Jürgen Klopp praised a strong first-half performance from his Liverpool side in their 3-1 Premier League victory over Southampton on Saturday afternoon.
The Reds signed off with three points on Merseyside ahead of the break from domestic action for the World Cup.
Roberto Firmino opened the scoring at Anfield, while Darwin Nunez struck twice to earn the win following Che Adams’ earlier leveller.
Klopp gave his thoughts post-match in a press conference, discussing his team’s victory, James Milner’s 600th Premier League appearance, Nunez and much more.
Read on for a summary of what the boss had to say…
On watching the game from the stands due to his touchline ban…
It’s not the first game I watched from there; not because I got a ban, but I’ve watched a lot of football games from the stands. The perspective is much better, it’s still not my favourite place, but it was clear that would not be our problem today. It was not too cool that we only got the information yesterday.
After the FA appealed, I expected I would get a ban of course, but when it is Friday afternoon and training is already done and somebody gets it and tells you, ‘By the way, tomorrow…’ So, we had to organise a little bit, that was fine, Pep, Pete and Vitor are experienced coaches, they can do that, we were in contact – didn’t work all the time exactly, but I think that is probably normal as well and in the end we got all the messages across.
The perspective, as I said, is much better. You can see distances better, you can have a much better overview. As I said, it was not the first game I saw like this, but I know the people from this stand, they really have a good perspective, let me say it like this. I saw what we did well and I saw what we didn’t do that well and still couldn’t change it in the second half. Obviously we tried with changes and bringing players on, but second half was obviously Alisson Becker’s half.
On Milner reaching the milestone of 600 Premier League appearances…
I heard now he is only the fourth player [to do it]. There are a lot of things that [need to] come together: you must be a really good player, which obviously James is, you must be a top, top, top, top, top professional because our body is our body and what we put in we get, pretty much. If it’s too much it’s not right, if it’s not enough it’s not right. If you do the right training, it’s OK, if you do the wrong training, it’s still training but it’s not OK. I am really proud to be around when he reached that milestone. He is an exceptional player and an exceptional person. He is essential for everything we reached in the last few years.
I’ve said it a lot of times and it’s the 100 per cent truth. Today was a really big day for us as well because we knew it was 599 and there was actually no chance and no result where James wouldn’t come on. He had concussion and then a little muscle problem; not massive, but a little one. He was ready for today with one session and it’s cool, absolutely cool. Well deserved, big, but it’s just Premier League? So that means with Champions League and all the cup competitions he is at 800 or so probably. Wow, massive! A good career, let me say it like this. And not finished, how you could see. He is very helpful for us still. He knows everything about the game because [with] the emotions he is not always using the right tools, but he can set the tone. He did that when he came on today and I am really pleased for him.
On Nunez’s role on the left and the game overall…
The first half was really good and the second half is not a half where we win the football Oscar for us. We made a lot of mistakes in the second half. First half was really good. So, we did everything what Southampton didn’t want us to do, let me say it like this. So, used the speed of Mo and Darwin, we used the spaces we create with the speed in between the lines, we used our football skills; the goals how we set it up. So, the first was a set-piece – but then [a] sensational pass from Harvey but the movement from Darwin [was] really important. So, how we said, in the system we play Darwin has to defend the left wing, we cannot change that, but when he’s offensive then it’s only for balls in behind the wing [he] might be in position, but in all situations he has to be in the centre. That’s where he was in that moment with the third goal as well. So, great play. And that was the main problem actually that we didn’t do that in the second half anymore. I think the first ball we played in behind in the second half, that’s it.
So, we didn’t offer the runs anymore. It was an intense season, we know that, until now. Especially for the front three, they played now pretty much everything. When they didn’t play they were slightly injured and these kind of things, so it’s not perfect but when we use this skillset then we can create a lot of space for us when playing football. They [Southampton] are always a threat for going behind, don’t have to play the ball there always, but that means you cannot really push up as an opponent. It’s really tricky and that gives us space in between the lines. So, that was what we did in the first half really good. In the second half we didn’t do that anymore and we became too passive in defending. You could see that, last line didn’t push up when we played out, we lost the ball up front and it was too much green space until they faced our last line. So, they had then their moments and when you end up – Southampton – three times in a 100 per cent chance in our six-yard box, something went really wrong. We know that.
If you want, the game was a little bit like this first part of the season – these 14 games. So, really, really good and then not so good and we know we have to improve that. We said it all the time. [A] big part of the problems we had in this season is physical. So, not available, then available, then playing too often, others available [and] playing all the time, these kind of things. It was really intense. We had now 14 games – six in the Champions League is 20, one cup game, 21 – that’s it pretty much. That’s a lot of football, especially when you are on top of your physical things. We came through it now. We know for two weeks, around about that, [that] 22 points is the max we can achieve, or reach, and that’s what we did today. I’m really happy about that. That’s the basis we have now the World Cup [is] coming, I pray and hope that they all come back [fit].
They can all play the final if they want, but probably not possible, but that they come back healthy and then with the other boys we can have a proper pre-season. We will use that. It’s a little bit more, three-and-something weeks, where we can work together, train together and bring them in the right shape then. We will use that and then the most difficult part of the season starts immediately. [For] the rest of the season that’s now our basis, it’s not perfect, but for the moment [it’s] absolutely OK and from here we will try to go again.
On whether Liverpool need better luck with injuries in the second half of the season…
It would be helpful, absolutely helpful. I think we got pretty much all of them already. So, who would have thought that two strikers are out long term? How can you prepare for that actually? It’s not really possible – too many in the wrong moment… doc called us, said it was really not cool and yeah – I hope that we are lucky. It’s not that we caused these injuries, most of them were contact injuries. Lucho was contact, Ibou, the first one, was contact, the first one in a challenge, bringing the leg, it was a friendly game, I think.
So, a lot of them were really in challenges. Yes, Diogo, not so much; Diogo just had no pre-season. Played then, played often, gave everything and then bam. Done. This is the other problem that when you came back, because Lucho was out, Darwin had his struggles and then all of a sudden you play all the time and that’s obviously not too cool. And yes, I hope and I’m pretty sure we will be on the other side of it.
On whether he thinks he needs to add players to his squad in January to battle injuries…
We are always open to these kind of things, but we don’t have to open that now – this discussion. It doesn’t help now because it is always the same, we always talk about the same, it’s always the same – if there’s something possible for us, we will do it. If not, what do we mean ‘you need’? So, we cannot play without? That’s not the case – we can. But if the door opens, or opens up, then we are open as well, that’s not a problem, so it’s not about wanting or whatever. Of course, we want to improve the team all the time, we just believe in the training ground as well, that we can do it there, so we will see what happens.