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“Even without symptoms” – Klopp blames Covid for sluggish Liverpool display

After naming his most senior side for the League Cup clash with Arsenal at Anfield, Jurgen Klopp was left blaming the effects of symptomless COVID-19 for a 0-0 draw.

The Reds were without eight first-team players due to positive Covid tests at the weekend, with a mix of youth and experience earning a 4-1 win over Shrewsbury in the FA Cup.

Four days later, and after a raft of false positives, many of those who were briefly in isolation were back in the squad – with Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Diogo Jota starting.

Alisson made his first appearance since December 28 after a genuine case of his own, while Trent Alexander-Arnold was back following a seven-day quarantine and two days in training.

It backfired on Klopp, with Alexander-Arnold among those to particularly struggle – failing to create a chance and recording the third-lowest passing accuracy of any starter – against a 10-man Arsenal side.

And speaking to Sky Sports after the game, the manager blamed the hangover from Covid – for most players, asymptomatic – for Liverpool’s sluggish display.

“It’s strange. Even without symptoms, the boys, when they come back it’s not exactly the same,” he claimed.

“I don’t think there’s an explanation for that in the moment, but we have to consider that as well.

“Joel only came back recently, Trent three days ago. So that’s clear.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, January 13, 2022: Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold (L) and Arsenal's Gabriel Martinelli during the Football League Cup Semi-Final 1st Leg match between Liverpool FC and Arsenal FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

While there is certainly cause to believe that seven days in isolation – and away from training – will have an impact on a player’s performance, it is not a valid excuse on this occasion.

Given Alexander-Arnold was the only player to return a true positive during Liverpool’s ‘outbreak’ last week – and had only been back in training for two days prior – it was surprising that he was picked to start.

Neco Williams came off the bench and produced an energetic cameo, in a competition that has seen many of his best performances for the club to date.

The Welshman could have started ahead of Alexander-Arnold if there were any concerns, as could Ibrahima Konate in place of Matip – though the No. 32 was one of Klopp’s brightest players throughout.

Klopp is often criticised by rival supporters for his comments after games, with many pointing out ‘moans’ and ‘excuses’, and typically these are wide of the mark.

This time, however, it seems bizarre to blame that performance on a Covid hangover, particularly given the players in reserve.

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