Klopp denies that Liverpool’s midfield is weak link
Ahead of Everton visit, manager says it is a matter of time before signings prove worth
Jürgen Klopp: “I don’t see any problems with midfield, to be honest.” Photograph: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Jürgen Klopp has issued a staunch defence of his Liverpool midfield and denied it is a weak link in a team that, he insists, delivers enjoyable, creative and winning football on a consistent basis.
Liverpool spent more than £90 million on Naby Keïta and Fabinho in the summer but neither midfielder has established himself at Anfield so far, while Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Georginio Wijnaldum struggled as a unit in the midweek Champions League defeat at Paris Saint-Germain. Klopp maintains it is merely a matter of time before Keïta and Fabinho prove their worth and, in a feisty press conference yesterday, was unhappy with the post-PSG focus on his experienced midfield trio.
“I don’t see any problems with midfield, to be honest,” said the Liverpool manager before tomorrow’s Merseyside derby, when Henderson will be suspended. Klopp shook his head when asked later whether midfield was a weak link in the Liverpool team. “It is not the case, it is not the case,” he replied.
He conceded that midfield support to Liverpool’s front line could improve “in specific games” and attacking fluency would inevitably suffer as a result of working on defending as a team. But he insisted a return of 33 points from 13 Premier League games, plus a run to last season’s Champions League final, would not have been possible with a weak midfield.
“For me it is quite strange,” said Klopp. “When everything is brilliant and we score goals, you always ask about defending and how can we fix that. We fixed that, kind of, and it always happens that the first step costs you a bit of fluency and creativity. That is completely normal. Bringing one player in would change everything? That is bullshit and you know that. We have the players for it. We have to win games.
“Really, with all the things I saw in this country football-wise, if people cannot enjoy our football then I can’t help them. We are creative. Creating is not a problem. In the end, in the games we won we were always the better side. That’s pretty rare.”
The Liverpool manager claimed his team’s start, not his midfield, was the problem at PSG, and not even Barcelona could have shown their creative best when 2-0 down against the French champions. “PSG are one of the best teams in the world,” he added. “They didn’t look like it because we caused them problems. We had to chase the game, and it is not that easy then to be creative.
“If Barcelona plays in that game they are not creative. We had to fight back. It was not a brilliant game but it was a big fight and we lost it 2-1. And after that you ask me about being creative in midfield? We could have changed the game had we started differently. Then 2-0 wouldn’t have happened and the pressure on them would have been even bigger.”
Marco Silva believes the Merseyside derby has “the power” to propel Everton’s development and his players should not fear tomorrow’s visit to Liverpool.
Everton have not won any of the past 17 derbies, or in 20 visits to Anfield in all competitions, the longest drought in the club’s history. Silva’s side, while improving, have lost at Arsenal and Manchester United this season and the manager admits a rare win at unbeaten Liverpool would herald a significant step forward.
“I agree about the power of this derby, it is a good word,” the Everton manager said. “Derbies are always special, special games and moments for the city and the people. What I want in my squad and my players is to fight for our goal. Sometimes in a derby it is not always easy to see a very good game with big quality but the power of one derby means you can see good things happen after one result. It could be very good for us. A good result for us could boost our confidence to a high, high level.”
Walter Smith was the last Everton manager to oversee victory at Anfield, in 1999, but Silva does not believe their derby record should inhibit the team. “When you are doing something that is your passion – you are professional but you enjoy it – playing with fear, training with fear, is not something you can do. How can you come with fear and without confidence to your job?” – Guardian