The home defeat to Swansea City was such a shock and surprise, as well as showcasing many of Liverpool’s defensive ills, that Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp held an unusually lengthy meeting after the game.
“We had a long meeting after the game so I am ready for the rest of the season,” Klopp revealed. “It was a football meeting with a few other parts of the game. It was because the goals we have conceded in 2017 have been a little bit of the same story. It’s not that teams create a lot of chances against us. That’s still a good sign. But usually, they don’t create a lot and still score. So we spoke about this and a few other things.
“It’s about enjoying the role we have. We are Liverpool, and a really good football-playing side, and we don’t enjoy the job we have to do? In our job, in 70 to 80 per cent of all games, we are dominant. So we have to enjoy this.”
Managing Liverpool isn't always easy. The potential, ambition, and history within the club all make difficult moments even more noticeable given the stature of the club. January has been a difficult month without much in the way of transfers or points in the league, but Jürgen Klopp is trying to restore a positive atmosphere around his team with home advantage in the three remaining games this month.
“I can feel around us, it’s not that positive any more. We need to bring everyone back on track,” Klopp said on finding form again. “We fight in each game, that is the most important thing, and then we see what happens around that, but in cup competitions the target is win the tournament.
“If Chelsea win all their games there is no chance for any other team. For us it is still absolutely important to finish the season as good as possible whatever it means and then we will see. We have quality to fight for the Champions League. If we do this and are close enough at the decisive moment you can fight for a little bit more. Now we have two games before we play Chelsea. We fight for everything.
“This team is still able to play wonderful football. Don’t think why this happened, and why we lost this. We are responsible for how we feel. As a team, we have to learn.”
The fight will be undertaken without Sadio Mané—a player who has proven to be able to start for any team in the Premier League. Joël Matip and Philippe Coutinho are available but need games to build their match fitness. Can Liverpool find reliability and inspiration elsewhere? Klopp acknowledged that missing players make an impact but stressed that Liverpool have been scoring enough goals.
“We miss Sadio and missed Phil [Coutinho] for a long time and miss Joel Matip and that is really difficult,” said Klopp. “As a much as I like Sadio it’s not allowed we think the problems we had is because we miss Sadio. We scored enough goals to win the games. The problem is the whole defence work of the team. If it was so easy you buy one new player and all the problems are solved, I would do it.”
Although the team needs to defend better as a unit, individual errors and a worrying amount of league goals per season (50) have dogged Liverpool for years. The quality in attack may set a high bar for potential additions, but Liverpool aren't blessed with the same talent in defence. The likes of Ragnar Klavan, Dejan Lovren, Simon Mignolet, and Loris Karius aren't players who would be considered in the same bracket as their top six peers from what they've shown so far.
Klopp, however, is someone who likes to believe in and trust his players. It has worked to get so much out of a squad he inherited and will hopefully work again to get Liverpool back on track in a season where much progress has been made.