EPL

Jurgen Klopp praises academy stars for leading Liverpool through tough January

By Sports Desk January 31, 2024

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp says it is a credit to their academy players that his side have emerged unscathed from a difficult January to lead the Premier League by five points.

The 4-1 victory over Chelsea was the Reds’ sixth win in seven matches in the month, with the other a draw in the second leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final at Fulham having gone into the game with a lead from the home tie.

During that period the side have been without three senior full-backs, as well as the likes of midfielders Dominik Szoboszlai and Alexis Mac Allister at varying times and, of course, Mohamed Salah.

Deputy right-back Conor Bradley has impressed hugely and put in his second successive man-of-the-match display with his first Liverpool goal and two assists in the victory.

But with Trent Alexander-Arnold close to full match fitness after two substitute appearances, it has given Klopp a decision to make ahead of Sunday’s trip to Arsenal.

“There is no situation. It is just how it is,” said Klopp.

“We had seven games in January with 11 days off in between. We couldn’t have put the string of results together without the kids, (Jarell) Quansah, Conor and we had midfielders out so we played with James McConnell at six.

“These boys used this situation. I am happy they all could perform the way they did. The academy is doing an incredible job.”

Striker Darwin Nunez had one of those games where he did everything but score, becoming the first player since Opta records began in 2003 to hit the woodwork four times, once from the penalty spot.

It was at the extreme end of what has become a frequent trademark from the Uruguay international, who set up the fourth goal for Luis Diaz, but Klopp is not concerned.

“Insane first half, unbelievable. Outstanding. Why do we speak about Darwin? Obviously because he has so many situations where he missed,” he added.

“The first time since we count a player hits the woodwork four times in a game. Think you are in his boots and how that feels. Missing a penalty you could see at half-time he was really upset with himself.

“It’s just crazy that he creates that many. Imagine for a second he would take them all. The numbers would be absolutely insane, to an extent where we wouldn’t understand it any more so it’s normal.

“For us, it’s unimportant. We scored four goals, who cares if we could have scored a fifth or sixth?”

It would not have flattered Liverpool to have added two or three more such was their dominance over opponents who they will meet again in the Carabao Cup final in a month’s time.

Chelsea head coach Mauricio Pochettino admitted his side were second best and even penalty shouts in the first and second halves would not have done much to alter the direction of travel.

“I think it is not to find excuses. The performance was not good enough from us. They deserved to win, they were better than us,” he said.

“We didn’t perform in the way we wanted to. In this type of game you need to say ‘well done Liverpool’.

“In the final (next month) we need to compete in a different way. If we compete the same way as today for sure it is going to be the same result.

“For us it is about learning. We are competing against a team that is on the top and is consistent to always be challenging for the big trophies.”

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    Guardiola said it was “unacceptable” that his side had to play an FA Cup semi-final less than 72 hours after being in action in the Champions League on Wednesday night as they beat Chelsea at Wembley on Saturday tea-time.

    The Gunners’ plight was arguably worse as they were also in Europe on Wednesday night but had to travel back from Germany on Thursday following their Champions League exit to Bayern Munich.

    They made light of that quick turnaround as they beat Wolves 2-0 on Saturday to go back to the top of the Premier League before they play again on Tuesday night against Chelsea.

    “It’s not about us, Pep or myself, it’s about the well-being of the players,” Arteta said after Leandro Trossard and Martin Odegaard goals sent his side one point above City.

    “Especially when you are competing in European competition, everything has to be competed in the same way.

    “You cannot have a team that hasn’t played for seven days or three days before and has more recovery time and you have to play in the Premier League or the FA Cup.

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    “We stayed in Munich, I think we had two hours sleep, wake up and we started to talk about Wolves first of all and then understand what we had to do to win the game.

    “The boys were unbelievable. You look at the amount of games we have played in the last few weeks, the type of games we have played and the attitude and the way they have run today is top.”

    It was a good recovery from the Gunners after a horror week where their title hopes were damaged by a 2-0 home defeat to Aston Villa last week before their Champions League exit in Munich.

    But they could be four points clear of City by the time Guardiola’s side next play as they try to wrestle control of a thrilling title race.

    Arteta added: “It was really good, I really liked the performance, the result, the clean sheet but also the way individually and a team they showed they still have a step forward to make.

    “We realised we want to be involved in big competitions, fighting for the Champions League, fighting for the Premier League, the level it requires, we have to do something special. You have to have that love to compete.”

    Wolves battled hard but are crippled by injuries, with the majority of their key attacking players sidelined.

    They are now six games without a win, but boss Gary O’Neil was proud.

    “I thought it was an incredible performance, it exceeded my expectation of what we were able to produce today,” he said.

    “We didn’t deserve to lose 2-0, losing 1-0 and not quite being able to break them down is probably as bad as it should have been for us.

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    Guardiola said it was “unacceptable” that his side had to play an FA Cup semi-final less than 72 hours after being in action in the Champions League on Wednesday night as they beat Chelsea at Wembley on Saturday tea-time.

    The Gunners’ plight was arguably worse as they were also in Europe on Wednesday night but had to travel back from Germany on Thursday following their Champions League exit to Bayern Munich.

    They made light of that quick turnaround as they beat Wolves 2-0 on Saturday to go back to the top of the Premier League before they play again on Tuesday night against Chelsea.

    “It’s not about us, Pep or myself, it’s about the well-being of the players,” Arteta said after Leandro Trossard and Martin Odegaard goals sent his side one point above City.

    “Especially when you are competing in European competition, everything has to be competed in the same way.

    “You cannot have a team that hasn’t played for seven days or three days before and has more recovery time and you have to play in the Premier League or the FA Cup.

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    “We stayed in Munich, I think we had two hours sleep, wake up and we started to talk about Wolves first of all and then understand what we had to do to win the game.

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    It was a good recovery from the Gunners after a horror week where their title hopes were damaged by a 2-0 home defeat to Aston Villa last week before their Champions League exit in Munich.

    But they could be four points clear of City by the time Guardiola’s side next play as they try to wrestle control of a thrilling title race.

    Arteta added: “It was really good, I really liked the performance, the result, the clean sheet but also the way individually and a team they showed they still have a step forward to make.

    “We realised we want to be involved in big competitions, fighting for the Champions League, fighting for the Premier League, the level it requires, we have to do something special. You have to have that love to compete.”

    Wolves battled hard but are crippled by injuries, with the majority of their key attacking players sidelined.

    They are now six games without a win, but boss Gary O’Neil was proud.

    “I thought it was an incredible performance, it exceeded my expectation of what we were able to produce today,” he said.

    “We didn’t deserve to lose 2-0, losing 1-0 and not quite being able to break them down is probably as bad as it should have been for us.

    “We came up just short against one of the best teams in world football so there’s no disgrace in that.”

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