EPL

Klopp praises Firmino contribution, calls for other attackers to step up in stars' absence

By Sports Desk January 15, 2022

Jurgen Klopp stressed the need for Liverpool's attackers to step up in the absence of Mohammed Salah and Sadio Mane, ahead of their Premier League clash with Brentford at Anfield.

With Salah and Mane featuring at the Africa Cup of Nations, Klopp's side struggled to create clear-cut opportunities last time out, in a goalless draw with Arsenal in the first leg of their EFL Cup semi-final.

Following a six-game winning run in November and December, Liverpool are also winless in their last three Premier League games, throwing away a lead to draw two of those games.

Speaking ahead of Brentford's first trip to Anfield since March 1989, Klopp praised the contribution of Roberto Firmino, before calling for other players in his Reds squad to step up.

"He [Firmino] is a very smart player", Klopp said in a news conference. "His game is about using his team-mates in the way that he can use them.

"It's not just about being able to score goals in this way or that way.

"In one of our biggest games in recent history we played without Mo [a 7-0 win at Crystal Palace in December 2020, where Salah spent the first hour on the bench], and we won against Manchester United [a 5-0 victory earlier this season] without Mane.

"Now both are out, and that is not cool, but we don't think [of Firmino] 'you have to be like him or like him'". 

Salah and Mane have scored 24 Premier League goals between them this season, on par with their combined expected goals (xG).

Firmino, meanwhile, has only netted four league goals this campaign, with an October hat-trick against Watford representing his only Premier League strikes since the opening day.

Klopp was also asked about the role of versatile youngster Curtis Jones, who made a lively cameo from the bench in Liverpool's frustrating draw with the Gunners, and stressed the need for Jones to show greater consistency. 

"I had a long talk last week with Curtis," Klopp said. "I love the boy, I love the potential he has, but we have to make sure he makes those next steps, and fulfils that potential on the pitch.

"You have these kinds of conversations when you are not 100 per cent happy with a player in that moment. We have to find a way for him to show this [potential] much more often."

Jones provided just one goal and two assists in 24 league appearances last season, featuring regularly as Liverpool battled an injury crisis, and Klopp highlighted the need for the midfielder to contribute in the absence of the side's bigger names.

"It's an ongoing process between Curtis and me. We've had a tricky period, especially with Covid, which is not helpful, but now we'll try to make sure he can show how good he can be," Klopp added.

Related items

  • Guardiola reigns again and a set-piece masterclass – Man City's Premier League title triumph in numbers Guardiola reigns again and a set-piece masterclass – Man City's Premier League title triumph in numbers

    Manchester City are Premier League champions for a fourth time in five seasons, and a sixth time overall, after beating Aston Villa 3-2 in remarkable fashion on Sunday to hold off Liverpool.

    City are now in front of Chelsea (five titles) as the competition's outright second most successful side and behind only Manchester United, who have lifted the title 13 times.

    Indeed, only United (20), Liverpool (19), Arsenal (13) and Everton (nine) have won more titles in the history of the English top flight, dating back to 1888, than eight-time winners City.

    The Citizens' latest title triumph was built on a solid defence and a potent attack, with no team in the division scoring more goals (99) or conceding fewer (26).

    With the aid of Opta, Stats Perform looks at some of the other numbers behind City's successful title defence.

    PEP PREVAILS ONCE MORE

    City have won four of the past five Premier League titles, which is a level of dominance not seen in the competition since United lifted the trophy in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011.

    Pep Guardiola has been at the helm for those four most recent triumphs, making him the fourth coach in English top-flight history to win four titles over a five-season period.

    He is in quite some company, too, with Alex Ferguson (United), Bob Paisley (Liverpool) and George Ramsey (Villa) the other names on that list. 

    The Catalan is only the eighth man to win as many as four English top-flight titles, while only Ferguson (13) has ever lifted the Premier League more times.

    Following equally successful stints with Barcelona and Bayern Munich, Guardiola has now won the title in 10 of his 13 seasons as a top-flight manager.

    To put that into some context, Massimiliano Allegri (6) is the sole other coach to have won more than five league crowns in that period across Europe's top five leagues.

    CATCH US IF YOU CAN

    City may have been pushed all the way in the end, but they spent 168 days at the summit – 98 more than any other team, and 157 more than valiant runners-up Liverpool.

    The 2021-22 campaign did not get off to the best of starts for City, though, as they lost 1-0 at Tottenham on the opening weekend, with that one of only three losses all season.

    That makes the Citizens only the fourth side in the Premier League era to lose their opening match yet still go on to win the title, and the 15th overall in English top-flight history.

    CITY FALL JUST SHORT OF OWN RECORD

    City had to do it the hard way. They were 2-0 down to Villa and matters looked bleak, but Ilkay Gundogan inspired a comeback for the ages.

    It means City end the season with a positive goal difference of 73.

    That is the second-highest goal difference in Premier League history, behind only their own mark of +79 in 2017-18 when scoring a record 106 goals and conceding 27.

    The 26 goals conceded by City this term is an impressive return, though it is well short of the 15 let in by Chelsea in 2004-05.

    GOALS GALORE

    City may not have had a player who seriously challenged for the Golden Boot award, but the workload was shared with 16 different players registering a goal.

    Set-pieces proved an important source of goals for the champions, who netted 22 times from corners and free-kicks, while conceding just once in this manner.

    Their positive differential of 21 goals between set-piece goals scored and conceded is the largest on record in the Premier League since such data was first collected in 2008-09.

  • BREAKING NEWS: Man City clinch Premier League title with comeback win BREAKING NEWS: Man City clinch Premier League title with comeback win

    Manchester City had to do it the hard way on the final day of the season, but they won the Premier League title by defeating Aston Villa 3-2.

    The title race went down to the wire, with City needing to match Liverpool's result against Wolves in order to win their fourth league crown under Pep Guardiola.

    However, Matty Cash's goal midway through the first half at the Etihad Stadium put Villa, managed by Liverpool great Steven Gerrard, ahead going into half-time.

    Ex-Liverpool star Philippe Coutinho then put Villa 2-0 up but – as they did against QPR to win their first Premier League title 10 years ago – City lodged an incredible comeback.

    Ilkay Gundogan was the hero. The substitute dragged City back into it and then, after Rodri had restored parity, scored from close range to complete a sensational fightback.

    It was needed, with Liverpool beating Wolves 3-1, but City have now won their sixth Premier League title, and their fourth in the space of five seasons.

  • Manchester City 3-2 Aston Villa: Gundogan double clinches Premier League title after final-day thriller Manchester City 3-2 Aston Villa: Gundogan double clinches Premier League title after final-day thriller

    Manchester City pulled off a stunning fightback to beat Aston Villa 3-2 and snatch the Premier League title as Pep Guardiola's side did it the hard way.

    You could not script this drama and be taken seriously. Chasing a fourth title in five seasons, City knew victory would secure that, yet Steven Gerrard had Villa well organised and the hosts struggled to find their usual fluency.

    Matty Cash's 37th-minute opener stunned the hosts, and former Liverpool forward Philippe Coutinho left City devastated when he lashed Villa two goals clear in the 69th minute.

    But Ilkay Gundogan's header and Rodri's low strike dramatically hauled the hosts level with two goals in three minutes, before super-sub Gundogan slammed home City's third nine minutes from time, scotching Liverpool's title hopes.

    It was shaping up from the early stages to be 90 minutes of City attack versus Villa defence and countering, with the hosts having had a shade under 75 per cent of possession in the first quarter. Phil Foden rolled a shot six inches wide, via a slight deflection, and Gabriel Jesus wasted a decent opening.

    Villa found the breakthrough when their full-backs combined, Lucas Digne crossing from the left for Cash to head in from eight yards as Joao Cancelo failed to prevent the Poland international attacking the ball at the far post.

    Ollie Watkins dithered as another great chance came Villa's way, John Stones dashing back to jostle the striker off the ball.

    Jesus missed a glorious opportunity five minutes into the second half when he stabbed over from close range. The Brazilian had another shot charged down, while at the other end Watkins was denied by Ederson's sprawling save after brushing off Aymeric Laporte's challenge.

    City were in deep trouble when Coutinho fired Villa two ahead in the 69th minute, fastening on to a flick-on from Watkins and rifling low into the left corner.

    Gundogan gave the hosts hope when he headed fellow substitute Raheem Sterling's cross past Robin Olsen in the 76th minute, and then Rodri lashed in from the edge of the box.

    Guardiola was leaping around on the touchline, the crowd anticipating a winner, just as when Sergio Aguero's late dramatics delivered the title in 2012, and it came when De Bruyne's delicious ball across goal from the right was met by Gundogan. He could hardly miss. City, from the depths of despair, are champions once more.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.