NewsPress conference: Klopp on Luton, Gakpo role and Nunez progress
Jürgen Klopp spoke of the importance of maximising the full potential within his squad as Liverpool seek to build on a strong start to 2023-24.
Wednesday’s Carabao Cup success at AFC Bournemouth was a fourth consecutive win for the Reds, maintaining a hugely positive beginning to the campaign.
Next up for Klopp’s men is a return to Premier League duty with an away trip to Luton Town on Sunday afternoon.
Ahead of that game, the manager held a pre-match press conference, where he discussed the development still needed for the team, Cody Gakpo’s versatility, Darwin Nunez’s progress and more.
Read a summary below…
On visiting Kenilworth Road on Sunday…
I heard about it, I didn’t see it yet. I’m eight years here and it’s one of the grounds I’ve never been [to] before, honestly I do [look forward to it]. I see the smile on your face and it’s great but in the end we have to get somehow into the dressing room and I heard it’s not massive! But we will get changed and then it’s a football game. That’s all I need: a pitch, an opponent and us there. I don’t know exactly how many of our fans can go there but they will for sure take all the available tickets. I’m really looking forward to it, it’s exciting and I love the story. I don’t really know but I don’t think anybody expected Luton to get promoted last year; they did an exceptional job there.
As far as I’m concerned and as far as I know, it looks like they are pretty relaxed with the situation, they knew it will be tricky so they want to get everything out of this season so that means point by point, surprise here, take the points there and try to stay in the league – and that’s the team we will face. It will be interesting but it will be difficult, because it’s their ground and if you would be in their shoes then you would probably think, ‘OK, in our home games, whoever comes we cannot waste any opportunity, so we will go for it.’ That’s the opponent I expect.
On how Liverpool will try to combat Luton…
It’s a football game, we cannot change that. It’s important to know before a game – as much as you can know it – what he thinks, how they see it, bah, bah, bah, all these kinds of things. But that stops at a specific moment and then you play a football game, and that means you have to do the necessary stuff. We will probably face a low block, that means we have to deal with that. We will probably face set-pieces with quality, that’s why we have to make sure we are ready for that. All these different things. It’s Luton but it’s not the first time we will face a team who will play that way probably. That’s what we have to deal with and that’s what we will prepare the boys for.
On generating and managing a positive atmosphere within the squad…
That’s no problem at all. The boys are all smart. The good thing is we have really only smart players, that means they understand they cannot play all the games. It’s not, ‘I want to play Sunday, Wednesday, Saturday, Tuesday, Thursday.’ That’s just not possible but everybody sees [it that way] as well, and that’s how a smart footballer should think and our boys do that: ‘If I can’t play then it’s better we have another really, really, really good player who can play the position.’ That’s exactly how I see it. You see it now. We cannot, and will not, force the Luis [Diaz] situation, it’s not in our hands, we are just there a part of the situation with him and are waiting together for good news.
In that moment it’s then only four [Gakpo, Diogo Jota, Nunez and Mohamed Salah] all of a sudden but a lot of games still coming, if you see the schedule. OK, now it’s three games until the international break but after the international break it turns completely crazy the schedule, so in that time we have to be ready and if you want to play a successful season and not only having successful spells, you need the boys through all these different phases.
We had a horrible year together [in the press conference room] where you asked all these horrible questions and stuff like this. Now I realise the questions are much more positive, everybody is positive about the team, I’m positive about the team – but it’s so early. I’m so happy that we have a really good team together, which I like, but look at the other teams, they are really good as well. A lot of really good teams out there and it’s the Premier League and it’s not about celebrating the moment and being relieved that we kind of can play football again, stuff like this. No, it’s really about digging into the season, use the full potential of this group, get everything out of it and then let’s see.
Again, it’s a press conference, we have to talk about it and I enjoy much more to talk about positive things, but talking about our front line with all the players – where Ben Doak is actually part of and was not available, then Lucho not available, then Cody before not available. So we have to see. We have to get through this and with not a lot of injuries, or none, that would be the best from now on. Then you are right, we have really the joys; but if not, the boys have just to fight through it and that’s as important as the others. For the moment it’s OK, but we need it like this for pretty much the rest of the season, to be honest.
On Gakpo’s different roles and development at the club…
Top. Since Cody is here he played a variety of positions. And now starting the season he played in midfield. If we have everybody available it was never the plan to put Cody there, we just knew he can play there – and he can obviously. But it was for him again something new after the false nine last year and all these kinds of things, all of a sudden always new positions. But he’s a super-smart player so he can adapt to that. But we want him to adapt and then you have to perform immediately on the top level, and that was in the midfield position a bit difficult, but with a little bit more time he can play there perfectly, no doubt about that.
Then the injury, which was really unlucky in this horrible game [at Tottenham Hotspur] and now back, he’s just a versatile striker, he can play everywhere up front there. For us it’s super-important. He arrives in the box, he is a good shooter, he has a good nose for the situation. He is a top, top, top player, and a really good character as well. That’s very helpful. How I said, the boys up front all like each other – that’s really like that. There’s not this battle between ‘Will I start?’ They all like each other and they know they can all play together, and that’s really important and they enjoy it a lot. They all want to start but if they don’t start they know they will come on and have to in an ideal world kill the game off, and Cody is a very important part of that.
On whether we are now seeing the best of Nunez…
Of course not but it’s completely different now. The first year was hard for him and then hard for me as well because you see this incredible talent, massive potential, but it was difficult to unfold it because I am obviously a manager who can help a player but I need contact for that. It can speed up the process by talking a lot with the player, I was not able to do that because I don’t speak Spanish and he didn’t speak English. His English is now much better and my Spanish is still not! But settled in the team, when you see him around in the building here, everything is different, he is in a very good moment. It’s still only the start for him of course. He is in a good moment – I said it last week, long may it continue. Hopefully it continues like that forever, then I’m a bit afraid of the highs he could reach because there is so much there, it’s crazy. But now at least we found the real starting moment and let’s work from here.
On communication with Nunez…
Meanwhile not [difficult]. The football English is not complicated. We don’t have to speak about everything in life, but the football communication is now absolutely possible, which is absolutely helpful. And of course we have an extra on-field player; so far it was always Ali [Alisson Becker] the translator, now we have Macca [Alexis Mac Allister] and they are really close with each other. Macca is a super-smart footballer, so if I forget something to tell him, Macca tells him anyway.
Strikers need to know where to go when midfielders have the ball and obviously that depends to the midfielders and stuff like this. And that’s the stuff you talk to players about, but in an ideal world the players talk to each other as well about it, and Macca is there super-helpful. And Lucho’s English is getting better and they are very close as well. That’s how it is. You can see it. There is just not a specific amount of time, it’s for each individual different what you need to really arrive. But who cares? It’s done now and that’s good.