Jurgen Klopp has warned members of his Liverpool squad that they are playing for their futures when they face Arsenal in the Premier League next weekend, following an insipid display in defeat to managerless Leicester City at the King Power Stadium. The champions began the post-Claudio Ranieri era in supreme fashion, under the leadership of caretaker manager Craig Shakespeare, with their first win of 2017 to climb out of the relegation zone.
Jamie Vardy scored twice, either side of Danny Drinkwater’s arrowing drive, to secure the points; the Foxes’ first goals of the calendar year. Philippe Coutinho netted a second half consolation goal but it was too little, too late for the Reds who missed the chance to return to the Champions League places.
The result continues a miserable start to the year for Liverpool, who have only won one of their seven top flight games in 2017 – a run accompanied by being knocked out of the FA Cup and failing to reach the English Football League Cup final.
Arsenal, who are just a point above them in the race for the top four, travel to Anfield on Saturday (4 March) and Klopp sent a strong message to his players.
“We have a week to prepare, we have to show a reaction [against Arsenal],” Klopp told Sky Sports. “That’s what we have to do. We all play for our future so that’s how it is. I don’t want to make it too serious but we have to perform differently, because we are able to.
“We can be much better, we showed it already, and not doing it feels really disappointing and that is the main problem in this moment. Thank God we don’t play tomorrow so we can analyse and show the boys to react on it again, and make the best of it.”
While the Merseysiders have registered wins over the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester Cityand Tottenham Hotspur this season, their record against sides in the bottom half is less impressive. The game came after Liverpool had not played for 16 days and had held a training camp in La Manga in southern Spain. Yet the German was at a loss to explain the result.
“If we play our best game and play really, really good and we lose then I have to accept it. That’s football, you can create chances and not score,” he added. “But that isn’t good enough, for sure. Really, it looked like we never spoke about the strength of Leicester. That’s the problem, the real problem.
“I spoke in the dressing room that it’s not good enough, for sure, not even close to being good enough, so we have to work obviously and try with everything we have to do it better next time. It’s really hard to see what we would usually be able to do.
“You see this performance and from the first second it was not good enough. Not good in offence, not good in defence, and you lose football games; that how it is. There is no reason for this. You can always find excuses but I’m not ready to look for an excuse.
“In the game we had the opportunity to do more, we changed the system at half time. It helped a little bit, especially, to ask a few questions. Crosses were not good enough, we had a few finishing situations and could have scored a second goal, but it would not make the game better.”