SOUVENIR PROGRAMME

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 17, 2023: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester United FC at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Jurgen Klopp explains what’s required to maintain place at top after “horrible” lesson

Jurgen Klopp has highlighted improvements in counter-pressing and defending as the key to Liverpool’s remarkable turnaround over the last 12 months.

A year ago, the Reds sat in sixth place in the Premier League table with their title hopes having effectively already been extinguished by a 15-point gap to leaders Arsenal.

However, Klopp’s side have enjoyed a far better start to this season, and sit top of the pile heading into a clash with Newcastle at Anfield on New Year’s Day.

Asked what has underpinned this transformation in fortunes, the German replied: “The general defending, that’s it pretty much.

“Everybody buys into the way we have to work. It’s not that the team last year didn’t do that, it’s just that it’s always a problem if you lose too many balls in situations where you don’t expect it.

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - Tuesday, December 26, 2023: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp (L) and goalkeeper Alisson Becker after the FA Premier League match between Burnley FC and Liverpool FC at Turf Moor. Liverpool won 2-0. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“We concede 16, probably eight or nine of them were after we lose the ball and we are exposed.

“It was obviously last season more of a problem because it is really difficult to prepare for these situations.

“You try to dominate the game and then the minute you lose it you are in different positions, so that’s why sometimes you can get caught.

“This year, we stepped up counter-pressing wise, which helps as well, it means everybody reacts better.

“Front line, midfield line and then the last line obviously as well, if you feel the midfield or front three are really involved in counter-pressing you can have a higher line because then you are in challenges and they can’t skip balls behind you.

“So plenty of things, we work obviously a lot on it but we did that last year as well. It is just the effort everyone puts in.”

Last year, Liverpool welcomed in the New Year by suffering a deserved 3-1 defeat at Brentford that worsened an already poor position.

But, while even loss in the next game would still leave the Reds handily placed in the table, Klopp is refusing to get carried away with how things are going this season.

He added: “I can’t even remember, Brentford, oh we lost that, we were sixth for a few minutes and then probably seventh or eighth after that game.

“Yeah, horrible time last year, it feels better [now], no doubt. It is not we really think too much about it.

“When I say I am not happy, I am okay, I’m not sure it sounds positive enough, it is really positive.

“It is just so early, that’s all, we had a lot of good spells in games we didn’t win and less good spells in games we won, so it is a process and this team is in the middle of something and we just try to make the best of it, to deal with different situations.

“We spoke about injuries other teams have, we had a lot of injuries, we had some players who were not involved once in the whole season, key players for us.

Liverpool huddle pre match at Burnley (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“We are now without key players, both left-backs are not in which is really not good, but so far we found a way to get into the next game and then found a way compete in it.

“As we said, it all starts on defending, we are not desperate – we were a little bit desperate against United, it can happen – but in general we are not because we don’t think we concede all the time and we have to score immediately.

“Even though we concede quite a lot the first goal, even in these times we don’t get desperate.

“We have to develop as a team but some of the things that happen to us were not cool in the moment but helped us to grow together.

“So far, it’s okay, I cannot say more. It’s obviously better to be first than sixth but both gives you a lot of work to do for the rest of the season.”