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Klopp Talk: “Optimism” Heading into Opening Clash with Chelsea

The Reds face Chelsea this Sunday.

Jürgen Klopp manager of Liverpool during a training session at AXA Training Centre on August 09, 2023 in Kirkby, England.
Jürgen Klopp manager of Liverpool during a training session at AXA Training Centre on August 09, 2023 in Kirkby, England.
Photo by John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

While our thoughts are dominated with the noise around Moisés Caicedo’s sudden will-he-won’t-he transfer saga, the Reds have to think about Chelsea anyway as Jürgen Klopp and his men are off to Stamford Bridge for the first match of the 2023/24 season on Sunday.

In his pre-match press conference, Klopp was asked to evaluate the impact of new manager Mauricio Pochettino:

...we don’t know [the impact]. It’s two, I think, really good football teams, very talented football teams, [who] will face each other. We watched obviously Chelsea on the tour, whatever we could get from there, from the last games they played, the Dortmund game [and] Newcastle game. A lot of good things. You can see that, it’s a really talented team, that’s what we have to prepare for. It’s a home game for them, the first home game after a long break, if you want, after a disappointing season, that’s all clear. So they want to show up, definitely. New manager, Poch is a top manager, so they will show up. We have to be ready. We have to be absolutely ready. The football they played you can see it — Poch is there.

We played against Mauricio often when he was at Tottenham, so you can see a lot of similarities from that time and in the end we don’t know exactly. I think Nkunku was a key part of the plans. Very unfortunate for the boy and for Chelsea with his bad injury. I think that was something they really planned with, but they have really good options offensively to solve that. Let’s see. It’s the first football game, real competitive football game for us this season. We don’t want to waste time, or whatever, we really want to go for it, but we have to see how it goes. Everybody asks, and I am more than 20 years in the business, it’s always the first game, people say you don’t know where you stand exactly, I’m not really interested, to be honest. I want us to 100 per cent [see] what we have that day and from there we go. I think we should give it a proper try.

In discussing the mindset of himself and the squad, Klopp emphasized that it’s an optimism looking forward rather than building backward:

I’m not sure if my optimism is based on last season, to be honest. I love the pre-season so far. We worked hard, everyone can expect that, I enjoyed it a lot, to be honest, it was really good. The boys were open, the boys were listening, eyes open, ears open, so we did a lot, not only on the pitch, but in meetings as well. We really wanted to learn our game, not again because it must be different to what we did before, but we wanted to make sure that we really go to the next level in our game together.

That’s actually what happened but probably you saw the pre-season games, there were moments where we were too open, there were moments where we were not protected enough, that’s clear. Then the shouts are loud, I understand that, but it’s more an organization problem. It’s nothing to do with individual quality because individual quality is extremely high what we have. It’s my job to help the boys organize and to protect each other better in these moments. Besides that, [it’s] how I said, I enjoyed the pre-season and now let’s go.

Klopp also discussed how the team is shifting given new personnel and departures of former key players:

We have to grow into that. It’s now not that you can just... it didn’t happen eight years ago with Hendo [Jordan Henderson becoming captain], or whenever it was, it will not happen now. It’s not about that. We don’t have to always say, ‘But Millie [James Milner] would’ve said that and Hendo would’ve said that, and Hendo would’ve shouted here, and Bobby [Roberto Firmino] would’ve smiled here.’ We should not do it like that. That makes no sense. We have this kind of new start with this Liverpool FC reloaded, if you want, it’s an exciting thing. Everybody was asking for changes, rightly so, because we were together for a long time and things went really well and then not that well anymore, stuff like this; timing for a change is probably the biggest challenge in life to find that. Did we do it exactly in the right moment? [It’s] difficult to answer but now it happened and that’s good.

It’s a new chance for everybody, everybody has to step up, the new leadership group, and not only them, so if you look at the players who are not in the leadership group, but have all you need to be a leader, it’s absolutely exceptional. The new boys are great; Cody [Gakpo], Dom [Dominik Szoboszlai] — 22, captain of Hungary — Macca [Alexis Mac Allister]; outstanding. These boys are there as well. We all share responsibility and it’s not that we should give ourselves too much time to grow into it, it’s just let’s do it. Let’s take the responsibility and go from there and don’t try to be like somebody. Be the best version of yourself and then you have a good chance to help the team in the best possible way and that’s exactly where we try to help the boys.

Asked to elaborate on his optimism, Klopp went in on the sessions he oversaw this summer:

The sessions I saw. The desire, the concentration, the readiness, the openness. Just that I saw a lot of things where my thought was in that moment, ‘OK, they mean business, so let’s give it a go.’ That’s it, you could see it. We are not happy. It’s not that I want to remind the boys every day and say, ‘By the way, last year was like this and that.’ That makes no sense. But it’s deep inside, it’s there anyway. We want to show up. In a few weeks’ time, whenever the draw is, we are really happy to play Europa League; but of course we want to be in the Champions League the year after. There are two possibilities: you qualify for the Champions League or you win the Europa League. Both are pretty difficult but we should give a try for both, I would say, and then we will see if we can do it or not. We have targets, a lot of targets, we are highly motivated. How I said, my good feeling is based on the things I saw and the things we did during pre-season.

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