Jurgen Klopp pinpoints the partnering of Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips in defence as the moment Liverpool began to turn around their fortunes earlier this year.
Jurgen Klopp said “We had to find solutions last year and maybe we didn’t do all of them right. That is how it is when you are under pressure and you have to make decisions a few days after. I think the moment we started playing and trusting Rhys and Nat, all the other things fell into place as well and that was when we got stability back and looked much more ourselves again than before. We have not lost a game at all since then, in moments we needed luck or whatever or late goals, but in general we know when we are on top of our game we are difficult to play [against]. And when we are difficult to play that means we have a chance to win the game. We drew a lot but most of the draws were probably closer to a win than to losing the game, so that just shows, but we feel really responsible for performing. The boys do as well. It is not as though we [just] want to get through a game somehow. We want to be the best version of ourselves in these games and that is what we try to do all the time. It doesn’t work out all the time but that doesn’t mean for the next one we shouldn’t try. That is exactly what we will do again on Saturday. There is no guarantee you will get any kind of result, but it is the only chance you have to get an opportunity to get a result and we will try. We tried it before the Real Madrid away game as well [in April]. It just didn’t work out that well, probably because of some poor decisions on my part.”
Asked if he believed his side would be able to get back to their usual level of form following the return of live crowds and an easing of the injury list, Klopp said he “didn’t doubt it” but admitted he had to remain clear-headed as results nosedived.
Jurgen Klopp said “I didn’t doubt it but I didn’t really think about it. You can go back to the transfer business again, what you want, what you can get, but it was always clear last year, just you (the media) all forgot how massive a difference it is when you lose pretty much your whole defence in October, pretty much, it was around about this time [last year]. We had to turn around with injuries, Champions League, all the cup competitions and that is really a big problem, but everyone still expects you to win all the games, you are Liverpool. You have injuries, everyone has injuries, but not all in one position. When we solved that problem, it was clear we will be better again and that is the situation again. It doesn’t mean we will win but it gives us a chance. In life it is really important to stay calm when everybody is really excited and that is what we try to do, to make the right decisions in these moments. We are happy with the squad but we have a lot of problems at the moment, we have midfield players out. We had eight midfield players at the start of the season and now only four and that is not too cool. But there are always problems but you just have to try to solve them. I don’t know the solutions for these kinds of problems, you can buy in the transfer window another four or five players and then you will never have that problem again in any position, that is pretty true. But you can never have the atmosphere in the squad which is much more important to win something with a squad with 40 players. We have to keep the players happy. The players need to see they have a chance to get in the team if they perform to their highest level and that is with 40 players obviously not the case. That is the only solution for injury crises. You have to use what you get and play the best possible football.”
The Reds endured a miserable start to 2021 as an injury-hit and confidence-sapped squad began to fall away from the top end of the Premier League. Klopp’s side lost six successive games at Anfield for the first time in the club’s history but ended the campaign strongly, winning eight in a 10-match unbeaten run to clinch third in the table. Since a 1-0 defeat to Fulham on March 7, the Reds have gone unbeaten in 23 league matches and head into Saturday’s game against Brighton just one point behind leaders Chelsea. Klopp believes the regular selection of Williams and Phillips at the back was key to the turnaround after sifting through as many as 20 different tandems following long-term injuries to Virgil van Dijk, Joel Matip and Joe Gomez.
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