Klopp not falling for title talk trap

Jurgen Klopp said he was wary of falling into the trap of talking up his team's chances with 18 games of the 38-match campaign remaining.
Jurgen Klopp said he was wary of falling into the trap of talking up his team's chances with 18 games of the 38-match campaign remaining.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

German wary of talking up Reds' chances after 5-1 rout of Arsenal, with 18 games to play

LONDON • Jurgen Klopp refused to get carried away with the growing expectation that Liverpool can win the league title for the first time in 29 years, saying his players must stay focused after they thrashed Arsenal 5-1 on Saturday.

Roberto Firmino's hat-trick - the first by a Liverpool player against the Gunners since Peter Crouch in 2007 - as well as a goal apiece by Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane ensured Liverpool's front three all scored in the same league game for the first time this season.

The win gave Liverpool a nine-point advantage over Tottenham Hotspur who surprisingly threw away an early lead to lose 3-1 to Wolves at Wembley earlier on Saturday.

Tired of media questions about the title race, Klopp said he was wary of falling into the trap of talking up his team's chances with 18 games of the 38-match campaign remaining, especially with a potentially title-defining clash away at Manchester City on Thursday.

"I would really love that we switch and you all come here and I go there," the Liverpool boss told reporters when asked about their nine-point cushion.

"I'm not the smartest person in the world, but I'm really not an idiot - not always, at least.

"It's absolutely not important how many points you are ahead in December, even at the end of December... If we drop three points, the next headline will be, 'Are they nervous?'."

He insisted knowing the Tottenham result before they kicked off at Anfield made no difference.

"Before the game, we heard because it was on all the screens about the result of Tottenham. Did you think the party started already?" he added.

"I didn't see a smile on any faces in the dressing room. Just see it (the result) and then go on.

"In the moment, it feels like a marathon what we are running. Before the marathon: the weather is brilliant, new trainers, new shirt, new everything.

"The people say, 'You will win today' but first I have to run. The people all around us are buzzing but we have to run. That's what we try (to do) as good as possible."

Liverpool responded brilliantly to conceding only their eighth league goal of the season when Ainsley Maitland-Niles opened the scoring in the 11th minute.

They scored four goals in just over half an hour through Firmino (two), Mane and a Salah penalty before Firmino completed his hat-trick with another spot-kick after the break.

"Mo Salah gave the penalty to Bobby and I almost cried because we all know how much Mo wants to score goals. It was really nice," said Klopp.

Asked to reflect on 2018, which has seen Liverpool finish as Champions League runners-up and now go unbeaten in 20 league matches, Klopp said it was "not too bad".

"The boys have made a big step, but it's important to show it's a positive process. In 2018, I have nothing to moan about," he added.

Arsenal boss Unai Emery admitted that the Gunners endured a tough time at Anfield.

Asked what he thought of the awarding of the two spot-kicks, the Spaniard said: "It wouldn't change the score, Liverpool deservedly won."

THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 31, 2018, with the headline 'Klopp not falling for title talk trap'. Print Edition | Subscribe