Jurgen Klopp puts Liverpool form down to EFL Cup fixture pile-up
By James Dale
Last Updated: 17/02/17 12:43pm
Liverpool's poor start to 2017 was down to reaching the EFL Cup semi-finals, says manager Jurgen Klopp, who believes his side could be at least four points better off.
Klopp's side won for the first time in the Premier League since New Year's Eve when they beat Tottenham 2-0 at Anfield on Saturday, with the club having completed their first full week without a game since before Christmas.
Liverpool's only win in their 10 games previous in all competitions came in an FA Cup replay against Plymouth Argyle, and Klopp believes his side's run to the final four of the EFL Cup - culminating in a two-leg defeat to Southampton in January - has damaged their top-flight form.
Asked what was the most important lesson he learned from Liverpool's poor form, Klopp responded: "December-January. Not even Chelsea came through without no problems but they were able to play the same team all the time.
"They left the EFL Cup when, before it started? [It was the fourth round] I don't remember them playing one game in that competition. 'Get rid of this.'
"I spoke to Antonio [Conte] for a long time at Anfield, maybe 25 minutes, and he mentioned it [the fixture schedule] but said they could play the same 13-14 players all the time. That is the big difference.
"In December we missed players and did not have the best schedule. From 31 December [a 1-0 win over Manchester City] to 2 January [a 2-2 draw with Sunderland] you could see the difference physically. Oh, my God - what have we done?
"It was not that we had all the players to change it at Sunderland. It was a few things. On a few things we had an influence and on others we did not have an influence - we conceded goals, offside against us, penalty against us.
"We could have had two, three or four points more. With two points more instead of an offside goal for Man United, and I don't want to make a story of it, then we are in the same situation but with 51 points. Only because of one decision and the games staying the same.
"Hull - first half really not good, Southampton - not good enough, Chelsea - good, United - good, Swansea - silly but not bad, we played pretty good until we stopped playing. We are not used to being a top team, maybe we have to be. We are not clever like Chelsea who will be 2-0 up and just finish a game."
Klopp has opted to take his side to La Manga this week for what he claims will be like a "pre-season training" camp, with the Reds not in action until February 27 when they take on Leicester City, live on Monday Night Football.
"They are all human beings and of course they are influenced by the things they see every day," Klopp said of his players. "Did I learn anything new about them in the last few weeks? Yes. A lot of what I wanted to learn? No. But that is how it is.
"I am not one bit in doubt about the character of these players but of course we have to create mentality. We had a few moments when we didn't deliver, didn't perform, although not too often in the Premier League otherwise we couldn't be where we are now.
"It felt worse because of different cup competitions. We should have been out of the EFL Cup last year, and that would have meant two less defeats this year in a moment when we needed each second for bringing a player back from injury, for recovery, for training, all that stuff. It didn't help but that's how it is.
"We cannot make a wishlist and say: 'What do we want?' We have to deal with all the circumstances. Now, before the Tottenham game, we created a situation. You say to the boys: 'Where will this lead us?'
"Man United had won so it was clear we needed to win to show what we really want to do in the rest of the season. It was important and it was a really good sign. It is not that I think is normal to react this way. You have to take everything and fight but it looks a little bit stiff, not fluent. But the boys were in a good moment and they used this."