Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp insists he is not a clown who is laughing off his team’s problems and ignoring the issues which need addressing.
Monday’s 3-1 defeat at Leicester was the Reds’ fifth in the Premier League – all to bottom-half teams – and left the German and his players open to criticism about tactics, recruitment and attitude.
The jovial Klopp, whose animated presence on the touchline has only added to his reputation, has a tendency to smile and chuckle his way through media questioning.
However, the 49-year-old, who has already demonstrated his iron will this season by exiling undisciplined defender Mamadou Sakho, does not find two wins in 12 matches in 2017 a laughing matter.
“I am not a clown – even though a few people think I am. I am not always laughing like crazy, I am a normal person,” he said ahead of the visit of top-four rivals Arsenal.
“It is not about laughing the whole week and ignoring the problems you have.
“We cannot ignore the things that happen around us but I am 100 per cent optimistic again when I think about the Arsenal game – but I cannot say I am in exactly the same mood as the start of the season (when they beat the Gunners 4-3 on the opening day).
“It doesn’t feel that free-flowing any more. We have this lack of consistency, we cannot ignore it.”
Defeat at Leicester was a concern as Liverpool were out-fought and out-thought in every department. The Foxes’ in-your-face approach – typified by Jamie Vardy’s crunching first-minute tackle on Sadio Mane – appeared to take the players by surprise despite having 16 days in which to prepare.
However, Klopp insists his side are not a soft touch who can be intimidated on the pitch despite criticism they lack leaders, especially with captain Jordan Henderson still sidelined with a foot problem.
“I think we are usually clean – not ugly challenges – but physical. It is not a general problem for us,” he added.
“Sometimes you need tactical fouls, but being harder than allowed, I don’t think it makes sense. I never force my players to make fouls.
“We are always a pretty fair team as even in a challenge we want to keep the ball and not break a leg.”
On the question of a lack of leaders Klopp was less convincing.
“When I was involved as a player I was a real mentality player and my strength was pushing a few team-mates,” he said.
“We have players who do it in different ways. Adam (Lallana), Milly (James Milner), Lucas Leiva are three players for sure.
“When you play bad this question always comes up but when you win no one asks ‘Who pushes the team?’. That was not the reason for not performing (at Leicester).”
A lack of depth in the squad has also hampered Klopp, with striker Daniel Sturridge likely to be out for at least another week after sustaining a hip muscle strain immediately after recovering from a virus.
“I can’t ignore the game against Tottenham (a 2-0 win in their last home match) with pretty much the same players who did really well,” Klopp said.
“Should we doubt them in general? I don’t think so but we have to react and we have to deliver each week.
“Being consistent is the most important thing when you have the quality to reach something.
“If you win it is easier to change things than if you lose because if I change four or five positions then I take them out of the responsibility and put it on the shoulders of other players.”