There have been so many clear-the-air meetings at Liverpool’s training ground this season it must be one of the healthiest places in England.
The first sobering post-match debrief between Klopp and his players was after defeat by Manchester United last month. The second, following last Wednesday’s hammering in Naples, felt more serious given his side’s under-performance this season.
“I watched the game back plenty of times and it was a real horror show,” Klopp said of the 4-1 loss in Italy. “We showed the boys the situations as well. They knew, but seeing it again makes it really obvious. It was the worst game we played since I was here.
“We had a few bad games – everyone remembers Aston Villa [a 7-2 defeat] and some others where we were just not up to speed, but there were always glimpses in these games. In this particular game: nothing. Then you have to understand why that happens.”
The unexpected weekend break has given Klopp more time to find solutions. His emphasis through the pre-match press conference was defence, although it would be simplistic to suggest that meant he held the back four alone accountable.
Liverpool’s problem has been structural, individual errors at the back accentuating the lack of protection further upfield, especially a pedestrian midfield. Klopp suggested his players needed to win more individual duels.
“We have to realise it all starts with defending and we have got to give ourselves a chance to celebrate winning a challenge again,” Klopp said. “There is no good game when a team plays flawlessly offensively and defensively were just a shambles, but there are games where teams defend well and do not play well offensively.
“It is all based on real defending and that is what we have to do.”
Asked if he had been more vocal than usual with his players, Klopp replied: “Yes. I have to do something. I can’t sit there and wait for how we react. It was not that I needed to say a lot about it, but I did anyway. There are four or five days now of absolute truth. We didn’t hide anything. We just said it how it is, not to knock the players down or whatever, just to make sure where we are now is the starting point for us and we make sure we sort the problems together on the pitch.”
Klopp’s options are enhanced by Thiago Alcantara’s ability to start again, although Andrew Robertson will be missing until after the international break with a leg injury sustained in Naples.
“A lot of good things happened in the past and this team showed an incredible consistency over a long period,” Klopp said.
“I didn’t read a word said about us [last week] but most of the things were probably fair. I watched the game back plenty of times and I would have asked a lot of questions about the people and the manager and the specific players. It is absolutely OK and we have to respond.”
Klopp has ruled Andy Robertson out with and injury until after the international break meaning he will miss Scotland’s Nations League clash against the Republic of Ireland. Robertson sustained the injury in the dying minutes of last week’s defeat to Napoli.