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Klopp Talk: Win at Villa “Exactly What We Wanted”

The Reds return to the Premier League with three points

Stefan Bajcetic of Liverpool celebrates with Juergen Klopp, Manager of Liverpool following victory in the Premier League match between Aston Villa and Liverpool FC at Villa Park on December 26, 2022 in Birmingham, England.
Stefan Bajcetic of Liverpool celebrates with Juergen Klopp, Manager of Liverpool following victory in the Premier League match between Aston Villa and Liverpool FC at Villa Park on December 26, 2022 in Birmingham, England.
Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images

In his post-match press conference following Liverpool’s 3-1 away win against Aston Villa, manager Jürgen Klopp was all smiles reflecting on an imperfect game.

Asked to discuss the overall performance, and what it means to return to league play, Klopp was clear that he:

Loved it. In a difficult game, we played a lot of good stuff. We were not superior in all moments, especially in the start of the second half, Aston Villa was clear better, we lost rhythm there. When you lose rhythm in an intense game, it is difficult to come back but we found ways to get out of that with massive counter-attacks. We could have scored the third goal much earlier, but I loved the start in the game in general. It was really, really good, exactly what we wanted. You come here, it’s Boxing Day, everybody is waiting for this game. Aston Villa, a new manager, four weeks’ time to train, we all know Unai Emery is an exceptional coach [and] what he can do in four weeks is crazy, so we were kind of prepared, but how can you be really prepared?

How we dealt with what they wanted to do in the first half was exceptional. Yes, they had their moments but we had ours as well. It was a really good game, 2-0 up, the start of the second half made a bit more uncomfortable for us obviously, but the counters we had were insane. We could have scored there and the goal we scored was my favorite goal. With all the quality of our first goals, [the third] was my favorite goal today because it decided the game and Darwin, after the game he played and the bad luck he had [in] moments, staying that calm and setting that goal up. Stefan being that calm and having the necessary luck in the finish was special. I am really happy we had that start.

The boss also spoke about Andy Robertson, whose assist marked an important number:

We don’t have that much time, but he is a great guy. Your colleagues told me now [about it] because I am not so much into stats, but what came first to my mind was the guy we bought from Hull. We knew he was an exceptional talent, but personality [and] character makes you the player you can be. He obviously really had a good basis for that. He was a real talent offensively; defensively he was not that good and I remember when he came into my office after half a year because he didn’t play a lot [about] what he has to change.

I explained to him how he has to defend again and I said, ‘I am disappointed I have to tell you again because I told you a couple of times, that is the thing you have to change and everything is fine.’ Now he obviously [is] a proper defender and still sets up balls. I have so many balls in my mind where he missed the free player in the middle; imagine he would have been there, more accurate as well, then the number [is] even crazier. It’s a great number and really special - and the same for Mo, I heard now. It’s crazy. When you are mentioned in the same phrase or same sentence as Sir Kenny Dalglish then you did something right. In this moment especially, it’s a big one as well.

Sticking with the fullbacks, the Liverpool head coach addressed (he’ll hope for the final time) Trent Alexander-Arnold’s play and his lack of minutes at the World Cup:

I think with Trent everything is fine. I don’t think he expected to make all games in the World Cup with all the players Gareth [Southgate] has available. So, he was there for his country and contributed as good as he could. He didn’t like not to play but he was not especially now down because we had to pick him up, the situation was pretty clear and that’s fine. Now he came back and got ill, that’s not cool, that’s why he couldn’t play at [Manchester] City. And now he was available, but for him it was especially hard.

Today Hendo had a cold as well, a real cold, and that’s why you could see for 50, 60 minutes he was great and then all of a sudden somebody pulled the plug and we had to change there. Thank God Naby and Stefan did an incredible job, Joe Gomez came on for Trent and did an exceptional job on that side. So, yeah, Naby top and obviously... Ben [Doak], nice contribution as well. It was, in the end, a great night. We know we had in moments luck, and we needed Ali, that’s clear, but I think Aston Villa was lucky as well that we didn’t finish the situations off, we deserved these three points and that’s all we wanted.

Darwin Núñez was widely applauded, though he failed to capitalize on his many chances. Klopp was able to put all this into perspective:

Different things, of course it is like this, you are a human being and it doesn’t go easy that he can now close his eyes, hit the ball, and have it go in. Strikers have that from time to time, he didn’t have that yet, but I’m now not only since yesterday in the business and I had some strikers around and I know the start [of] the scoring at the beginning is really not important. There are so many other things that are much more important, because in the end you look back [and] you cannot imagine how [many] big chances they missed in the beginning when I work with them, you just have to stay calm.

We are completely calm... what I really love and it’s so special that in the third goal, I think pretty much everybody here, if you’re ever in a situation like that, after the game he had where he just missed the last little touch to score a goal, we all would have just hammered the ball and try to force it. And he passed the ball to Stefan, so we can score the third goal, that makes him really special, the work-rate he put in, the spaces, the depth he creates for us. Pretty much, he’s unstoppable in the moment when we keep the ball and pass it in the right moment, there’s no defender who can really catch up speed wise. I know all the stories around and it’s all fine, but we are completely calm, everything will be fine. He played an exceptional game tonight and we won 3-1 and that’s all that counts.

Finally, the boss addressed the elephant in the room: Are Liverpool simply fighting to reach top four?

Look, we have to be the pain in the backside for everybody. That’s how it is. Of course, we have to chase. We are not in the best position, there’s [a] difference between us and other teams, we all know that. The first two [or] three are maybe too far away, I don’t know, if they win all the games then we have no chance. But we have teams, we are there, they are in the Champions League spots at the moment. We have to do our part, we have to do our part and that means winning football games and we will see how close we can get.

But, of course, it must be the target to qualify for the Champions League and for that we have a lot of games to go for and we all have to go through difficult moments in games, between games, after games, all these kind of things. And for today, we got three points and that’s the best way to get closer to these spots. Of course, we go for that, there’s no doubt about it. We don’t think we have it - not at all. Because all the teams up there played an exceptional season, but as long as we can see them, we will fight for getting it. That’s it.

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