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Klopp Talk: On Avoiding Pressure in December

The Liverpool head coach is now an old hand at tight title races

Jürgen Klopp, the Liverpool manager looks on during the Premier League match between Sheffield United and Liverpool FC at Bramall Lane on December 06, 2023 in Sheffield, England.
Jürgen Klopp, the Liverpool manager looks on during the Premier League match between Sheffield United and Liverpool FC at Bramall Lane on December 06, 2023 in Sheffield, England.
Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

Liverpool once again have the early kick off, and should the Reds win away to Crystal Palace Jürgen Klopp’s men will go top of the table for the time being (with Arsenal away to Aston Villa set for the late kick off).

Klopp was clear in his pre-match press conference that such table moves before all teams have played on a given matchday are not a factor for the Reds:

So, with playing Europa League you are obviously usually on the other side of that. And I can tell you we ignore usually the results from other teams because we play Thursday and then Sunday when everybody already played on Saturday or whatever. So usually they already won their games. I don’t feel that kind of pressure from other teams, we want to win our game, and Arsenal doesn’t need extra pressure, they play Aston Villa, so that’s enough [of] a job to do. There’s nothing.

We have a job to do and that’s against Crystal Palace. Let’s be 100 per cent focused on that, what we are and what we will be. Then Sunday, I have no clue who plays on Sunday but then I will lie at home on the sofa in the afternoon and watch the other football games and will see what they do – more out of interest if we play them still and that’s it. But nobody became champion because he was top of the table on Saturday at 2.15pm, or whatever, on matchday 16. That doesn’t really help. But we need the points and we want to go for them, and that’s what we prepare for in this short space of time.

In general, Klopp was careful with his comments, making it clear that the crowded field at the top makes it hard for him or anyone to make any strong statements on a title race this season:

I couldn’t be less interested in [a “thrilling battle” at the top], but it looks like. It’s obviously a bit unusual that [Manchester] City is not top of the table with like 10 points between first and second, and these kind of things. That’s how it is. Arsenal are doing extremely well, we are doing not too bad. Aston Villa is super-strong, a pretty impressive performance in the last game, to be honest, not only but especially. [Manchester] United, I’m not following it really but whatever you hear, nobody is 100 per cent happy, but they are around. Newcastle is there. Tottenham if they win last night, they are there. And all of that.

For sure I forgot somebody, not on purpose just because of the amount of teams. What can I say? It’s like always: we only can beat anybody in the games we play and with consistency over a season, and so far that looks alright. But even we could have, or maybe should have, a few points more. But we don’t, we are where we are and that’s OK, but we are not celebrating and we are not struggling with getting our arms down after games. Not at all. We just prepare for the next game and try to be ready again and that’s difficult enough.

The Liverpool manager had considered comments on Liverpool’s current state and how it compares to internal plans, as the Reds look to rebuild after notable departures in recent windows:

For that I needed to have thought about a schedule, where we want to be in December. I didn’t think about that, maybe that’s my fault but I didn’t think about it, I just wanted to create with the boys a basis early on in pre-season, through the pre-season. Then [we] should become a real team, you have to overcome difficulties; we got them delivered with red cards, stuff like this, with being 1-0 down, being down in games – and we could overcome that. That obviously helped, that definitely sped the process up. But I have no clue where we would have been without that or whatever, I just don’t know. I’m just happy with the development until this point.

We had to replace a few of the strongest characters in world football, we did that with a few of the strongest characters in world football; our new leadership group are all experienced, world-class footballers so that’s helpful, with a real understanding of a team dynamic. That all helps. That’s why we are where we are. I’m not sure if it’s a surprise or whatever. When we had a season like last year I can understand it puts some doubt in people’s mind, I understand that. And we knew that we have that kind of pressure to put that right, and I’m happy that we could show the right signs.

Nothing happened yet obviously, we just play much more positive football again. It comes with confidence. Confidence comes with results. And results come with good performances. Good performances come with a good pre-season. That’s it, but [there is] so long to go, nobody knows where this will end up. All teams are probably only two injuries away from a real problem, that’s how it is. And this tricky period is coming up now, or we are in the middle of it already, lot of football and a lot of opportunities.

Finally, Klopp commented on the holiday fixture schedule. Though the English schedule may come as a surprise for many recent signings, Klopp backs his men to carry on regardless of challenge:

I’m not sure about Ryan [Gravenberch] but Dom [Szoboszlai] plays international football, comes back and has to play then in the Bundesliga or directly Premier League. That’s exactly that rhythm. Same for Wataru [Endō], he flies around the world before he plays a third game in succession. It’s not a problem. I know what you all think about my opinion about kick-off times and stuff like this, but we never really internally, we take it like it is and go from there. The boys are ready to go. I never thought about this midfield now, that they don’t have the international experience or whatever, they are internationally experienced, all of them – we just have to put that into a Liverpool shirt and then go.

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