Press conferenceKlopp on 'unbelievable' Phillips development, attacking play and Adrian injury
Jürgen Klopp rates the development of Nathaniel Phillips as one of the biggest improvements any player has ever made under his tutelage.
The boss used the second part of his pre-Wolverhampton Wanderers press conference to discuss a variety of topics, including the centre-back’s progress since he arrived at the club.
Klopp also revealed Adrian is currently sidelined with a calf injury, meaning Marcelo Pitaluga is operating as third-choice goalkeeper, while explaining why he is hopeful Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita will be able to report for Africa Cup of Nations duty after the Reds’ clash with Chelsea on January 2.
Read on for the highlights from the manager’s media briefing…
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Klopp's pre-Wolves press conference
On an injury for Adrian…
Adrian is injured in the moment, so Marcelo is now No.3. He’s a very young boy, but that’s all fine.
On whether Salah, Mane and Keita will be available for the game with Chelsea before reporting for AFCON duty…
It’s not decided yet, definitely. I would say I’m an optimistic person, so I hope so but it’s not written in stone yet. It’s not completely in our hands obviously – and no problem with that – but of course we hope. ‘Confidence’ is maybe not the right word for it.
On the process of the work done on attacking play and patterns during pre-season…
A process is a thought process. The thought process is based on the things you do on the pitch in the past, so pretty much what we are able to do. How can we increase the probability to win a football game? That’s obviously the challenge for all of us and that was the problem we had obviously last season. I think we were in a good place in that season, after winning the league before with all the difficulties: no supporters, pandemic, all these kind of things. We were in a pretty good place and then we lost important players for us. Could we have reacted better? I really don’t know, maybe yes is the easy answer, probably no… that’s not important anymore. The thing is, we just realised in that moment how much we relied on specific things and I know you mean now players but we mean patterns. So you can change the players, even when the specific skills that they have are difficult to replace, but when you can still stick to your patterns, to your philosophy if you want, then you are alright.
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But for us it was not possible anymore so we had to adapt things and that’s why, over the year, we realised in games, ‘Oh my God, now we have that problem, which we didn’t have the week before’. In the end, it’s all about how you don’t score anymore and how you concede. But we have to work in between these two areas, so when the season was over we were quite positive with the news that the players come back and we can build again on that. So, we brought Ibou in, which was really, really important, just to give us the security and things like this [so] that similar things cannot happen anymore. We kept Nat Phillips here – not too cool for the boy but he’s fine with it and he improves here like crazy, just to make sure that we can rely on this kind of spine.
Going from there, if you are protected we know the things we do on the pitch have now a clear basis again and you have to think how can you use that. That was the thought process and during the pre-season we are constantly in a room [together] and then on the pitch… we had a long camp or two camps actually. We were really long on the road then and we had a lot of time to talk about it. It’s clear the influence of Pep [Lijnders] and Vitor [Matos] in that is massive just because they are brilliant football brains. Pete [Krawietz] is as well constantly concerned about how to use the things we have with the analysis team together. So we put some videos together [on] what did we do in the most positive moments and what can we do even better. We didn’t reinvent ourselves new, we just built on a basis; that’s the good thing when you are longer together, you don’t have to make a lot of changes. That’s how it is.
It’s not as exciting as you want and we are not there yet [in terms of], ‘OK, that’s how it should look exactly’. We are still trying to improve but for the moment it worked in moments and the players feel it, that’s very helpful, the benefit of it. But in the end, you cannot be offensively creative unless you are perfectly protected because [if not] it is then children’s football like, ‘Oh my God, let’s run there’ and then you have nobody in the decisive area. So that’s a constant process to get that sorted, to keep that balance and I don’t think it will ever stop, to be honest, this process. Whatever you create up front, you need to be protected because it is football and you cannot expect that it will end up with a goal. That’s it.
On whether Phillips deserves the opportunity to play against AC Milan next week…
I don’t think yet about AC Milan, but why I have to mention Nat Phillips [is because] people ask me which player made the biggest improvement under my leadership and I said Robert Lewandowski and that’s probably right, but not far off that is Nat Phillips. It is just a completely different department, but I remember when I first saw Nat Phillips, after the game – and he is one of the smartest players I’ve ever had – I spoke to him and said, ‘You know you are not easy on the eye?’ He improved in pretty much everything – everything – and he is not playing here. Life is sometimes not fair.
We cannot keep him forever, but it is clear in the moment we needed him to be safe for the half-year for sure. We will see what happens in the winter [transfer window] but we needed him here and he was fine doing it because he’s a great guy. The development is absolutely insane, honestly. You saw it last year, when you thought about Nat Phillips you thought, ‘Oh my God, he plays in the last line’ and stuff like this, but the way he played… yes, we love him because of his heading, but with his feet meanwhile he’s unbelievable. He was just a late starter, but from there on it was absolutely insane and I would sign him for each club I would be at apart from Liverpool because we [already] have him.