Press conferenceJürgen Klopp: We know where - and how - we have to improve
Jürgen Klopp insists Liverpool are aware of the areas of their game that require improvement as they aim to return to winning ways following the international break.
The Reds’ 25-match unbeaten run across all competitions, which equalled a club record, was ended by a 3-2 defeat at West Ham United last time out.
Klopp’s side resume duties on Saturday evening as they welcome Arsenal to Anfield in the Premier League – and the manager used the second part of his pre-match press conference to explain why his team know where they need to do better.
The boss also discussed the news sporting director Michael Edwards will leave the club at the end of the season, with Julian Ward set to assume the role.
Read on for a transcript of Klopp’s media briefing…
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Jürgen Klopp's first pre-Arsenal press conference
On whether the strength of the Premier League is exciting or creates more pressure as a manager…
Both. This league is very exciting, absolutely, I can see that – even when I am completely involved but yes, of course, it increases the pressure as well. The league is unbelievable. When I was in Germany, people spoke about the best league in the world [and] where is it. Maybe some people thought it would be Germany, [but] no it’s not. It could be Spain, maybe there were times when it could be Italy but for a few years now, for sure it’s the Premier League – no doubt about that. It’s not a competition [about] which is the strongest league, it’s just how it is. The amount of world-class players in this league is absolutely incredible; I think the English clubs came through this very difficult pandemic so far the best from an economic point of view. It will not get worse for the next few years, I cannot see that – the league will get stronger and stronger and stronger. The managers get better and all these kinds of things, so, yes, it’s a tough race. When you have the momentum, you have to treat it really carefully and sensitively and if you don’t have it, you have to fight with all you have to get it back. That’s what we do.
On whether it means you have to break records to win something in England…
I am not into the record-chasing thing, but if it happens it’s always a good sign... if it’s a positive record obviously! It’s always a good sign, but we had different records and then things went the other way a little bit. I am not sure how long we were unbeaten at home last year and then, all of a sudden, we lost five or six games in a row, so I don’t want to come into that situation again because it felt very uncomfortable. We are a good football team and that means we are responsible for putting top, top, top-class performances on the pitch and that’s what we try.
On Edwards’ departure at the end of the season and his relationship with Ward…
[Our relationship is] very good, very good. I’ve known Jools for a long time. Jools is in the club longer than I am, so I met him on my first or second day probably. Since I’ve known him, he is an absolute expert in all the things around player scouting, transfers and all these kind of things. He worked very closely together with Michael Edwards in the past, so I don’t think there will be any kind of rusty things to overcome, it’s just a normal thing in life and business that people leave the position they were in for a few years and then somebody else has to take over. In this specific case, the person who takes over did parts of the job already in the past, that’s how it is when you get promoted to assistant sporting director to sporting director, so I think it will be a very smooth takeover.
On the importance of having a sporting director…
I would have come here 10 years ago and told you a sporting director was really important and you would have told me, ‘Go back to Germany and deal with that there!’ It is still a completely different role in England than it is in Germany. In Germany, a sporting director sits on the bench; in Germany the sporting director is talking in press conferences before the game and after the game, all these things. It never happened here. A CEO of a club speaks in Germany, I think you’ve seen all the interviews of Karl-Heinz Rummenigge when he was in that position or “Aki” Watzke while he is in that position. They all do that, but it never happened in England so there’s still a difference.
When I came here, I wanted a sporting director. I think that’s the reason why Michael, who had a similar job before, got the job in the end because I don’t want to deal every day with players’ agents and everything. I really think that takes energy away from the really important stuff you have to do, I speak to players constantly, I do that, but it is not the right thing that a manager speaks to players about contracts. It is my understanding that it is not [the right thing] because even when a player is very important for you and then give him the offer he didn’t want to hear, these conversations should not happen between the responsible person in all football things, so you need somebody in between that. For the player it’s the agent and for the manager it’s the sporting director, that’s my understanding. Apart from that, I did what I always did. We talk about players. In my first press conference we spoke about the transfer committee – that worked out pretty well since then, I have to say – but it’s still the same.
It is an important job, I really think it’s an important job, but it has no influence on my job but when it was like this in the past, that the managers did all these kind of talks with agents and players, my day is pretty full and I don’t know when they did it. Maybe I am not skilled for that. I am not the only one who thinks it is not right to do that, but for us it works out how we do it now.
On whether there’s such a thing as a ‘good defeat’ in order to refresh and go again…
Each defeat is good after you came over it. It needed a little bit of time for different reasons, but yes, a defeat is important information. In the moment when you lose, there is no good defeat, there is no good moment for a defeat, but after that we’ve had time, we could watch a lot of football in between that game and our game, unfortunately not with us being involved, just players of ours. You always want to see and you always have to show a reaction on different things. I spoke after the game about the first goal we conceded, which I thought was a foul. It is a foul, by the way, but because you feel really hard the defeat, you don’t think it’s fair and all these kind of things. In an analysis [meeting] it looks completely different.
The goal I hated most was the counter-attacking goal because we had to defend that much better. The other two goals were set-pieces and the second set-piece was incredibly well taken and really well executed. The first goal, a foul, the second goal we have to defend it better and that’s what you have to learn from it, that this bit of aggression we have to show more. There are things we can do better. Scoring there against a team in form twice and being very dominant. I’m not sure how often you saw West Ham, but against us they played a little bit like the old West Ham, if you want – set-pieces and counter-attacks. We were really in charge of the game, they had better moments – they always have good moments against us. We won at home against West Ham years ago, 3-2, and it was a really tight game, so you can struggle against West Ham, that’s absolutely clear, but the one goal I hated most was the goal after the counter-attack. These kind of things we have to improve.
Against Arsenal, they do counter-attacks as well, definitely – especially if you let them. But if you play a team who is going for counter-attacks and set-pieces, you have to avoid set-pieces obviously in the first place if possible and then to defend set-pieces better, but for that you need sometimes the help of the referee, with eyes, and sometimes not, and then sometimes you have to do better. The rest we have to improve – that’s what we knew before and we saw it is in this game again.
On whether there is a pattern in the goals Liverpool have conceded this season…
There is a bit of a pattern, but they were still all different. We lost challenges in very decisive areas; for example, in Atletico we lost the challenges twice, especially the Griezmann goal with Joao Felix in the half-right space. It is like another team will have a look before a game, but they learn in the game what we do – where is the weakness, where can we pass the ball? With Joao Felix, we knew he would drop into this half-right space and you have to win the challenge there. In the end, you have to see how it is when the pass is played and then it’s really tricky from that moment on. We still made mistakes after that, but the decisive thing in this moment was the challenge because we outnumbered them in that area – I think we were with two or three players but he still came out. That’s the problem with pressing, you invest a lot to outnumber the player on the ball but then you should win the ball because otherwise you are in a worse position than you would be if you man-marked, for example, in the decisive area.
[The] Trossard [goal] was a bad one as well, again a decisive challenge in and around the box, we could have defended better, we all know that. There are patterns, but they are all different and we have to improve in that area. We knew that all the time because we scored an awful lot of goals but we conceded too many as well and so that’s why we have to improve. You only get consistency through defending and we have to defend on our very highest level. Tomorrow is a very good example for that – you don’t defend against Arsenal on your highest level then you shouldn’t even try to go there, it makes no sense because they are too good for that. They have clear patterns, they have clear things they do, they have the players they want in the position they want them to be in. It’s a big challenge, but on top of that still the best way to defend is to keep the ball and that’s what we have to do as well.
So many things, completely independent to the West Ham result. Even with the 25-game unbeaten run, we always knew we had to work on that. That’s what we actually do but we are constantly interrupted by either injuries or international breaks, that’s a little bit the problem. We play games, games, games, we could have time, but they are all away and then come back. Unfortunately in football, to work on solutions you need time, but you don’t have time, that’s the tricky thing. We still are on that subject, you can imagine.