Jurgen Klopp explains what made him so frustrated during Liverpool's 1-0 win over Huddersfield

Klopp was an animated, sometimes angry figure on the touchline at the John Smith’s Stadium as his side laboured to an unconvincing victory 

Mike Whalley
Sunday 21 October 2018 12:19
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Jurgen Klopp disappointed with Liverpool performance despite narrow win over Huddersfield

Jurgen Klopp has suggested that tweaking Liverpool’s tactical approach this season has been like trying to wean a dog off its favourite toy, with all the frustrations that brings.

Klopp was an animated, sometimes angry figure on the touchline at the John Smith’s Stadium as his side laboured to an unconvincing victory over opponents widely tipped for relegation, yet his team remain firmly in contention for their first league title since 1990.

Thanks to Mohamed Salah’s first-half winner, Liverpool are level on points with Premier League leaders Manchester City, despite the fact that they have been nowhere near as potent an attacking force as they were last season.

Klopp has made his reputation as a manager who demands a high pressing style, yet it is becoming increasingly clear that he is now adopting a more pragmatic approach in an attempt to ensure his players do not burn out over a long and demanding season.

Liverpool’s pressing game has often fallen flat against opponents who counter it by playing long balls to bypass them, prompting Klopp to refine their style.

He said: He said: “Last year, our big strength was high pressing and then when there were moments when the opponents didn’t play football, it was like: ‘Sorry.’

“It’s like a dog – if you don’t give him his favourite toy and you throw something else, he thinks: ‘No, I don’t want that. I want the other one. I want to play high press.’ So that’s how you develop, step by step, doing different things. Now we have to be better in the midfield press.

“Our midfield press wasn’t our problem against Huddersfield, though. Our problem was only that when we had the ball, we could have done better.”

Liverpool were indeed wasteful in possession at the John Smith’s Stadium, with a total of 111 unsuccessful passes their highest in a single game this season. One crucial pass that they got right made all the difference, with Xherdan Shaqiri providing the sublime through ball from which Salah steered in his 50th goal in English club football, and his first in five matches.

Shaqiri, brought into a rejigged line-up selected with one eye on Wednesday’s Champions League match against Red Star Belgrade, acknowledged that the standard of Liverpool’s passing was not always to Klopp’s liking.

“Of course, he is very emotional,” Shaqiri said. “He wants the best from you and he demands always that you give 100 per cent. If he sees something that is not 100 per cent normal, then he will shout – and he did.”

Liverpool’s struggles on Saturday were down in part to an unfamiliar look in attack, with Adam Lallana making his first league start since New Year’s Day, and Daniel Sturridge his first since February, when he was on loan at West Brom.

Lallana made a welcome return for Liverpool

Yet even the regulars – Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane – have not looked their best for large parts of the season so far. So it is as well for Liverpool that they are much improved defensively, having conceded just three goals in their opening nine league matches, a club record at this stage of a season.

Their latest clean sheet came with an element of luck; Jonathan Hogg hit the post, James Milner was lucky not to concede a penalty for handball, Alex Pritchard had a goal ruled out for offside and Steve Mounie fired over a great late chance.

All of that prompted Klopp to apologise to his long-term friend David Wagner, Huddersfield’s head coach.

“He said sorry,” Wagner said.

Klopp apologised to Wagner

“I congratulated him on his win. He knows that maybe this win wasn’t deserved, and that the performance wasn’t one he expected from his team, but he’s happy with the win and he deserves lucky wins as well.

“This is what you need as a team if you want to win the title. If they do it, then first of all, I will be happy for him.”

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