James Pearce of the Liverpool Echo joins us back on the pod for another in-depth #LFC interview, discussing pre-season, the transfer window and Liverpool’s start to the 2016/2017 premier league campaign.

Full Transcript

Hello and welcome back the Anfield HQ members podcast. I’m delighted to be back on with James Pearce of the Liverpool Echo. James, as always its an absolute pleasure to have you on. 

I think it’s probably best to kick off with the game last Sunday. Liverpool obviously winning 4-3 at the Emirates in what was an extraordinary day in North London, what were your thoughts on the game from an offensive and defensive point of view?

It was a difficult game to make sense of really. I was sat there in a pretty much empty emirates afterwards trying to write a piece on it and it was kind of mixed emotions. First of all it was kind of elation for Liverpool at such a fantastic result to kick off the season yet, they did make painfully hard work of it. That 15 or 20 minute spell after half time was breath taking when it clicked but either side of that there was a lot that needs working on. For the opening 30-35 minutes, I couldn’t believe just how poor Liverpool were in terms of standing off arsenal and letting them take the initiative and certainly defensively we looked suspect, with no real protection in front of the back four.

Klopp talks about not being passive, and I just thought Liverpool were passive in that first half, but there’s no question that the biggest moment in that game was Coutinho’s free kick because suddenly Liverpool went off at half time with a spring in their step, arsenal just looked absolutely deflated going in level after dominating most of the first half, then obviously that spell in the second half just blew arsenal away. Liverpool then had a wobble but to their credit, they did dig in and without too many scares late on even when it was back to 4-3, Liverpool probably looked the more likely to score again rather than arsenal. So yeah, a great start for Liverpool but I think its one of those ones where you think there’s still an awful lot that needs working on.

Yeah, obviously there is a lot that needs working on but I think it’s a sign of Liverpool’s mental toughness that’s developed under Jürgen Klopp, as maybe 12 months ago, Liverpool would have probably collapsed under that comeback from Arsenal.

I think so, yeah. We talked last season about the backbone that Klopp had instilled in the team and that kind of never-say-die spirit that we saw at various times last season. You think of that crazy game at Norwich, it kind of reminded me a little bit of that with Lallana popping up in the 95th minute and getting the winner that day in a 5-4. I think he has changed the mind-set, its still a work in progress but you can see that’s been one of the big plus points of Klopp coming in. I think before he arrived, when the chips were down you became kind of used to Liverpool players shoulders being hunched and thinking ‘here we go again’, almost resigned to their fate; they don’t do that anymore under Klopp and that has to be a big positive going forward.

Alberto Moreno has come under a lot of criticism from fans, pundits and journalists lately. Klopp yesterday came out and defended Moreno in his press conference, from your point of view, do you feel its more a case of him needing greater competition, more time on the training ground with Klopp or is he simply not good enough to play for Liverpool?

Well I certainly think Liverpool should have bought a left back this summer. When you look at the transfer activity that Klopp has done, the one glaring weakness in the squad that hasn’t been addressed is the left-back position. Personally, I didn’t really understand why Liverpool, if they pinpointed Ben Chilwell as the perfect player to come in and compete with Moreno, go ahead with the deal. They weren’t that far away in terms of valuation with Leicester; I think Liverpool’s package they offered was around £7million, Leicester were demanding £10million, which I know regardless of what people say, is a lot of money for a player that’s all about potential rather than proven quality. He’s not even played a premier league game yet but I think if you rate Chilwell that highly and you want him, Liverpool should have payed what it was to get him, but they have a valuation on players that they stick to and to be fair, Klopp himself said I don’t think we should be paying £10million for Chilwell, so that was the end of that one.

I don’t completely write off Moreno, he’s still young enough at 24 and I think Klopp sees a player there that he can improve and develop, which the manager has a track record of doing at all the clubs he’s been at. What people sometimes overlook, I’m probably guilty of doing it myself sometimes, is what Moreno gives you rather than what he doesn’t give you. Going forward he’s the perfect fit for Klopps team, he’s quick, he’s agile, he’s athletic, he wants to provide an outlet down the flanks and obviously in a Klopp team, the full backs provide a lot of width.

So he’s not as bad as people make out but I think the frustration for supporters is that last season finished with such an abject second half performance against Sevilla in the Europa League final and Moreno was the worst player on the pitch in the second half of that game, a real weak link and I think fans expected that to be addressed, not necessarily Moreno sent packing but certainly someone brought in to compete with him and that hasn’t happened and I do think Liverpool could end up rueing that if they don’t sign a left back before the window shuts.

It will be interesting to see whether James Milner gets his chance, it certainly wouldn’t surprise me if he started at Burnley at the weekend, because Klopp picked him ahead of Moreno in the summer for the pre-season games. I spoke to Milner on the tour about the prospect of playing left back and its fair to say he wasn’t exactly overjoyed at the prospect but he also said that the team does come first so he’ll do whatever it is that the manager wants him to do. Klopp obviously sees the combination of Milner and Moreno as sufficient to get Liverpool through the season but I would have liked to see Liverpool sign a left back.

Considering how influential James Milner was in going forward last season, were you surprised that Klopp didn’t really have a second choice after Chilwell and suggested we’ve got sufficient cover with Milner, Klavan and Joe Gomez coming back?

Yeah, I was surprised. Klopp kind of explained why there wasn’t any second choice in the press conference on Thursday at Melwood when he spoke about it not being just a case of signing a left back, but a case of making sure you bring someone in who’s perfectly suited to the way you want to play, which was interesting as he touched on what we said before about Moreno ticking a lot of the boxes for Klopp, what he is guilty of at times is switching off, poor positional play and being rash in challenges but Klopp clearly likes a lot of the other side of his game.

I think he’s trying to find a left back that he feels isn’t ridiculously overpriced which he can bring in and they will fit in to the way Liverpool play; I just don’t think he’s found that player. What he has made clear is that he isn’t prepared to make a short term fix, he wants to make sure it’s the right player going forward. It’s unlikely that even if Liverpool had signed Chilwell that he would he would started the season. I think he would have been very much one for the future and as for Jonas Hector who repeatedly got linked with Liverpool, from what I was told, Klopp liked Hector but he just felt that at £20-25 million, he was overpriced.

I think the other comment that was interesting from Klopp this week was when he mentioned ‘commitment works both ways’. He said that they expect players to be committed to the club and the club have a duty to be committed to those players, and by that I think he meant you cant just ditch someone like Moreno when he’s a had a few bad games, you have a duty to try and improve him and develop him and I think his patience hasn’t run out with Moreno, that’s pretty clear. It was interesting seeing him kind of clearing Moreno of any blame for that first goal at the Emirates, which I must admit at the time, I thought he was solely to blame for tearing forward when Liverpool got the ball back and vacating all that space which then Walcott scored from, but Klopp then went on to explain that when we have the ball in transition like that and were attacking, that’s what he’s supposed to be doing and its up the other players that are back there to cover the space

The game against Arsenal offered us more of an insight into some of Liverpool’s new signings such as Klavan, Mané and Wijnaldum. How do you feel they performed on their Premier League debut?

I thought they all impressed actually, obviously Mané was the absolute pick of the bunch. I’ve been scratching my head trying to think of a better Liverpool debut really because I though he was our best player in that first half when they struggled, in the second half he was absolutely electric. Too often in recent years we’ve talked about Liverpool having players that don’t really fit into the way that they want to play, you think of Carroll and Benteke that struggled to fit in. Mané just looks the absolute perfect fit, he’s quick, he’s strong, he’s powerful and as we saw at the emirates, when he cuts in off that right flank, he can do some serious damage because he’s a finisher as well. It was a fantastic strike and I must admit when Liverpool signed him, I thought ‘£30 million, that’s a lot of money to pay for someone like that’ but he looked every inch a £30 million footballer last weekend.

I thought Wijnaldum grew into the game; he was much better in the second half than he was first half. Its interesting that Klopp seems to have him down for that slightly deeper role than I was used to seeing him play for Newcastle but he’s a great athlete, which is the thing I’ve noticed about him already, he does get around the pitch really well and he’s got good awareness which we saw with that cross he produced for Lallana. He showed great awareness to spot the run and did very well to deliver the pass.

I think Klavan has been one of the real standout performers in pre-season because when Liverpool signed him, the word was that this is the fella that’s seen as Kolo Toures replacement and that he’s very much a squad player. I think he’s sort of been thrown into the limelight due to circumstance, with Joel Matip missing a big chunk of pre-season and Sakho having an Achilles problem as well. I didn’t think he let anyone down and he looked very steady and reliable, he’s got good experience and I think that was the thing, he never looked flustered against Arsenal. It was a tough beginning for him in Premier League football but I thought he was good in the air, he used the ball well, he ticks a lot of the boxes. We talk about the money sloshing around in Premier League football at the moment and you think Liverpool payed £4.5 million for Klavan, that already looks like its going to be a very shrewd investment

Liverpool have brought in a number of other new players, it’s been a busy window under Klopp. How would you sum up Klopps first proper transfer window with Liverpool?

I think its been a really good window, he’s managed to kind of overhaul the squad and do what he wanted to do and Liverpool have actually got very good fees for the players who were surplus to requirements, I think that’s been one of the big things of this window. There’s been times in recent years where you thought Liverpool seemed to let players go on the cheap and that they’ve just been desperate to get rid but they seem to have driven a much harder bargain this summer, you look at the Benteke situation, him going for £27 million plus potentially another £5 million to follow and then there’s the other deal for Joe Allen who was down to the last year of his contract.

Even with the lower players like Sinclair and Canos, I think Liverpool have done well in terms of the outgoings. Incomings as well, it was interesting speaking to Klopp on the tour of America, he was asked ‘would you sign a Pogba?’, or ‘if the money was there would you spend £90 million on someone like that?’ and he said he wouldn’t as that is not the way he wants to do things. Even if he could spend that money, he wants to do things differently at Liverpool. He was genuine and I think the other refreshing thing in this window is that there’s been no whispers of ‘is he a managers signing?’ or ‘is he a committee signing?’ One of Klopps quotes from an interview I did with him was ‘there isn’t a player who’s come in who I didn’t want and there isn’t anyone who’s left who I wanted to stay.’

He also said he’s had 100% backing from the owners. You sense on social media there’s sometimes a fair bit of frustration at Liverpool not spending more money, fans always want to see more signings but there’s absolutely no hint whatsoever that there’s any unrest from Klopp. His relationship with the owners seems very good; he wouldn’t have penned that new 6-year contract if he didn’t feel as if he had the kind of control to do exactly what he wanted.

I also think he has addressed some big areas, I really like Grujic and I think his role will probably grow as the season goes on. Obviously he was unfortunate with the head injury on the tour, which knocked him back a bit, but I think he ticks a big box as well that was lacking in terms of giving Liverpool a more physical presence in the middle of the park. He’s such a man mountain of a lad and he showed in pre-season as well that he can do some damage in the final third. You look at him and you look at Matip and Klavan and see Liverpool have certainly strengthened in those 2 big areas, then there’s Wijnaldum and Mané, 2 really exciting attacking talents. I think Liverpool desperately needed more competition for Mignolet, they’ve got that with Karius. So I think it’s been a very good window for Liverpool, whether they’ve done enough to achieve what they want to achieve this season, only time will tell.

Do you see Grujic getting a lot of game time this season under Klopp or do you think that’s dependant on maybe injuries in the midfield?

I think it will be interesting, I think it’s a difficult one to call at the moment. If Klopp goes the way that he set Liverpool up last weekend then you think to yourself well Grujic is going to have to get past probably 2 out of Henderson, Wijnaldum and Emre Can so I think it going to be difficult for him. I think he could be one of those players that has a real impact coming off the bench, that could well be the role for him initially, I’m sure he’ll probably start in the league cup next week at Burton. He’s certainly one for the future; I don’t think he was ever going to be thrust straight into the Premier League starting line up. I think he’s one similar to someone like Danny Ings after his injury absence; I think his role will increase as the season goes on.

The other midfielder linked with us this summer was Mahmoud Dahoud, there was a lot of reports that Klopp was prepared to pay up to €30 million for him however they refused to sell as they had already lost key players. He certainly fits the FSG bill and is someone that Klopp seems to like. Do you think that’s one that the club might revisit next summer?

I think it is one that Liverpool will definitely revisit next summer, there’s no doubt that Klopps a big admirer of his and I think the feeling was that it would be very difficult to get him in this window, obviously they had already lost Xhaka to Arsenal and I don’t think Monchengladbach wanted to lose Dahoud as well. I think it’s without a doubt that Liverpool will be in the mixer next summer, whether they get him or not I think is a different story. As we saw this summer, a lot would hinge on what Liverpool could offer him in terms of Champions League, because if Liverpool don’t make the Champions League, there will be a lot of other clubs that will be in for him. I think we saw that with Mario Getz this summer and although I think Klopp does have a big pulling power in Europe, the bottom line is for some players the Champions league is the be all and end all and I think if Liverpool were a Champions League club this season then Mario Götze would be a Liverpool player now. I think the Dahoud one hinges a lot on how Liverpool’s season goes.

Looking back on the summer window in terms of incomings as a whole, there’s the old cliché ‘everything happens for a reason’, with that having been said, do you think Klopp is maybe slightly happier to have walked away with Sadio Mané and Wijnaldum in terms of the way they suit the style of Liverpool as oppose to Götze and Zielinski?

My personal opinion is that it probably has worked out for the better. Obviously everyone was excited about Götze he’s a world cup winner and all the rest of it but I though he was a bit too similar to what Liverpool already had in terms of having Coutinho, Firmino and Lallana and I think with the benefit of hindsight, Mané does give you something different so I don’t think Klopp will be shedding any tears over that one.

Zielinski is a funny one; I thought that was the one that was difficult to get excited about. I saw him struggling to get a game for Poland in the Euros and I just thought that was a bit of a bizarre one and again when Liverpool then go and sign Wijnaldum who I obviously know a lot more of and have been impressed by him from his season at Newcastle, I just thought that its worked out for the better and I think you could say that about both of those players this summer.

Yeah, I mean I guess everything does happen for a reason, so I guess the squad does look extremely competitive now. I mean it’s also been a busy summer in terms of outgoing at the club and I think the majority of Liverpool fans, as you said earlier, are probably very pleased with how, you know, the club has conducted a business and with the stance they’ve taken. Obviously Christian Benteke, obviously on his way to Crystal Palace, as the news broke yesterday that there was a fee of £27 million with £5 million worth of add ons, you know is that a deal you feel makes sense for everyone involved?

Oh yeah, 100%. Yeah I think, it always, even if it’s dragged on and on throughout the summer, looked like it would always happen, just because Liverpool were desperate to sell, Palace were desperate to bring in a striker and it was pretty clear from early on that Benteke was more than happy to move to London and play for Palace. So, you know, usually when there’s that amount of willing on both sides a compromise will be reached. I think Liverpool, you know we kind of touched upon it earlier, Liverpool deserve credit for the way that they kind of held out for the fee because you know I think if you told people six months ago that Liverpool would almost be getting their money back on Benteke I think people wouldn’t have believed you because he was kind of branded as a “£32.5 million flop”, which I think is harsh because I’ve got a lot of sympathy for him because I think he was just the wrong player at the wrong time for Liverpool.

I thought he was a strange buy last summer, he looked like a square peg in a round hole, and he never did fit, I don’t think he fitted even under Rodgers, and then as soon as Rodgers left and Klopp came in, it was pretty clear from those opening couple of weeks how is Benteke possibly going to to fit in a team where the focal point of the attack is expected for the high press and to be a hive of activity, it’s just not Benteke’s game. So I think for someone who was so clearly unsurpassed to requirement and so clearly didn’t have a future at the club, I think for Liverpool to get the fee that they have done has been great business, and I think he’ll do well at Palace, I think he’ll score goals there, they’ll play him to his strengths better. I think it’s just a move that benefits everyone.

Yeah definitely. I mean one of the reasons the club rejected Palace’s previous bid was obviously due to the clauses being unrealistic, do you think think it’s pretty much safe to say now those clauses have been significantly changed?

Yeah most definitely. The people I spoke to at the club last night said that the performance kind of incentivised the add ons that came with that deal had been completely redone and rewritten. I think it was bizarre that there was £2.5 million riding on their offer earlier in the week that would have been triggered if Benteke had scored 20 goals and fired Palace into the Champion League. I think, you know when you’re talking about a club that most people expect to face a bit of a battle to keep their Premier League status this season, that would have been laughable if Liverpool had signed up to that because it can be pretty vague these add ons because there’s no real disclosure you only hear titbits from certain people what exactly is in these add ons.

But from what I was told last night the kind of rewritten ones that Liverpool have agreed to are both realistic and achievable. So I think that’s the big thing because there’s no point, it’s all well and good the selling club proudly pronouncing that it’s a £32 million deal but if those £5 million are add ons that are never likely to be met it’s not even worth the paper it’s written on.

Yeah and I guess, as you said earlier, it’s probably one that will get wrapped up pretty quickly now with the Premier League this weekend. Obviously the club still has a bit to do this summer to be completely satisfied, Mario Balotelli is still at Liverpool after all this time and do you feel it is proving a real challenge to get him off the books this summer?

Yeah I was wondering whether they might be able to offer Palace buy one get one free! I thought that might be the only way Liverpool might get rid of Balotelli this summer but I think it just shows how problematic it is, just how Balotelli’s stock has fallen so far, it’s not like Liverpool are batting away interest in him. I think even if you go back to January/February time Raiola, his agent, was told you’re basically free to negotiate with whoever you want, we just want Balotelli off the wage bill and still, a fortnight away from the end of the transfer window, and he’s still effectively a Liverpool player.

So there’s absolutely no chance that he’ll still be a Liverpool player come September 1st. I think the interesting thing will be how will he leave, will Liverpool have to pay up the last 12 months of his contract, as you get closer to the end of the window that’s more of a realistic proposition. I think he’s got 12 months to go, he’s on nearly £100,000 a week. It’s an issue, again it goes back to a ridiculous deal that Liverpool did two summer ago for a player with such a checkered past.

I think it was foolish to think that he would be anything other than a big failure at Liverpool and unfortunately that’s how it’s proved. I think probably the most likely outcome would be probably a loan I imagine, which would effectively be Liverpool waving goodbye to him on a free because obviously he’d be a free agent next summer. At least they could get a loan with someone paying the lion’s share of that £100,000 a week it wouldn’t be too much of a burden on the club during his last year as a Liverpool player.

Yeah, and just briefly touching on that, I mean if no club does come in for a loan, do you think Liverpool terminating his contract, buying out his contract is a realistic sort of solution?

I think so yeah, I mean I think they will have to come to some kind of financial agreement with him because I don’t think anyone is going to take on his full wages. So they’re going to have to make some kind of financial offer to him and regardless of whether it’s a permanent or a loan that he goes on but either way his Liverpool career will effectively come to an end in the next couple of weeks. But it’s sad to see really, because when you think of the heights he has hit briefly at times in his career and it’s a pretty sad state of affairs when there is so little interest in a player that was talented for such big things.

Yes, especially when you consider the fact that he was spearheading Italy’s Euro 2012 campaign against England as well, which was a big thing we were expecting of him. Luis Alberto is another one that doesn’t seem to have a future at the club and Lazar Marković is another one who has been the subject of fate this week. Do you think those two are more likely to find new clubs sooner than Mario Balotelli for instance, do you think? I mean with Alberto there’s been reports of Championship clubs showing an interest and even Balotelli this week I think Wolves have been linked most recently with him, and then you’ve got Lazar Marković obviously with Portugal and Spain. Do you think those two have more of a chance of going than Balotelli?

Yeah I think so, I think Alberto will definitely leave in the next week or ten days, I think there has been various interest in him. I think probably the frustration for Liverpool there is that they felt he’d had a really good season on loan, I think it was at Deportivo last season, so I think they thought they could probably get six or seven million for him, you know what we said earlier in terms of getting decent return for players that they don’t need anymore but they haven’t received an offer like that.

I think Sevilla did put in an offer to resign him but it was miniscule, I think it was only a couple of million, that Liverpool rejected. So you know there was talk about, I think it was Wolves, I think there might have been QPR as well, a few Championship clubs in for Alberto. But you know he hasn’t even had a sniff in pre season, he didn’t even get taken on the tour. So you know I think that was probably the moment when he realised he wasn’t on that plane, that he knew, if he didn’t already, that he had no future under Klopp. So yeah, I think that he’ll without doubt go. I think Marković is an interesting one because you know obviously the difference with him is that it was a £20 million investment that Liverpool made, obviously he wasn’t able to live up to that in his first season at the club. So even last summer when he went out on loan at Fenerbahçe the club were absolutely adamant at the time that it wasn’t a player being banished on loan and never to be seen again and that this is a young player that just needed to play, that he would come back in and have a chance.

But obviously during that time the managers changed. With Marković during pre season, I know he created chances especially in the UK based friendlies and obviously that scooped pass that set up Grujić’s header at Wembley that was pretty special, but I just don’t see him fitting into a Klopp team to be honest. I just think he’s too lightweight, he flicks in and out of games too much, I don’t think he’s as athletic or as powerful as Klopp likes his attacking players to be. So I think with Marković it will be one where it could be another loan, it could be permanent. I think it just depends on what sort of offers come in over the next week, I still expect him to move on.

Yeah, I mean with Marković you find it a bit bizarre that Liverpool didn’t loan him out to a Premier League club or a Championship Club to get him that experience in England, to maybe try and bulk him up a little bit. I think it was watford last summer that were interested but Liverpool decided that Turkey was the best nation for him, were you a bit surprised that Liverpool didn’t loan him out to a Premier League club?

Yeah, I was actually. I think you’re right, it would’ve made more sense for him to spend the year in England and get accustomed, even if he had to drop into the Championship, maybe Marković wouldn’t have fancied that too much. I think just that physical side of things probably would have toughened him up a little bit and prepared him better for coming back to Liverpool. As it was I think he missed big chunks of the season due to injury as well, so even in Turkey he wasn’t able to kind of get that sustained game time and the development that Liverpool hoped he would. So it’s a shame it just really hasn’t happened for him at Liverpool, you kind of think now that ship has sailed and he will now have to move somewhere else to further his career.

Yeah exactly, a couple of interesting things for the transfer window. I read an article from you recently with an interview with Klopp saying that he’d only allow Lucas Leiva to leave if he gets sufficient defensive cover. Lucas has been linked with a move away from the club for every single summer for the last few years now, do you think his future will kind of be up in the air until that deadline hits on the 31st August?

I think so, from speaking to people at the club the reason why that move to Galatasaray didn’t happen recently was because Klopp felt that there was just no way he could lose Lucas at a time when he was without so many defenders, with Gomez and Sakho out and math still building his fitness up after missing much a pre season, so that was thought that if Lucas goes it will be much later in the window.

So I think that it’s quite a difficult one to call at the moment because in an ideal world I think Klopp would like to keep Lucas, he really likes him and Lucas is a great person he’s been a great servant to Liverpool and the one of the longest serving players, he’s great in the dressing room. You think about a Liverpool squad that has lost dominant personalities and leaders in the last six months, with the likes of Kolo Touré and Škrtel. He really likes working with Lucas and he loves the fact that Lucas is so desperate to play, he touched upon it at times last season about how difficult it is to break it to Lucas that he’s not playing because it means that much to him to represent Liverpool.

I think with that one the ball is in Lucas’ court, I think come the end of the window if Klopp feels he’s got sufficient cover, Lucas wants to go and there’s an offer on the table that Liverpool feel is acceptable then I think he will go but if he says to Klopp he’s happy to stay here and be a squad player then I think Klopp will happily take that. So I think at them moment that is one that is tough to call.

Just a couple more before I let you go. Mamadou Sakho is still in training and getting back to full fitness, do you think it’s a case now with everything that has gone on over pre season with being sent home from the tour of Sakho just getting his head down just working hard to get back into the team and cement his place in that back four?

Yeah that’s exactly what he’s got to do. I think there’s no doubt that he will get the opportunity to make up for this summer, he did let himself down with his conduct on the tour, it’s been well documented, you can’t behave like that. Klopp is so into the team ethic, team spirit and camaraderie and especially when you’re trying to build that on a tour you can’t have people turning up late for the flight, late for team meals, not even bothering to turn up treatment sessions.

If you let that kind of thing go on you’re storing up things for yourself. So I think there would’ve been some soul searching for Sakho on that flight home from America, at his age he’s not a kid and he’ll know that he’s done wrong but there’s no doubt that after the initial anger from Klopp and once the dust has settled it’s become pretty clear that Sakho will get the chance to make amends and he has to grasp that chance. I’ve got sympathy for him, I think he was treated pretty shoddily by the authorities and he’s still waiting really for the final word on that really in terms of how that is going to pan out, if he’s going to take any action.

It’s bizarre that UEFA can accuse someone of failing their drugs test and mess with their careers to that extent for an investigation then to show that that substance wasn’t on the banned list and he hadn’t broken the rules. So he’s had a tough time of it, Sakho, with an Achilles injury thrown in causing a big source of frustration for him that he couldn’t feature on the tour. But he has to put that behind him now and draw a line in the sand, and try to ensure that this season is remembered for much better reasons.

 

Yeah and that’s probably what Jürgen Klopp wants as well as the fans. Looking to the season ahead then, one game away from european football considering how much Klopp thrives on the time he has on the training pitch with his new look squad he must be relishing the season ahead with amount of time he’s going to get at Melwood, something he frequently bemoaned last season.

Yeah I think so, I think he was talking about it on the tour actually. I think he was saying that he’d worked out that it was fifty if not sixty extra training sessions that he’d have with the squad as a result of no european football, so you can guarantee that he will be making that count. I think even this week on the back of the win at Arsenal the players only had one day off whereas in previous years they probably would’ve had two days off.

That is partially about Klopp being determined to use that extra time to iron out problems. I think that was the big frustration for him last season the fact that Liverpool had such a ridiculous schedule, when he came in they were forever playing and recovering and playing again. I think that’s going to be a big thing this season. That’s why it’s going to be interesting, the Burnley game is such a different challenge to Arsenal and I think we’ll learn more about this Liverpool team at Burnley. Too often last season Liverpool followed up a thrilling triumph like the one at the Emirates with a pretty insipid performance and you’d like to think that they can’t blame fatigue this time around, they can’t blame arriving back from Kazan at 4 o’clock in the morning on a Friday, that’s not an issue. The hope is that just like three years ago when Liverpool mounted that amazing title challenge that Liverpool can take advantage of that extra time because it does make a big difference no question about that.

Definitely. Finally, you obviously spend a lot of time with Jürgen Klopp over the course of the pre season and the first few weeks of the season, do you think he’s completely satisfied with this team now and do you believe that he’s building one of the most competitive squads Liverpool has had for a number of years?

Yeah he’s certainly satisfied. I think the one thing with Jürgen Klopp is that he doesn’t try to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes, he’s not a manager that would say one thing on camera and something completely different off camera, he’s genuine. I think it’s fair to say that if he wasn’t happy with what he has then we’d know about it. I think from speaking to him that he is satisfied.

There probably hasn’t been as many changes, you know seven new players come into the squad this season it sounds like a sort of huge overhaul but it’s probably not when you think in terms of the outgoings there was no one that’s left that was a regular last season. Even the players that have come in three of them started down at the Emirates but by and large he has kept safe with most of those players he inherited and I think that goes back to his desire to improve and develop players and he repeatedly said last season this squad is not as bad as some people are making out. I think that was probably proved by him leading Liverpool to two cup finals and he certainly believes that now he’s added to the squad the quality that was probably lacking in certain areas last season and it will just be interesting to see where that takes Liverpool.

I think this Premier League season is a very very difficult one to call them you look at the two Manchester clubs I think if you finish above both of them you’ll be champions. They’ll be the two big ones. Obviously Conte will make a huge difference to Chelsea, Tottenham aren’t going anywhere they’ve pretty much kept their squad together from last season and Arsenal, although as we saw for ourselves last weekend they’ve got issues, they’ll improve especially with the quality they’ve got. So it’s all set up for a really really exciting season and I think the pleasing thing for a Liverpool fan is that they’ve 100% got the right man for the job and a man who’s happy with what he’s got as he tries to get Liverpool back to where all the fans want to see them.

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