Jürgen Klopp has been delighted with the work produced by Liverpool’s players on and off the pitch so far during their Dubai training camp.
The Reds’ collective preparations for the restart of the 2022-23 season began in the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday and has seen the squad go through a number of high-intensity sessions in sun-drenched surroundings.
Away from the workouts, team meetings have been frequently held in the evening, as Klopp and his coaching staff look to get the team primed in the best possible shape for when the competitive action returns on December 22 away at Manchester City in the Carabao Cup.
Liverpoolfc.com sat down with the boss ahead of his side’s Dubai Super Cup opener with Olympique Lyonnais on Sunday – read on for the exclusive chat…
Jürgen, how did you and your staff approach this trip to Dubai? Did you view it as pre-season almost all over again, or is it slightly different?
No, it’s a proper pre-season. Yes, with different aspects because we were not together for two-and-a-half weeks, around about. But the boys had nine sessions in these two-and-a-half weeks just not with us, so it means the physical part is more or less done. What you do in a pre-season usually, you have to invest a lot of effort in that. We don’t do it here, we started pretty quickly with tactical things, we have meetings every day. I enjoy it a lot, to be honest. The training looks really good – you are here as well, you can see that. It’s high intense, we have long sessions and use each minute to get in the best possible shape, because we know we have a very intense second part of the season ahead of us. I’m really looking forward to it. In the first part of the season, a lot of things were really difficult. But in the end, we came kind of [within] touching distance, punching distance – whatever you want to call it – and that’s the basis we want to use now.
All managers in the lead-up to the World Cup sort of said, ‘We don’t know what to expect, we don’t know how to deal with this, it’s a different challenge.’ Have you been pleasantly surprised with what you’ve got from the players here in this camp?
No, that didn’t really change, to be honest – that we don’t know how to deal. So, the players who are not at the World Cup, it’s no problem. They have some days off and then they come back and we train again and then we play again. This was never the problem. The problem is what are you doing with the players who are at the World Cup, especially long at the World Cup. So, everybody will have a week off, I would say, after a game. That means it will go into the season, so we will see. Friday is a big night for Liverpool – you can go through and then I think they play, for sure, another two games and that means they are long at the World Cup. Who goes out [on Friday] will probably be ready for the start of the season, these kind of things. So you never know.
But then you have to see because the World Cup is different for all the players as well. Virg played then hopefully all the games, Ibou a little bit, Hendo a lot, Trent not that much, these kind of things, and Fabinho played a game, Alisson all the games. So it’s different and difficult to really deal with it but that’s what we have to see when the boys are coming back. We have to talk to them and then we will see and we have to assess pretty much everything. And from there we go. But the challenge is that you play and have the first competitive game four days after the final – but we know it now long enough and that’s all fine. So we have a group here together and this is the group we will go [with] in the first game. And then from there we will see who is available and who is ready.
Is one of the positives of this trip away another chance to do the ‘other’ things? Time together both on the field and off the field, that kind of bonding…
Yeah, you have to use it all the time. And because we have so many young players with us as well, it’s very important to bring them closer. They did incredibly well, Stefan did incredibly well, so many really showed up, to be 100 per cent honest, and others still have to adapt. For example, young Calvin had no pre-season with us, now this is his first pre-season. He was long out, very important for him to get to know everybody and all these of things. Ben Doak looks really promising, now he’s here with us. So all these kind of things are really interesting. Bobby Clark, really interesting player, obviously here with us – like the others as well. But they showed already, ‘OK, looks good, have them here. Then all the other boys, have them here, it’s very important.’
A training camp always has to be used for togetherness. It would be silly if we just go here and then you train and go in the room and go for food and go in the room again. That makes no sense because the main strength you get over the years [is] from your bond, from togetherness, from how much you want to do it for each other – and that’s what we use here as well, that’s clear. You cannot just go on the training pitch six hours a day and say, ‘That’s it, let’s start playing football.’ We need to find reasons why this makes more sense for us to win than for others, and that always happens not [only] on the training pitch but very much off the pitch.
How is your squad looking ahead of the Lyon game?
It’s all good [fitness-wise] with the boys who are here. What’s not good is we have to see with Lucho. He felt something and we need to have further assessment there, but apart from that they all look really, really good. From a coaching point of view, it’s really good fun to be together with them, to see them. We all want to strike back – that’s the reality. We don’t accept things like this. But it’s difficult in a season to change things because you play every three days and if you have a problem then you try to sort it and then you create another problem – that happens very often. We came through a difficult spell and now I think we are sixth in the table or whatever – yes, there’s some distance but I don’t know where it will end up but I want to see us fighting for each inch, to be honest. That’s what we try to create here.
We are really busy here with the boys. They have time off, of course, but every night so far we had an analyse meeting, team meeting where we showed the boys how different things should look. It’s not like in school where you think, ‘Oh my God, what is he talking about?’ So, it’s our football and the atmosphere in these meetings I love really because I can see the eyes of the boys [that] we are really onto it. On the pitch, you saw it yourself, it looks sharp, it looks intense, highest focus, everybody shows up, everybody wants to get better and better and better. I love that. So far it’s really good. How it always is when you have an outside sport, light helps and obviously we have perfect circumstances. It’s warm but it’s not too warm, and the light is another push for us – that’s why we are here.
Just finally, you’ve got a different format for these cup games – you’ll have penalties to come no matter what. That’d be quite nice in the Premier League when you’ve got Caoimhin to throw on…
[Laughs] I don’t need it for the Premier League! But here it was clear, we had an idea for this tournament and then we need to find a way because it makes no sense that we play three games, it makes no sense that we play Arsenal, so we had four teams and now we play Lyon and AC Milan – Arsenal is doing the same. And if you don’t play all the games, how can we find, in the end, a winner as well? So it helps if you give four points instead of three. I think it’s a nice idea and now we give it a try. [On Thursday] because of our meetings, we couldn’t see the full game. I saw the last 25 minutes a little bit and will have a further look. Arsenal, what I’ve heard, were really good in that game. And now we will have our start on Sunday and it’s good. So we will use all the boys pretty much we have here and the boys who are available. And then the first one who will join us from the World Cup will be Darwin. And then we will see who is available for the second and then we go home, and a few days later we play Manchester City. So, exciting.