, obviously, but we will try to win as many football games as possible. That’s, by the way, very necessary because there is one spot who will become champion and three more to qualify for the Champions League and this year is so crazy. Tottenham, for example, they changed the manager because they were not happy and now they have three or four games in hand and if they win them all they are all of a sudden third or whatever and really close. United, you never know, Arsenal, obviously [have] potential, Chelsea anyway, West Ham is around. We want to qualify so we have to win anyway an awful lot of football games and that’s what we will try. Then we will see where it ends up.

Published 22nd January 2022