Jürgen Klopp has told Liverpool fans to "fasten the seatbelts" and enjoy a title race he believes will go to the final day as he denied nerves are afflicting the team's performances.
The Liverpool manager admits he expected better against West Ham and Leicester and internal criticism was severe following the two draws that helped Manchester City close the gap at the top of the table. But Klopp flatly rejected suggestions that the pressure of pursing Liverpool’s first league title in 29 years has got to him and his players.
“I do not see what they all say they can see in our faces,” the Liverpool manager said. “When I talked to the referee after the West Ham game they say, ‘Now he is nervous’. I am not. I knew this would be a really tough race and here we are. Make yourself ready. Fasten the seatbelts and let’s go.”
Liverpool can return to the Premier League summit on Saturday with victory over Bournemouth, who have lost their last eight away fixtures in all competitions. Klopp believes a lack of defensive organisation at set-pieces, rather than nerves, has been at the root of his side’s difficulties in recent weeks.
The Liverpool manager explained: “In the last three games we conceded three goals from set-pieces, Crystal Palace at 2-1, Leicester and West Ham, but am I sure we still have the best record for [defending] set-pieces. Crazy numbers. In the early stages of the season, 1-0 up, set-pieces for the opponent were nothing. We were there, we were focused, physically strong. Now this happens three times.”
But Klopp denied changes in defence, owing to injuries to Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez and Dejan Lovren, were a factor. “It is never cool if you have to change but the goals we conceded were not because of the changes to the last line,” he added.
“We are not blind to our problems but it’s not as serious as people make it. That’s the truth. There was never a guarantee this season. People always wanted the biggest gap in the world pretty much, 25 points or whatever, but that’s not the reality. The reality is that if you want to be champions you have to fight until the last match day. If we want to be part of that tight race we can not change that, or offer something else. What is on offer is a tight race until end of season.”
Liverpool, meanwhile, broke the world record for the biggest pre-tax profit made by a football club during the 2017-18 financial year, the club's latest accounts have confirmed. Champions League qualification, progress to the final in Kiev and the £142 million (€162 million) sale of Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona were instrumental in producing a pre-tax profit of £125 million (€143 million), eclipsing the previous record of £92.5 million (€105.6 million) made by Leicester City in 2016-17.
The profit after tax was £106 million (€121 million) and £190 million (€217 million) was reinvested in Klopp’s squad, a sum that includes agents’ fees and associated costs. Money has also been invested in a new £50 million (€57 million) training complex currently under construction in Kirkby while the club’s overall wage bill increased to £263 million (€300 million).
Klopp commented: “We didn’t only earn a lot, we spent a lot in the last couple of years. We built a really strong squad for the future and not only this season. That’s fine, I hope we don’t need too much money in the next years, because if you have the right players in, work with them.”