Reds bogged down by workload

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp geeing up James Milner during last weekend's win over Tottenham, their first in the Premier League this year. The German said his side will learn lessons from their winless run.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp geeing up James Milner during last weekend's win over Tottenham, their first in the Premier League this year. The German said his side will learn lessons from their winless run.PHOTO: REUTERS

Liverpool coach says January fixtures took the wind out of his team's sails

LA MANGA (SPAIN) • Liverpool suffered at the start of this year as a result of reaching the League Cup semi-finals coinciding with the festive schedule, Jurgen Klopp has claimed, with the manager convinced his English football team will benefit from the lessons learnt.

Klopp's side returned to winning ways when they defeated Tottenham 2-0 at Anfield, their first league win since New Year's Eve. It ended a damaging sequence of one victory - against League Two side Plymouth in an FA Cup replay - in 10 matches.

Last Saturday's performance came after Liverpool's first full week without a game since before Christmas and Klopp claims the demands of 12 games in 40 days - from the win over Stoke on Dec 27 to defeat at Hull City on Feb 4 - took a significant toll.

He believes Chelsea were relatively fresh to extend their lead at the Premier League summit, having been eliminated from the League Cup in October.

Asked on Thursday what was the biggest lesson he learnt during Liverpool's poor run, Klopp, who has taken his players to La Manga this week for what he described as pre-season training, replied: "December-January. Not even Chelsea came through without (any) problems but they were able to play the same team all the time.

"They left the League Cup when, before it started? (It was the fourth round.) I don't remember them playing one game in that competition.

"I spoke to Antonio (Conte) for a long time at Anfield 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."

Despite a problematic start to 2017, Liverpool drew 1-1 at Manchester United, having led for most of the match, and held Chelsea at home by the same scoreline, before beating Mauricio Pochettino's Tottenham convincingly.

Klopp claims home and away defeats by Southampton in the League Cup semi-finals changed the complexion of Liverpool's recent run, suggesting it would have been beneficial to exit the competition earlier.

"It felt worse because of different Cup competitions. We should have been out of the League 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," he said. "We cannot make a wish list 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.

" 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."

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 18, 2017, with the headline 'Reds bogged down by workload'. Print Edition | Subscribe