Jurgen Klopp: Losing 7-2 could be proper knock in the face Liverpool need before fifth anniversary

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Klopp over the years
Klopp over the years

Jürgen Klopp spoke about Liverpool needing to recover from a “knock in the face” as he prepared for Saturday’s Merseyside derby.

He could have been forgiven for feeling the whole club made themselves a punch bag in the fortnight since they last took to the field. While his team must “strike back” after their 7-2 thrashing by Aston Villa, the Anfield hierarchy suffered a mauling in the court of public opinion for helping initiate “Project Big Picture”.

After a prolonged period of success and generally effusive praise for a championship-winning side – and the owner Fenway Sports Group’s role in that elevation – it has been a while since Liverpool’s players and board went into any game, especially a Merseyside derby, on the back of such a hammering, or with their opponents so emboldened.

“Maybe after all the positive things that happened to us it needed a proper knock in the middle of our face to shake us through,” the Liverpool manager said. “I’m not 100 per cent sure about that, but that is the way I take it, and then it was OK because there is no other reason why 7-2 should be good.

“If it was for that then it could have been the most important game of the season, so that is why we try to use it and we will see.”

Full time at Goodison Park will offer greater clarity on whether that is the case. Carlo Ancelotti, the Everton manager, will not expect Liverpool to be as poor as they were in Birmingham, aware that when champions suffer in such an extreme manner they tend to be more motivated to react.

Chris Bascombe's Liverpool briefing
Chris Bascombe's Liverpool briefing

Klopp is frustrated that he has had so little time with his players to reflect on the Villa Park performance, nor granted the chance to stir an immediate reaction. He had his say in the dressing room two weeks ago and via text messages when his players headed for international duty.

“Obviously I try to help the boys to come in a good mood and if it works out you will watch [on Saturday],” he said. “The challenge in this situation is that you don’t want the players to be affected or influenced in the next game.

“You want a self-confident team. You don’t want a team that looks like it’s got heads down, but on the other side you don’t want to forget the game as well and the 7-2 result helps with that. We will not forget it.

“The perfect shape that maybe Everton were in before the international break is not automatically there and the problems we had at Villa are not automatically there. We are a team that people don’t like to play against again, whoever they are. It will be the same for Everton.”

Although goalkeeper Alisson Becker is absent, Thiago Alcantara could make his first start, captain Jordan Henderson is back, and so is Sadio Mane after his period of ­self-isolation following Covid-19 infection.

The city of Liverpool is subject to the most stringent lockdown measures because of the virus, and Klopp recognised how that set the fixture apart.

Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool - Barclays Premier League - White Hart Lane - 17/10/15 Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp speaks to his players - Action Images via Reuters/John Sibley
Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool - Barclays Premier League - White Hart Lane - 17/10/15 Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp speaks to his players - Action Images via Reuters/John Sibley

We are both clubs from the city, the whole city is united and will be watching one game. From that point of view, you are probably right, that it is even more important,” he said.

“I like to think that football is always a massive point in the city. A few months ago we were talking about whether football is really necessary, and its role in the society. From a very subjective point of view, I was pretty sure that it did.

“There is an important role that we play. The people in the city are used to dealing with difficult situations. I don’t live in the city centre, obviously, and I don’t know how it looks, but usually when bad things happen, this city comes really together and they try to make the best of it. We try from a football point of view, for sure.”

Not for the first time in his Anfield reign, here was a reminder of how fortunate FSG is to not only have Klopp as manager, but as the club’s most skilled and diplomatic public communicator.

As he dealt with the inevitable Project Big Picture question, it was impossible not to shake off the feeling that the club’s first public response ought to have come from those higher up the chain of command, and not left to a coach with enough to concern him preparing for a Merseyside derby.

Klopp, and the club’s owners, need to end a tough fortnight with a powerful statement where it most matters.