Jürgen Klopp on fifth place, changes v Southampton and transfer window
Jürgen Klopp discussed a range of topics as he previewed Liverpool's final game of 2022-23, which sees the Reds visit Southampton on Sunday.
The manager held a press conference at the AXA Training Centre on Friday morning, where he provided an update on the fitness of Darwin Nunez, Ibrahima Konate and Andy Robertson.
Klopp also fielded questions on the confirmation that his side will finish the season in fifth place in the Premier League and qualify for the Europa League, the forthcoming transfer window, the progress of young players this term and his intention to make changes against Saints.
Read a summary of his media briefing below…
On the confirmation that Liverpool will finish fifth this season…
Of course in the moment when it’s then a fact that you cannot qualify for the Champions League anymore, that’s a moment where… because even when I knew after the last game they need one point or whatever, the other two teams need one point, for me it was clear they will get that point so I drew kind of a line underneath it. I’m a very optimistic person but in these moments I couldn’t see it. If it would have happened we would have gone for it, that’s how we prepared the week. If they [Manchester United] would have lost last night, yes, it’s clear that we don’t have to change now the mood again and I said at the beginning of the week, ‘Oh, that’s it’ and then in the middle of the week I said, ‘Oh, all of a sudden there’s a chance.’
It’s completely normal and I think in the world of social media so many bad things happen constantly, I don’t think that [Mohamed Salah’s message last night] was one of them, it was just a normal description of his situation, of his feeling. And in that moment directly after the game he’s right, there’s not immediately a moment to send any optimistic messages – but maybe an hour later, a day later. I saw him now in the canteen and he was smiling, I don’t know for which reason, I didn’t ask him, but he was not in a bad mood. And that’s it. We are in the season not since a week or whatever, we are a long time here and from a specific point on it was clear this will not be a historically good season; I think we said everything about it, that we are absolutely not happy with it, that we made mistakes, that we couldn’t deliver often enough, that we were not consistent enough.
But, I’m not sure, I think the last 10 games, if I’m right even after Dubai since we were in the training camp, so after the World Cup, not everything was great but the amount of points we collected since then is pretty good and if we could have done that over the whole season we would be in a different place. Of course there are reasons for optimistic views because the things we showed in the last few weeks, that’s definitely the case. We have another reason for an optimistic view: because of the atmosphere our people created in the last home game, after the Villa game the atmosphere in the stadium, the way the club said farewell, the day after that how Bobby [Firmino] said farewell. All these kinds of things are absolutely the basis for a fantastic future, so we don’t have to make it bigger than it is. It’s a football season, we didn’t deliver what everybody wanted and everybody expected rightly so. But we are still really united and that’s the good thing about it.
If you can go through difficult moments like we did in the last season, I think that’s a really good basis for a better future. I find a lot of reasons for an optimistic view but I understand as well that after the game directly when it was decided is the moment when you feel it really – and that was for me no different than it was for Mo, even when I might have hoped a little bit less than him. That’s completely fine. The dressing room is not in a bad mood, we learned to deal with the situation. We didn’t get divided in one moment between manager and team, which is super-helpful. We didn’t point fingers at each other and say it’s because of you or because of you. That’s all good.
If you don’t qualify for the Champions League the best possible place you can end up is fifth, that’s what we did. If you would have asked me that 10 games ago if that’s possible, I would have said, ‘No, I can’t see that, for that you have to play much better’ and all these kinds of things. That the boys did that is really good. It is not perfect. We didn’t end up in fifth place because of the last 10 games, we ended up there because of the lack of consistency before that. We are very self-critical with ourselves but there is no reason why we should now put the head down and leave it there until the new season starts. I saw very good signs and that’s the things I will take for next season.
On whether missing out on Champions League football could prevent Liverpool from doing business early in the transfer window…
I don’t think so but we will see. I don’t think so. That’s obviously possible. It always is possible that things don’t go as quick as you want; it’s not only possible, it’s probably likely because the better the players you want the lesser is the desire of the other club to let him go. That’s exactly what we have to prepare for but we are prepared for. It’s a long window and it’s a long pre-season and a long break in between. So we have time; if we get the new players in tomorrow or in six or seven weeks it’s not a game-changer for me, to be honest. In an ideal world they are all signed tomorrow and I can tell them when they have to be here, we can start giving them the plans for the summer break and these kinds of things. But that will not happen like this, all good.
On motivations for Sunday despite both teams’ positions being confirmed already…
We don’t have to make [that situation] now bigger than it is, I don’t think it makes sense to. I’m not used to games on the last matchday where everything is sorted before, I cannot remember when that last time was the case, usually we play until the last matchday and everything is at stake pretty much. But football, we only play this game to win the game, that’s the only reason we meet. And we have to make sure that I find a line-up with good legs, a lot of desire. And we have to see.
We will not take any risks with players, let me say it like this, that makes now no sense. But we have a big group together and the training week looked really good, the boys bought really into it, that was cool. But I didn’t make any kind of decisions because it’s now pretty early and I didn’t see the doc yet. I will have a brief conversation with him and then we will see who is in contention, and when we have that then I have to make sure we find players who are really in all departments ready for the game. I think it makes sense that we make changes, to be honest, just to get fresh legs on the pitch. And players who want to show something, besides the fact that we anyway want to win the game, that’s clear.
Southampton, it’s a strange one. We made the analysis – such a talented squad, football-wise, if you let them play they will play. They have for sure struggled with finishing the situations off and finding a way to defend in a way to deny the other team more often, but in between these two areas, between the boxes, it’s proper football. We have to make sure we are ready for that because, how we all know, if you are not ready for that then the pitch is – not only at Southampton but everywhere in the world – too big to get anything because then you will struggle. That’s really important, that we find a way to defend them. If we do that then I think we have a good chance that we can create chances; if we have that then we can score. That’s it. I assume the south of England the weather will be great at the weekend so it will be a warm day. And who wants it more has a better chance to win it.
On the positives he takes from the emergence of more young players this season…
From the very young ones I think definitely Stefan [Bajcetic] is the standout player, that was exceptional. Played like a man, unfortunately in a kid’s body and then the intensity caught him if you want. But anyway the signs he gave us are super, super-promising. Ben Doak, obviously nice signs, he’s with us in training again. Special boy, really confident, has something nobody else delivers really, this kind of dribbling, this kind of straight-forward bravery, all these kind of things. Technically really good, high speed, super-promising but very young. I don’t want to miss anybody out. Then of course Harvey [Elliott] always played a lot of games for us, played for us a lot of games in a not-so-good period; still very, very young so couldn’t keep it up on the highest level but showed again super, super signs. It will only go in one direction, that’s forward definitely. And then Curtis [Jones], that we got him back was super-important. I think everybody saw that. It’s a long road to become your best version because you are young, big expectations, massive criticism from outside, all these kinds of things, and to find your way through that is not easy. And I’m really happy that Curtis could finally do that, super-important for us, obviously, our own boy making these big steps. That’s cool. We have a lot of other young players but I think these are the youngest if I’m right.
On whether any of the younger players may go out on loan next season...
I forgot Fabio Carvalho when I spoke about the young players [before]... I think now just because there is a possibility that maybe Fabio will go on loan, or whatever. We will see that. The thing is, this was not Fabio’s best year in his career, clear, in a young career, but it might’ve been his most important. No player has impressed me more than Fabio. That’s the truth, because this very talented boy came here with big dreams and big expectations. It was OK in the beginning, but it didn’t work out in the end. His work ethic will give him a fantastic career because he trained getting nothing, and for a player you have only one present each week: you line me up, if you don’t do that, take me in the squad. It’s my only chance to satisfy a player. If I don’t do that, it’s about the player and how he reacts and his reactions in a row [I] never saw before. Unbelievable. I’m not sure if he goes on loan, or whatever, if we keep him, we will see that.
But apart from that, there is no plans, these boys I spoke now about, there is no plans now already that we say, ‘you go there, or you go...’ No, no, no. We want to keep them, if we can give them the opportunity to play [then] we will keep them, definitely. They have the quality, definitely. The next generation, if you want, then after that is a different story maybe. We have to see how we do that. Conor Bradley is coming back. [He] was in the building yesterday, I saw him, I have the feeling he grew in the time at the other club. We have big hopes for him, to be honest. Luke Chambers coming back, other boys coming back, Owen Beck now already back a little bit earlier, so we have real talents. Tyler Morton coming back, we will see what happens, [he is] injured, we will see. No real plans. The pre-season will start and then we make these kind of decisions.
On whether his team selection this weekend could be ‘sentimental’...
I will see. I don’t know. That was not actually in my thoughts yet, I want to line up the right team. But that could lead to the outside world [thinking that] because I will try to line up a team who is ready for this game for the 110, 112 kilometres in the game, whatever we have to run... for all these kind of things, for all the challenges, for all these kind of things, there are different things, honestly this is completely new to me. It’s really new to me. So, last night, we are fifth. They are relegated, OK, what does that mean now? Usually we play Sunday, we have to win and if not everything breaks down, and stuff like this. It’s the final, or whatever. So, that’s really different, but I want to do the right thing and didn’t decide yet finally because for that I need the information from the medical department. Then I will start thinking in more detail. You will see, and what you make of it, because it’s sentimental or whatever, that’s fine, because maybe it is influenced by both. But in the moment I don’t know.