It seems Jürgen Klopp can do no wrong at the moment. His Liverpool team are runaway league leaders, victory at Tottenham on Saturday would set a record for the best start to a league campaign in this country and around Europe, and even his youth team proved capable of knocking Everton out of the FA Cup this week. Klopp must have been doing something right in his four years in England, yet on the occasion of another meeting with the erstwhile special one José Mourinho in London the Liverpool manager insists he remains the completely normal one.
“I am 100% normal, nothing special,” Klopp said. “This morning, for instance, I woke up, went into the kitchen, made a coffee for my missus, a tea for myself and gave the dog some food. Maybe Pep Guardiola was doing the same, I don’t know. I don’t know if I have any special talent for management either; I just know that I am busy, I am interested, and I have sensational people around me.
“I make it my job to have smart people around me and I am really skilled at listening to them. That makes life not so difficult, but I must say the people who own this football club have not put me under any pressure. I didn’t have to win a title in my first season, or even the second. The steps we had to make were clear: we wanted to always be in the Champions League, because that gives the club the opportunity to develop, that allows the club to speak to different players. From that everything else has fallen into place.”
Klopp is now among the longest-serving of Premier League managers, but denies he has overseen a revolution at Liverpool. Other managers have suggested the time he has been allowed is the crucial factor in Liverpool’s resurgence, though every coach knows that the only thing that can buy time is results.
“We have changed a lot of things since I have been here but we have kept a lot of things too,” Klopp said. “We have brought some good players in but many of the ones I inherited are still here. The group was already exceptional when I arrived in 2015; competitiveness has never been an issue. The training has always been on a really high level and the better the players around you the better the standard should be.
“What is really impressive at the moment is that the young boys are closing the gap on the older players. We like to play old versus young on the training pitch when we can – we play the length of two 18-yard boxes and the players love it. For each of the last three years, olds have won easily, by a country mile, maybe 25-10 or something. At the moment, though, the young lads are winning by one. That shows the development and means the players are pushing like crazy in training.”
Klopp continues to insist his mind is not set on records despite the prospect of reaching a record 61 points from a possible 63. Manchester City stumbled at this point two years ago in their record-breaking season that saw them finish on 100 points, but though Liverpool could conceivably surpass that achievement Klopp argues that being single-minded about each game is what has proved successful so far.
“If we had been thinking about breaking records all this time we would not have won the number of games we have,” the Liverpool manager said. “All I want to think about at the moment is Tottenham, the way they play, the way they might play against us. We know they will be well organised, and even though they will be without Harry Kane they still have plenty of other players who can create situations”
Liverpool will be back to a more recognisable lineup after the wholesale changes so successfully made against Everton in the Cup. Klopp recognises that the performance at Anfield was a terrific advertisement for the quality and coaching ability that lie behind a settled first team, though he stresses he did not deliberately set out to embarrass Everton by beating them with a virtual youth team.
“It was just a question of sending out a strong, fit side,” he said. “Naby Keïta and Xherdan Shaqiri were injured, otherwise I would have used them. I wanted to win the game, and I wanted a team on the pitch to make Everton work. That happened, though don’t forget we could have been three goals down at half-time. Adrián saved our lives before we scored our goal.”
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