Jurgen Klopp doubles down on ‘mind-games’ stance with some straight talking
For Jurgen Klopp, now is not the time for mind games.
Instead, with the title on the line, it is about simple straight talking.
The Liverpool manager argues that he’s rubbish at putting pressure on opponents anyway, unlike his surprising friend and sometime supporter Sir Alex Ferguson, a manipulating pantomime villain for Liverpool fans even now.
“Unfortunately, I have no skills for playing mind games,” he said in the run up to the biggest game of the Premier League season so far, as leaders Manchester United arrive at Anfield for an explosive top of the table clash.
His words were a putdown to former ref Mark Clattenburg – and to visiting boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – who both suggested he highlighted United’s barely feasible number of penalty awards to put pressure on Sunday’s official Paul Tierney.
But they could just have easily been about his approach to a game this weekend that could well define his team’s faltering season.
Liverpool have won just five of their last 12 matches, a run since November 23 which has seen their air of invincibility punctured dramatically.
Klopp detailed the reasons behind his side’s struggles only last week, admitting that constant tinkering with his injury-jinxed back-line had caused huge problems in all other areas.
But he says there are no excuses from his side, and no illusions either.
It hasn’t been good enough, he said, in a rare example of straight-talking from a Premier League manager.
And it is not as simple as telling his Champions to go out now and prove they are the country’s best, either. “If it would be that easy, I would just say exactly that: Show it now!”
Instead, he argued no team, not even a world-beating Liverpool side who have appeared invincible for two seasons, can expect to “click” all the time.
So in a clear the air meeting this week, he told his side the response must be simple, and emphatic – learn from the surprise set backs, and don’t become derailed by them, because they are inevitable.
“Obviously we did not do outstandingly well since mid-November. But thank God, when I say I don’t think about the good things, that I don’t think about the about the bad things. Who cares? We still have 33 points!” he explained.
“Yes, we are not where we want to be but we have learned a lot from this season. We have learned a lot. The circumstances, dealing with the situation.
“It is not because of the boys’ attitude. It’s just because it didn’t work out. What we had to accept, after a long time when things were just clicking in specific games, they then did not click. It’s not that it disappeared somewhere.”
It is also about the response.
There can be no better game for Liverpool to rediscover their indomitable attitude than against the pretenders to their crown, a United side who come to Anfield with clear confidence and even a cocky countenance.
Klopp is adamant he has seen that attitude in training this week, and he believe that will transform his side’s results.
“These boys did not go for an excuse in one second that I was here. Not for one second. That does not mean things cannot go wrong.
“Why should one team click all the time and the other team not? We just had to step a little bit back, work on the basics and get strong – as strong as we can be again. That’s what we did.
"That is what we will do. I think that can work.”
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