Jurgen Klopp launched a passionate defence of his squad’s character, after repeated questions over their response to a team meeting following the 3-0 loss at Watford.
Not half an hour had passed from the final whistle at Vicarage Road on Saturday than Virgil van Dijk had already called for his team-mates to “strike back strongly.”
It was an obvious message, and one that would have been clear to the squad without any of Klopp’s leaders needing to explain it, with this being their first loss in 45 games in the Premier League.
Klopp was able to digest the game by rewatching it on his return to Merseyside, and held his usual team meeting at Melwood to discuss the positives and negatives from the performance.
Naturally, there were more negatives, but the manager is right to insist one result does not impact his belief in the squad, and it came as no surprise that he took to prolonged questions on whether he felt his squad had responded well to his words with a critical eye.
“I don’t know, I don’t get applause in meetings, which means I don’t know,” he said, when asked if the players seemed “motivated to strike back.”
“They don’t come to me and say ‘that was a great meeting, boss’ or whatever.
“I think your question is a little bit disrespectful, to be honest. How could I now think these boys sit there and they’re happy that they lost?
“Of course, they want to strike back—this is an exceptional group of players. They did outstanding stuff, [but] not that night.
“I can neither ignore the game against Watford nor the rest we did before, but through the whole period that we didn’t lose a game these meetings happened anyway.
“I tell the boys ‘this was not OK’, and ‘that’s what we have to improve’, and ‘for the next game we need to improve that immediately otherwise we get punished’.
“They reacted really well to that, if they didn’t react well in the beginning of the game then during the game, and they learned from the game and all that stuff.
“How could I sit there now and think ‘are they really responding?’. If we respond we have to show it tomorrow night.
“But we play against Chelsea, can I think now just because we want to respond that we’ll shoot Chelsea out of their own stadium? No, it will be a tough game, it would have been anyway.
“If we beat Watford, Chelsea would have been a tough game; if we lose against Watford, Chelsea would have been a tough game.
“And after that Bournemouth, tough game. Bournemouth played really well, could have won their last game against Chelsea.
“Could have won it, did really well, they come to us and they want to beat us—surprise.
“So that’s it, I’m not a little bit in doubt about the character of the boys, and I would be a real idiot if I would be, to be honest.
“Because they deserve my trust, my faith and they don’t lose it after a bad game.”
In the second part of his pre-Chelsea press conference on Monday, Klopp elaborated on the absence of Naby Keita through a hip injury, with the Guinean not expected to be absent for a long period.
“Naby? A little, little, little, little bit, but enough, with his hip,” he explained.
“I can’t really say more, that’s the only information I got from the medical department, that he’s not ready.
“He could be ready after that game, but for that game not. It’s not serious, but obviously serious enough.”
Keita is one of three senior players absent for the FA Cup fifth-round tie at Stamford Bridge, while Harvey Elliott is unavailable having joined the under-19s squad travelling to Benfica for their UEFA Youth League last-16 clash.