Two matches into the business end of Liverpool’s preseason preparations (otherwise known as the “International” “Champions” “Cup”), and supporters now have a much clearer sense of how the team will go about its business during the campaign ahead. In terms of style, there was never a question that Kloppverpool 2.0 would be an intensification of the musical theme that was Kloppverpool 1.0, but there were questions about the effect a full preseason under Jürgen Klopp would have, and about how the new faces would be integrated into the master plan.
Speaking in the wake of a comfortable 2-0 victory over AC Milan, Klopp shed some light on what he expects to get out of Liverpool’s United States tour, and how he hopes the experience will translate into results when the real matches begin. Much has been said about the manner of football Klopp’s teams play, but the manager suggested that he views style as purely a means to an end - a way to streamline the decision-making process for the players.
Nothing in football is more important than the victory. There is no guarantee that the way you choose [to play] is 100 per cent the right way, but in the end you have to make the decision about the way because you have to minimize coincidences as much as possible. The best way to do this is to keep the ball and play your passing, move the other team around.
It’s not new for us because we were already a dominant team last year, but you can always be better and that’s what we try. In the end, we don’t want to have only one chance a game. It’s not about passing for passing, it’s about passing and creating spaces we can use. That’s what I saw a lot of times tonight. I am fine at the moment, but not more.
A common misconception about Klopp’s teams is that they will operate at full tilt, with the dial set at eleven, for the entirety of a match - hence the importance of the collective fitness. Klopp himself has perhaps encouraged some of this mythology, such as by referring to his preference for “heavy metal football” when he first took the reins at Liverpool. Klopp’s post-match words made clear, however, when he expects the Sturm und Drang to be dialed up, and when expects it to be reined in.
We were playing dominant football and then reacting on balls we lost, like we did in counter-pressing situations. That’s the only moment where it should be a little bit hectic. All the rest should be calm and really dominant.
In the first half we played brilliantly, we did the right thing – passed and passed and passed all the time until we were through. We created chances and didn’t score, we didn’t finish. But it will come, 100 per cent. Again we lost a little bit of patience and chose the wrong way because we had one or two long balls too many and forced the play when we lost the patience to pass again.
For some supporters, Liverpool’s performances and results against first Chelsea, and now AC Milan, may evoke both good and bad memories from last season: no shortage of verve and endeavor in attack, occasional frustration against a well-organized opponent determined to minimize damage, and of course, conceding from set pieces. Klopp cautioned, however, against drawing too many conclusions from the squad’s adventures in America, noting that “we have to work on all these things - this is a time for fitness, that’s it.”
Already there are some clues about how the new faces will be deployed to help address issues encountered last season. First half standout Sadio Mané brings an element of speed and directness that was sometimes missing, and Ragnar Klavan continues to magically appear wherever needed while rarely, if ever, putting a foot wrong. Though Simon Mignolet was hardly tested in the match against Milan, we’ll also see in the coming weeks whether the spectre of Loris Karius - once the Rebel droids prepare his new prosthetic hand - will push the Belgian international into a good spell of form.