No partying for Reds as Klopp eyes bigger prize
JURGEN KLOPP stood in front of the Kop, making the universal gesture for the volume to be turned up. The masses responded, their roar gradually climbing in the hope he would unleash a flurry of fist pumps to crown a spectacular afternoon.
But as the noise reached a crescendo, Klopp waggled his finger to disappoint them. Had this been a normal season, there is every chance Liverpool’s manager would have done seven punches for seven goals but his conservative reaction gave an insight into the club’s current position — and Klopp’s outlook. Inflicting Manchester United’s heaviest Anfield defeat was remarkable but all it did was propel Liverpool into fifth place. Barring a miracle in Madrid next week there will be no silverware this season, so why should there be excessive celebrations? ‘Our focus has always been one game at a time and that doesn’t change,’ Virgil van Dijk said. ‘We had a good win, clean sheet. Nothing else.’
The assumption was Liverpool’s dressing room would turn into party central but nothing could have been further from the truth. The only time under Klopp that Anfield’s inner sanctum has gone ballistic was after Crystal Palace were beaten 4-0 in June 2020, which put Liverpool on the cusp on becoming champions. Nobody was in the stadium but the players created their own noise, screaming and banging on lockers. For this occasion, it was all very straightforward. Mo Salah was presented with a shirt with the number 129 on it, to mark his achievement in breaking Robbie Fowler’s record for most Premier League goals for Liverpool, and there was thunderous applause. This result was the upshot of a couple of training sessions after the defeat of Wolves last week in which Klopp and his staff spent time on finishing and counter-attacking drills. The third goal especially, finished by Cody Gakpo after he sprinted 70 yards to exchange passes with Salah, was a plan paying off.
After that, though, Klopp stepped forward and explained the plan for the following week. Yesterday, those who played had to go to their AXA headquarters in Kirkby for a recovery session in the morning before being given the afternoon off; today is a rest day. It will be back in tomorrow to prepare for Bournemouth on Saturday — a game regarded as even more important than United — and this ‘business as usual’ approach is the biggest indication that Klopp is in ‘combat mode’. He has been demanding his team put pressure on those pursuing a top four spot and, having looked as if they might get left behind, suddenly Liverpool have their second wind. Should they end up qualifying for the Champions League there will be celebrations. But, for now, nobody will be getting ahead of themselves. It might not be a lot of fun but that is exactly how Klopp will like it.