Klopp furious as injuries mount and VAR decisions prove costly
Jurgen Klopp and Jordan Henderson frustrated by player welfare concerns and VAR
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp looks on as referee Stuart Attwell awards a penalty to Brighton. Photograph: Getty Images
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp stepped up his criticism of British sports broadcasters for their scheduling of his team’s games, linking the injury of midfielder James Milner to the early kick-off time of Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Brighton.
Klopp had already made his feelings known about the decision to have Liverpool play in the Saturday lunchtime slot after they had been in action in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Asked by BT Sport pitchside interviewer Des Kelly about whether Milner’s injury, which led to him going off in the 74th minute, was a hamstring, Klopp said: “Yeah. Congratulations.”
When Kelly asked if the German was blaming him personally for the injury, Klopp said: “No, but you work for them. Hamstring, surprise, and they had injuries as well. But ask Chris Wilder how we can avoid that.”
Sheffield United manager Wilder had been critical of Klopp and other managers of big clubs demanding five substitutes be allowed again in the league, and over other issues. “If it would be about me I would have never mentioned it, but it’s about the players,” explained Klopp. “Each moment when it would happen it would be good for the players. Brighton lost today two players and they played one game a week with muscle injuries, so the most difficult time is coming up now — for Sheffield United as well by the way and we will see.
“If we would have had five subs today then Andy Robertson I would have taken off, I have Kostas Tsimikas on the bench and he could play 15, 20 minutes whatever, so we don’t have a lot of options in the moment — we have but they are all offensive so you can’t just bring them all through the season.
“And it’s not the solution but it’s a little help that is all. Whatever Chris Wilder says, I speak only about Liverpool, he speaks only about Sheffield United that’s true, he admitted that in the manager’s meeting, but I speak about football players.”
Klopp said that the decision to put Liverpool on early Saturday duty put players at risk.
“After Wednesday, Saturday 12:30 is really, really dangerous for the players. You don’t do that often,” he said.
Kelly argued that Liverpool’s officials had agreed with other Premier League clubs on the contract for broadcasting slots for games. Klopp responded that the special situation with a compressed schedule this season required a different approach.
His captain Jordan Henderson said he would like to see the video assistant referee (VAR) system scrapped and a return to “normal” football, after three more decisions went against the champions.
Brighton were given a stoppage-time penalty after referee Stuart Attwell was sent to the pitchside monitor and ruled that Andy Robertson had caught home striker Danny Welbeck as he cleared. Liverpool had two offside goals ruled out by VAR.
Henderson felt the penalty decision had been wrong and when asked if he would like to see the use of VAR abandoned, he said:
“I don’t want to speak for anybody else but in my opinion I would. I just want to play football as normal,” said the England midfielder.
“I saw Kevin de Bruyne saying in an interview they have changed so many rules we don’t know what they are anymore. That for me is a big problem. We are talking about instances all the time and not the football. In my opinion I would rather play without it,” he said.
“If they’re offside, you do the line thing, then what can you do? The third one, I don’t know, it’s not a penalty. You can think I’m biased but if you ask four or five or their lads they will say the same thing... You feel as though there are a lot of decisions that go against you, but that decision for me today is baffling,” he said.
Liverpool left-back Robertson tweeted after the match: “Wonder when the people playing the game will have a say! Very frustrating day but credit to Brighton, really tough opponent!”
Klopp v Kelly - the transcript
DK: And James Milner, hamstring was it?
JK: Yeah, congratulations.
DK: What me personally?
JK: But you work for them, yeah. Hamstring, surprise, and they had injuries but ask Chris Wilder how we can avoid that.
DK: Maybe you’re firing at the wrong target? We are broadcasters, we work within the Premier League rules, the Premier League makes the rules, that’s the Premier League clubs, so shouldn’t you be talking to Premier League clubs?
JK: I don’t know how often I have to say it, you picked the 12.30, not you personally, but you did it, us on 12.30, between now and December and New Year, one more Wednesday...
DK: When you say picked the 12.30, the Premier League clubs chose that slot, there’s a reason that slot is there.
JK: These are difficult times.
DK: Of course these are difficult times, the stadiums are empty, the broadcasters are supporting the game.
JK: If you play at 3pm or 5.30pm it’s exactly the same.
DK: Your chief executive should be with the other chief executives having that discussion, if you come down here and just have a go at the broadcasters it doesn’t go anywhere, it’s not going to change anything.
JK: I’ve not had a go at the broadcaster, I just say how it is. After Wednesday, Saturday 12.30 is really dangerous for the players.
DK: But you also said the broadcasters don’t care and that’s the problem — it isn’t the problem.
JK: Why did you pick us against Crystal Palace (at 12.30 on December 19th) if you care?
DK: I didn’t pick it, every pick is agreed by the Premier League, every executive around that table.
JK: You always rely on things we agreed in another time, we did.
DK: If it was all about player welfare, why did the Premier League clubs block the five subs?
JK: Because, that’s very interesting now. When we had a talk between managers, a week ago, it was 15-5 if not 16-4 for five subs. Since then nothing happened. Chris Wilder or whoever says constantly that I am selfish. I think all the things he said show that he’s selfish. I was in a similar situation when I worked at Mainz and it was all about staying in the league, but they have three subs and one point if I am right. If you can’t do five subs in a game like this, it’s not for tactical reasons.