NewsJürgen Klopp press conference: Villa memories, Emery respect, Elliott, Gakpo, Nunez and more

By Chris Shaw, Joe Urquhart and Sam Williams at the AXA Training Centre


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Jürgen Klopp discussed a range of topics at his penultimate pre-match press conference, previewing Liverpool’s trip to Aston Villa on Monday.

The Reds boss spoke to reporters at the AXA Training Centre this morning ahead of the encounter at Villa Park in the Premier League.

Klopp reflected on some of his previous matches at the ground, his respect for Villa manager Unai Emery, the form of the likes of Harvey Elliott, Cody Gakpo, Darwin Nunez and Jarell Quansah, and more.

Read a summary of the briefing below…

On memories of games at Villa Park…

Oh! [Laughs]. Thank you very much, you talk about that game [a 2-1 win in November 2019]. We had another night at Aston Villa… [a 7-2 defeat]. True, it was a really special game when we won 2-1. At half-time we had a little situation in the dressing room and then we could calm it down and then we turned the game around, which was really, really, really special. That’s when you go for absolutely everything, when everything is on the edge and these kinds of things can happen as long as you settle as quick as possible. We turned it around. Two really special goals, Sadio [Mane] with the head where pretty much the other foot was there as well, so really dangerous. We really wanted it and the boys really wanted it. That was a very important one. Yeah, great feeling after the game, absolutely.

[The half-time situation was a] little argument between two players. But you will not get the names from me! It was no problem, it was just the situation. In that moment it was not the situation where you think that’s exactly how it should be to turn it around, but this group of players was really special. It meant so much and things can happen when you work together for a long time especially, that’s normal. But it worked out.

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On the situation at the top of the table and if other results before Monday’s game will impact the squad’s mood…

No, if we cannot win it anymore, we don’t have to deal with it. Not that we cannot [still] win it but it’s not now No.1 every morning on the priority list so I tell the boys, ‘By the way, we still have a chance.’ We all can read the table, we all see the situation. Do we expect them to lose? [Manchester] City has to lose three games. Three. Difficult to see that. But you never know. And Arsenal has to lose two games – difficult.

Both play before us, we play Monday. So then let’s talk about that if they both lose and then we will see what we do with that. But I just don’t expect that. I think we have enough to do. We have the chance to go above 80 points again; like pretty much everything in life, you never should take things like this for granted. And for that we need points, we need to win one of the two games at least. These are the things. Aston Villa is the next chance.

I saw them playing last night, obviously they have to travel back now, stuff like this. But it’s the last home game of the season of Aston Villa, they want to have a good last home game because they play an incredible season, they qualify pretty likely for the Champions League, which is a big one. I’m not sure when Villa was last time there. This year Conference League, next year Champions League – Unai is doing an incredible job there. But we will give it a try, definitely.

On Emery’s work at Villa…

Incredible job. Unai Emery is one of the best we have in the business, 100 per cent. Wherever he was he had success. Sometimes clubs were not ready to wait for it, maybe, if you look back probably these clubs would have made different decisions. I have known him for so long, I think when I met him first time he was managing in Moscow, it was in Russia I’m pretty sure at that time. That’s really long ago and he always had a clear idea. Then he won plenty of times with Sevilla. It was really tricky for us when we faced him with Villarreal. He always organised a team extremely, extremely well. The job he is doing is absolutely exceptional. We all know how important it is for a club to qualify for the Champions League, how difficult it is to do that. And that he probably, very likely will do that, yeah, is absolutely exceptional. No other words for it.

On his team’s ‘intensity’ returning against Tottenham Hotspur last weekend...

For 70ish minutes it was a really good game. I liked it a lot. It was a good game, it was what we needed, what we wanted [and] what the people deserved to see. I think we spoke about that for why we didn’t make it in the three [or] four weeks before, why they happened for different reasons. But that’s how it is and if we are 100 per cent honest, is that the season we were the best team in the league? We had our moments, we played our best game in our history against Man City but didn’t win it. It’s always the small margins. If you win these kind of games that can open up something.

We didn’t win it and then in the first moment when it looks like we struggle slightly, we got really punished for it because it’s now not that the other teams play all the time really good. But in the moments where we played still good, or OK, and created an awful lot of chances and didn’t score them, that just went in the wrong direction. But it was really nice to see [against Tottenham], you’re right. It was absolutely nice to see against a really strong opponent. How strong they are you saw immediately after we put the foot off the gas: boom. That’s it. They were back in the game. I was not worried that these boys cannot play football anymore. Or this kind of football. I knew they can. I just hope, obviously, that they can show it as well with me on the sideline as well. That’s what we did. I enjoyed the whole thing a lot.

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On Elliott and Gakpo’s recent form...

A great game [from] both [against Tottenham]. It’s not like this that I go back and think, ‘OK, what did we all do wrong here and there?’ But if I regret one thing a little bit it’s that Harvey didn’t play often enough maybe. It was in a very important and intense period. January, [with] a lot of injuries, he played really good, he was probably our best player, right wing, right midfield, all these kind of things. Everybody came back and he had minutes here and there and then he didn’t start anymore. [He] came on [and had] a big impact but it’s really nice that he could show.

Cody, he knows that for a while he was not in his best moment, we had a conversation there. It was not for public what we spoke there about but it helped him a lot because we could sort it a little bit. It’s just a problem [because] can I speak in the first moment [when] the player is not performing anymore to the levels you expect him to do? Can you speak immediately? You can. But how can I have an answer for his situation if I don’t understand it? So, we have to try to look a bit longer into it and wait for a specific moment when I can give answers; maybe from my point of view that took too long as well. That’s maybe the case, but after that talk he stepped really up and it’s really good to see how physically strong [he is]. He’s a good footballer. He plays right wing, left wing especially, and centre. Smart again [and] full of confidence [and] physical strength. [It’s] a good moment, [which is] good for him, [and] good for us.

On his assessment of Nunez two seasons into the forward’s Liverpool career…

There’s no speculation [about his future] – that must be external speculation because I don’t know about it… I am not involved in that anymore but there is no speculation right now, it’s just the situation we are in. Yes, Darwin was definitely not happy missing that chance [against Tottenham]. He was unlucky – let me say ‘was’ because that could have changed now, probably – in so many situations where he is doing everything right and then the ball goes still not in, and that’s really tough for a young man. It’s really tough. He knows about expectations, he has big expectations on himself, that’s tough and you have to go through this. There is no alternative than going through it and that is what he is doing right now. We tried to help him with all we can but in the end, you have to go through it. Everybody had to go through this and this is part of a footballer’s career, that is all.

His problem is that he’s that good that he is constantly in these moments, so obviously if he was a little bit less good he would not have chances and people would just say, ‘He is not great.’ It is because he is that good that he is in these moments where he can finish it off and now he’s not finishing off in the moment. How many goals did he score [this season]? I think he’s not too bad with numbers too, right? So, it’s just because of his quality that he is constantly in situations where everybody thinks, ‘Again, again.’ And because of our situation as a team, where we had chances and didn’t score, if somebody else would have scored in that situation then it wouldn’t have felt that bad. That’s the situation, but again: nobody likes it but it’s part of a career. That’s it.

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On Quansah earning a start against Tottenham…

It’s just like that we play once a week and we just look at who looks in the best moment, and Jarell is one of them. That’s how it is and we don’t play with three centre-halves or whatever, so it means we have to make a decision and Jarell is training really well and we have a lot of training sessions, he is training really well. That doesn’t mean Ibou [Konate] or Joey [Gomez] wouldn’t train well, but Jarell trained really well and that’s how it is and that’s why I make these kind of decisions. That’s the best situation to have, I can just sit there and look at it…

If you have the chance to make that decision, that you can really decide on this high level who is a little bit better and in a little better moment, then you do it. That’s what you do. There is no rotation necessary because then the others have to play anyway, or you have to mix it up anyway, but that’s not necessary now. That’s why he played [and] yes, he pushed himself in a really, really good situation, that’s true. And I think the [Tottenham] game justified that decision. He was really good in that game as well… and again, a very, very talented player. Really, really good.



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