While taking questions from the press ahead of Liverpool FC’s crucial fixture against Burnley at Turf Moor, Jürgen Klopp was asked if the injury issues the team has dealt with had indadvertedly led to a rhythm and stability because of the consistency of team selection:
No, not at all. Not a little bit. The problem we had, injuries obviously started pretty early, that always puts everybody else under pressure. So other players were injured when we started the season – like Ox, for example – then Shaq got some problems, these kind of things. They all came back step by step. But then you usually have a stable formation where you can throw them in – we never had that. We always had to sort, first and foremost, the real problems. That means we had to keep some players more often on the pitch than we would have done in other seasons. The kids, the young boys, were not ready in the beginning to replace the centre-halves; we had to work a lot with them, you cannot just throw them in. With young players especially it’s not fair just [to] throw them in the hot water and then realise they are not ready to swim. That makes no sense. That’s why it was all a massive challenge for all of us. But it didn’t help the rhythm or whatever.
Thiago is an example. Yes, he is a world-class football player but he came as well from a pandemic, after the lockdown in Germany when they started playing again he had to play Bundesliga games and the Champions League final. He came here to a new club with a little, little, little break only; arrived here, got injured and had to restart again with a team that was not settled. That’s massive, that’s nearly impossible. What he did in these moments is absolutely incredible. Now, things look like more settled, that’s clear in the moment with some results going in our direction, which helps as well, [it] gives confidence to everybody. Now it looks different and better. But we are not even halfway there, Thiago is not halfway there, the team is not halfway there. We just have to keep going and improving.
The reaction of the fanbase and players’ to the arrival of Thiago in the summer was quite something. It took a while to materialise but after shrugging off the effects of his injury, Thiago has really started to show what he was brought here to do lately. The accusations from lazy pundits about “slowing the game down” are all but gone. and his defensive work and pressing seems on point. A goal against Manchester United, and five chances created in the West Brom game (matching his personal best of five against Hannover 96 a whole five-and-a-half years ago) is not too shabby for a midfielder who usually plays deeper. The prospects of Thiago lining up alongside Fabinho and Henderson in midfield, with Virgil van Dijk marshalling the defence behind them next season sure is tantalising. Let’s get the job done against Burnley and Palace and see where the chips fall for next season.