Pep Lijnders on Leicester cup tie, youth development, Salah, Nunez and more

Press conferencePep Lijnders on Leicester cup tie, youth development, Salah, Nunez and more

By James Carroll and Glenn Price


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Pepijn Lijnders attended a press conference on Tuesday afternoon to preview Liverpool's Carabao Cup tie with Leicester City.

The assistant manager discussed a wide range of topics during a session with reporters at the AXA Training Centre ahead of Wednesday night's third-round clash at Anfield.

Read a summary of what Lijnders had to say…

On the encounter with Leicester...

We know we're going to play against a team who has a lot of individual quality – it shows [with] how they are doing in the league. Real clear offensive game idea, very quick installation of this idea with the coach Enzo [Maresca] and he does an unbelievable job. I think each of them could play in the Premier League, to be honest. A few guys have this experience but proper experience. It will be really hard for us and [to] control their key players, and at the same time put them under pressure. As always, in each game we will focus on ourselves. Of course we will make changes but we want to put our game into place, we want to be dominant, we want to be in their half of the pitch. For this, we take into account where they are good [and] we need to stop that. So the best way to do that is to play high press. We have to defend and respect them. What I said, [they have] a lot of good players and a good, good game idea.

On Ben Doak...

He's young, so a lot of things can happen. I had the privilege to grow up in Holland, so we have a long tactical culture of Johan Cruyff. They always said the most special players and the way we wanted to play in the past – and still with a lot of teams – is this idea of having the wingers on the outside, can create, can really use one-on-one to disorganise the opposition, to have this speed. In the past that was [Marc] Overmars, Arjen Robben, this kind of player. In the past in Holland it was like [Johnny] Rep, [Rob] Rensenbrink, so we have this culture of wingers. And then if you get a young winger from Scotland that's only 17 years old and has this capacity to create and to reach the final line with the individual skill or individual movements, it's nice to see.

The good thing with Ben, in my opinion, is that he comes into a squad with so many senior players and authority... I think he's not this kind of guy but he will never make a side-step. The boys will immediately tell him. You already hear constantly, 'Decisions!' from Robbo. But he has this great, great low gravity and that's how he can control the ball better. He can control the ball on the highest speed with his left and right foot, so he's a really interesting player. But loads to come. He needs to mature, he needs to listen to Robbo, he needs to listen to Mo Salah, he needs to listen to Jots, to Cody, to Luis, to all these who are really trying to help him.

Trent Alexander-Arnold of Liverpool FC

NewsTrent Alexander-Arnold and Thiago Alcantara fitness latestTrent Alexander-Arnold has resumed training as he continues to make progress in his recovery from a hamstring injury.

We as a club for young players, I think it's really nice for them to be in our squad. At the same level, I think it's really good for the older players to have young players with this hunger they can mentor. I think each team who proved to be top has this right balance between talent, like a core group, like this young talent like Ben Doak, Stefan, Luke Chambers, Conor Bradley. And this core group of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Jota, Cody, Curtis, this core. And then you have the seniors like Virgil van Dijk, Mo Salah, Robertson, Alisson. That combination with the talent, core group and real experience, I think that's what we always had and that's how we want to construct the squad.

On Mohamed Salah...

He's breaking record after record. We have a very, very special player on our hands. A mentor as well, a leader. You guys see the skill and all the things, I see him in the building, I see him in the gym, I see him coming in early. I see a real professional with a lot of experience and I see a man who can lead this team without being the captain, and he does that. It's special that he's with us, it's special how he's doing it. Every game he plays at Anfield, every game he plays away for our away supporters, we should cherish these players. He's this guy who, out of nothing, can create a lot, and he does that time and time again. Mo is just an excellent, excellent person. I spoke yesterday with him and I said, 'I love it when you smile, Mo.' Because when he smiles in the building and outside, I know that the ball will smile as well and he will decide the games for us. That's quite important.

On finding the right balance between fielding youth and experience in cup ties...

First, we want to win the game, so that's our first thought – how can we win the game tomorrow? In the crazy schedule at the moment, because we play Europa League which means Thursday, so you go a lot of times Thursday, Sunday, Wednesday and now we go Saturday. So you play every three days and with the style we have – with the style where we want to put pressure on and when we lose the ball we want to play counter-pressing – we know that that takes a lot from the boys, not just physically but mentally especially to be every time on this high level individually and as a collective. So we need to make changes, it's just a given that you need to make changes in this kind of period. Normally in the cup, how you say, we give more changes and we give debuts, but we are not here to give debuts only. We are here as well to develop, so it's debut and develop. Say Ben Doak, he made his debut but he needs game time to develop.

I really feel, and Jota said it a little while ago to me, the best thing in the season when we went for the four trophies was that we stayed in the League Cup until the end because it gives all the players constant game time. It gives all the players in your squad, they stay hungry because they know that there's a next game where they will play. A healthy squad who wants to fight for all competitions needs this – that they are all ready to play. For example, Joe Gomez – Trent goes out, one of the best full-backs in the world, and Joe Gomez needs to play on full-back and he does that in an incredible way. Only with games, with playing [are] these boys ready to show that as well.

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On the form of Curtis Jones and his development in recent months...

He has the Scouse mentality, same as Trent – their dedication is difficult to describe. Their passion about the game, the ball, is there nothing else in their lives [other than] family and the game? Curtis, I am really proud [of] because these boys were 14 or 15 – Trent and Curtis were really young when they were in our Academy – and Curtis played already 100 games for Liverpool. I said on the stairway to him, 'Up to 100 Premier League games...' If you see last season, the last phase, the last 10 games where we changed our set-up, how he gave the midfield energy at that moment was something that we really needed at that time. He kept going, he deserved the start this season, he deserved to play games this season because of that. But if you would ask Curtis he will say he is really happy that Dominik is here, that is he is really happy Alexis is here and that's also Scouser mentality: the team comes first.

On Stefan Bajcetic playing in a right-back role at LASK last week...

It's not easy with all the games, as I said. There are not many who can play that position like Trent does because that is really tricky. That's why it is a big compliment to Joe Gomez. Stefan is this player last year who, from a coach's point of view, played on the six and was just exciting because he plays passes and dictates the game in a different way than say Alexis or other midfielders we had. He is this proper, proper talent, so you want to see him in the middle of the pitch. It would not make sense to just play him at right-back and use him as a right-back. It's not easy to find the right player if Joe or Trent can't play, but we need to find solutions as well because Stefan is coming back from a long-term injury so it is not possible for him to play constantly. We need to find solutions in that position. It is good that Trent is training, yesterday he was on the pitch. It is good how Joe is performing and it is nice for Stefan to play a game there, but it was his first game there. He played a lot of times centre-half but not full-back.

On Darwin Nunez's form...

I think it's a compliment to Darwin. The fans love him, no? He has this extreme mentality to run, to fight, to arrive in positions where nobody thinks he can arrive. For us, it's really important that he stepped up, not just offensively but especially defensively as well. It's nice to see him in a good moment, it is nice to see him positive, it is nice to see him starting games back-to-back, two times in a row. You see immediately what that does to a player. He is a pure intuition player, who smells and he goes and he sees and he does. Away at Newcastle would change any player's life, to be honest, if you can change like how he changed it. Compliments to how we defended there with 10 men for such a long period, but how he could make two goals from nothing. That gives him confidence and an intuition player like Darwin needs this kind of confidence. He speaks better English already, he invests a lot in himself, and how [it is for] every person in this room or everywhere, you need success – a player with confidence and a player without confidence is just a different player. A guy with confidence or without confidence is a different guy. It is important that he is confident. He is training really, really hard since pre-season – really, really hard. That's good.

On Nunez's counter-pressing contribution...

This team is still in development, you feel that. For example, if you see Wolves first half or Wolves second half, if you see the Villa performance or even the last game. I think we are the team with the highest number of counter-presses in the league at the moment, so that is a real good sign already. That will give us consistency. As the gaffer says, the best playmaker in the world is counter-pressing and we really believe in this – but to be able to play good counter-press, you need a fluid build-up, you need the ball in the right positions, you need the middle more compact. All of these things. For that, you can play really good counter-pressing and normally we always say the player who loses the ball needs to be the first one who chases. Hopefully Darwin is loads of times the first one because it means we are higher up the pitch. What he gives us, what we didn't have before, is when we play and the teams put us under pressure, especially when they go man-to-man, we can use him to go over the press or through the press. Then it gives a lot of space for Mo, Lucho, Jots or Cody, whoever.

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