Speaking to the press ahead of Liverpool’s trip to the Emirates on Sunday, head coach Jürgen Klopp acknowledged the difficulty of the month ahead, but suggested that Liverpool have the opportunity to get into rhythm while other sides play in fits and starts:
Yes, it is. It is really strange but it is all about organisation of all these things. We have the most busy month you can imagine in December and then some teams obviously don’t play that often in January. We don’t have that, we have now with the semi-final, we have a proper rhythm. I think a rematch against Arsenal would really not be helpful, that’s how it is, because it just doesn’t fit in, would kill the winter break, stuff like this. Whatever I could say about that is not too important.
For us it is a normal month: busy but not crazy busy like December, where there were five games in 13 days. That just makes no sense, but that’s how it is. I understand, some teams obviously don’t play a lot of football. But I’m not sure – I think rhythm helps, to be 100 per cent honest. But in the end we will see that, if there are teams who have two or three weeks, I don’t know exactly, between games and stuff like this. We don’t have that issue, so we have to deal with our situation and I hope we can do that.
Liverpool are alive in both the FA Cup and the League Cup, and these matches provide opportunities for Klopp’s squad:
I don’t know exactly but I think we rotated a lot in the first part of the season. I don’t think we were particularly brave or whatever, we just did it because we thought the boys can do it. It was not one game where we thought, ‘Ah, forget it, who cares how we play there?’ That never happens. I think that’s the main reason why the impact from the bench is like it was so far, because it’s massive for the boys who come on what they contribute and it’s really important. That’s only because they all have rhythm. If you bring a boy who didn’t play for five or six weeks, it’s very rare he can play to his best. That’s why so far I think we did that quite well.
But actually, I am not sure if Arsenal is now a game to rotate. I sit here, I don’t know 100 per cent if we have the opportunity to do so, to be honest, whatever it means. It’s not that we have the biggest squad available. We have players available and we can line a team up, 100 per cent, a good team. And I think that’s what we will do. If that looks then afterwards like rotation, I don’t know yet. We have six days between the games, 1st and 7th, that’s long and there’s no need for rotation.
You can say, OK, three days later we have another game. Yes, that’s true, but we can think about that game when the other game is over. That’s what we do usually. And both have the same importance, there is nothing in between. We want to win these games, we want to go to the [Carabao Cup] final but we want to go to the next round [of the FA Cup] as well. But it is probably the most tricky draw you can get and it will be a tough one. The game here was a good one and let’s hope we can show a good performance there as well.
Klopp will face a relatively unfamiliar challenge this month: choosing successive teams without Mohamed Salah available, as the Egyptian is off to AFCON. Klopp spoke some on what his options are in place of Salah:
Not really a lot, but I think we played against West Ham without Mo on that side, when Harvey [Elliott] played there. We all know we have – in the moment, and hopefully it stays like that – different offensive options who can all play that wing. In a different way. Nobody else who plays that wing should play like Mo, it’s not possible, so we just have to find another way and have to use the boys to their skills. That’s exactly the idea behind it.
Do you want to play without Mo? No. But if you have to… in the past we didn’t have to do it too often but we always found I think a way to get through this period. I am pretty sure we will find [a way], but of course we play Arsenal so at Arsenal you can lose with Mo Salah so it’s possible as well you can lose without him. But in the moment we have a chance to win the game so I think we should more think about that.
The Liverpool boss also shared his joking message to both Wataru Endō and Salah as they head out to their respective international tournaments:
I said if I wish you good luck it would be a lie! No, I do, obviously! From a personal point of view, I would be overly happy if they go out of the group stage! But it’s probably not possible, so it’s fine and then they can go and win it as well. Good luck, see you, and come back healthy – that’s pretty much the words. Now we have to deal with it and will deal with it. Of course, you see the recent games and then you think, OK, that looks a bit strange. But I am pretty positive we will find a way, but we have to show that obviously on the pitch.
While we all want to see both players back as soon as possible, it’s worth noting that an international win can do wonders for your domestic form — and a disappointing showing can do the reverse, as we’ve seen before. Regardless, both Endō and Salah have been absolutely critical for Liverpool this season, and the Reds will undoubtedly miss them.