Jürgen Klopp says Liverpool must improve their away record against other members of the so-called big six and be prepared for “a proper fight” with Tottenham at Wembley.
Four of Liverpool’s five league defeats last season were away at leading rivals – Manchester City, Spurs, Manchester United and Chelsea – with October’s 4-1 loss to Mauricio Pochettino’s team a low point in terms of performance. The Liverpool manager believes Wembley witnessed a rare example of defensive disorganisation among his players, one that sparked significant improvement in the months that followed, and says there will be no repeat from his league leaders on Saturday. Improving results at Spurs, City and others will, he admits, be an important factor in sustaining a challenge at the top.
“For sure it is important, it is a fact,” said Klopp on the significance of beating their main rivals. “It is not that you go to Tottenham and have an average day and still get something. You get nothing for an average day at Tottenham. We need to be on our top level. Two seasons ago we had a fantastic record [in big-six matches] and last year we didn’t have such a good record, especially away from home.
“Can we mix it up? I don’t know what that would exactly mean – imagine we had a fantastic away record against the top five or six but not at home – but we need to be ready.
“It is Tottenham, a top team in Europe and not only in England. It is a tough place to go and tough job to do, that is all we can think about. It will be very interesting not just about how can we pass but how can we play?
“It must be a proper fight for both teams. The Tottenham manager knows that as well. Last year we made it too easy for them because we lost the ball and they only had to play one pass behind our lines. We should be much better organised this time, we were much better organised than that in the other games [afterwards], so we should use that and we can get something.”
Klopp insists defeat at Spurs did not prompt a fundamental change in Liverpool’s defensive approach last season, but did impress on his players the importance of minor details in a game. He explained: “Before Dejan [Lovren] missed the header we had a situation where somebody could play a pass which should not be possible. It showed how different a game can be because of two situations where we are not concentrated. A few days before we won 7-0 at Maribor and it’s a big relief. This relief you take into the next game and it is Tottenham – completely different job. In this moment we were not ready for that. We showed that.
“It’s not that Tottenham had 10 chances in the game, or even seven or eight, it was the four they scored and maybe one or two more as far as I remember it. Afterwards we talked about doing the right things and how the little things can kill a game or can turn it in your direction. The message was we had to be much better in these details, then we could win at Tottenham.”
Klopp has admitted Dominic Solanke is in a difficult situation at Liverpool but at the right club to fulfil his potential. The striker, who turned 21 on Friday, has not featured in the Premier League this season and his lack of playing time was highlighted as a concern by Gareth Southgate and Aidy Boothroyd, manager of England and England under-21s respectively, during the international break.
“It’s not a perfect situation, that is clear,” the Liverpool manager said. “He is a young striker and a young striker generally needs longer in a big club, that’s how it is. If you’re a young striker at another club and you don’t perform and you don’t score then it can be career-threatening because no one in this world is patient enough. But it is all fine for Dom. He didn’t play as often as he wished, I can imagine that, but he is still developing and still improving.”