Liverpool head coach Jürgen Klopp spoke to the media ahead of Sunday’s clash against Brighton & Hove Albion — who recently embarrassed Liverpool in the league.
The boss was asked about whether Liverpool’s position as FA Cup holders will influence the approach:
Being cup holders, I don’t think it’s [a] massive advantage in the competition. We start completely new. We know how great the event is if you arrive at the final, so that’s helpful if you want. It [the last game against Brighton] is still the worst game I have ever seen. Pretty much everything went wrong. We had to change the approach completely, not only against Brighton, but in general. We did really well in spells during the games [against Wolves and Chelsea]. I think, the first half against Chelsea was really disciplined. Chelsea are a really good football team and we didn’t give them a lot of play through, which is important.
That’s something we have to do similar against Brighton, of course. In the second half [against Chelsea], we built on the first half and started really well. We got a bit overly excited. We were not that compact, and the pressing was not that coordinated, and then Chelsea got two chances. That is something we want to work with and that’s where we want to go from. Being more compact than we were at Brighton [in the first game] would be really helpful. Compact in our case never means being very deep – we cannot do that. But in the decisive areas we need to be compact, we need to defend them well. We respect them a lot for good reasons, and we did that before the first game as well. We have to make it more difficult for them and we will do. We will see what we make of that.
In terms of other things from the past, the media wanted to know if the boss would remind the players of what happened last time they faced Brighton:
Not on a daily basis but, of course, we had intense talks after the Brighton game. We had to change immediately, and we did. A couple of days later we played against Wolves and it obviously looked completely different. After the game, I said it looked like two different sports. Now, we will not do the meeting where we show all the bad situations from Brighton, or it will be a proper horror show. We saw that already – we played it and saw it.
If there is anything good about it, it was that it was that bad everybody was clear, it was not about here and there [things need to change], it’s about general change and improvement of different things. You can lose a game, but if you don’t learn from it, it’s just a defeat. If you learn from it, then that’s important as well. We intend to do things like that.
The discussion of personnel centered, as one might expect, on the midfield, which was completely overrun against Brighton in the league:
Obviously we had injuries after Brighton, or little niggles in there, so it was clear that we had to change anyway. I liked the rhythm; I liked the mix of offensive things and defensive readiness – I liked that. It was not the three alone, because the three alone can do nothing, but the front lines did that really good as well, that’s really important to us. There are specific things an opponent is doing, it’s not that each opponent offers absolutely everything and you have no clue what they’re doing. Sometimes that can happen, but lesser with quality teams. Just with teams they try to survive then you don’t know really what you prepare for – but it’s Brighton [and] a lot of things are clear what they are doing. You have to respect that and defend that.
If you don’t do that then you are screwed, there is no doubt about it. The midfield three, it just worked well for these games. We will see who will start [on] Sunday. It’s not about against anybody, or whatever. It’s just the boys in the moment train, it’s not about the midfielders – they all show up. They obviously all want to play, so that’s good. And my job is then to make the decision, let’s see how it works best and then we have five opportunities to change. For me it’s exactly the same importance [between] how we start and how we finish a game. It’s exactly the same. The players might be slightly different... for me it’s the same importance. So, we have six [or] seven midfielders in top shape. Perfect situation. You play a system now, or used to play now for a while, [where] only three can start. But then you cannot make mistakes, let me say that, with line-ups. That’s good. That’s actually a situation I want to be in again.
The midfield, regardless of personnel, will be pivotal against Brighton specifically, per Klopp:
Yeah, it is. But against Brighton especially it’s massively important how you defend the first line. So, they are that good. [Moises] Caicedo and [Alexis] Mac Allister and then the two centre halves [are] calm... the goalie – really calm. So, they just pass the ball through. If the front three is not defending well, and that was our problem, for example, at Brighton – that’s how it started. The midfield wanted [to press] but were never close enough. If you defend Brighton with seven... theoretically, if you defend Brighton with seven players, no chance. That’s the situation. It’s not about the midfield, they are good there, that’s why we have to be good there. Yes, that’s one part, it’s really about how we defend in general.