In the wake of the “worst game we’ve played since I’m here,” Jurgen Klopp has urged Liverpool to focus on defence first in order to improve their fortunes.
In Klopp’s words, the 4-1 defeat to Napoli on Wednesday night was a “real horror show” and “the worst game we’ve played” since his appointment in 2015.
They are strong statements, but there is little arguing how poor Liverpool were in their Champions League opener.
A 9-0 victory over Bournemouth was an anomaly; a game where, as Klopp outlined in his pre-Ajax press conference, they were clearly not required to focus on “where it all starts.”
“I watched the game back plenty of times and it was a real horror show, to be honest,” he said of the loss in Naples.
“We showed the boys the situation as well. They knew, but then seeing it again makes it really obvious.
“That was the worst game we’ve played since I’m here.
“We’ve had a few bad games, we all know that, probably Aston Villa and some others where we were just not up to speed, but there were always glimpses of us even in these games.
“In this particular game – nothing.
“So then obviously you have to understand why that happens. I think that’s not a common thing, I think it’s an individual thing.
“I think eight or nine out of the 11 were absolutely below the level they can usually play, and the three others were not on top level but just a normal game.
“In football, it’s like this: you sort all individual problems as a team. That’s the first thing we have to do, to follow a common idea again.
“Everything we did since I’m here and everything my teams do in football is based on really solid, if not nearly perfect, defending.
“That’s where it all starts and that’s where we had to work on. That’s what we did.”
Re-emphasising the need for a strong defence is essential, with Liverpool keeping only two clean sheets in seven games so far this season and conceding the first goal in the other five.
It follows a trend that began in the final months of last season, and Klopp has called for his players to build their confidence by “winning challenges.”
“After that game [the mood was affected], for sure, but now not in the training sessions because we have to build again,” he continued.
“But how can you win confidence in a football game? By winning challenges, that’s how it is.
“If you take specific things for granted, then it’s a mistake obviously, but these kinds of things can happen.
“We all have to realise again that it all starts from defending, from all our people, that’s what we have to give ourselves: a chance to celebrate winning a challenge again.
“It’s a long time since we spoke about these kinds of things, but it’s still the start of pretty much everything. That’s what you have to do.
“And if you can do that, then you can get some kind of momentum. If you have momentum, then you can play football.
“There is no good game I can remember where a team played flawless offensively and defensively it’s just a shambles. It doesn’t work like this.
“But there are plenty of games where teams defend really well and don’t play that well offensively.
“So it’s all based on real defending. That’s what we have to do and that’s what we will have to show.
“I’m pretty sure our people will help us with that as well.”
Joel Matip is set to return to the starting lineup for the visit of Ajax, and joined the manager for media duties at Anfield on Monday afternoon.
“Yep, there was a big focus on defending, because this is the biggest thing to be successful,” he concurred.
“I think this is the first step: defend good.
“I think it always helps to go back to your roots, if they are successful roots. If you’re based on this, it can give you help in a struggling time.”
At 31, Matip is now one of the most experienced players in Klopp’s squad, and as he prepares to take over from Joe Gomez again, he acknowledged that he would “need to lead.”
“We need to talk with each other and we need to help each other,” he added.
“You cannot get out of this as a person, only as a team. For this you need your team-mates and you need to help your team-mates.
“If you’re older and experienced, you should do it.”