Liverpool are hoping Daniel Sturridge will be back to face Southampton on Sunday although Jürgen Klopp, perhaps wisely given the striker’s injury record, insists the squad as a whole can improve results without having to wait for specialist goalscorers to slot back in.
Sturridge missed Thursday’s disappointing Europa League game with Rubin Kazan because of a knee injury but the 1-1 draw featured late contributions by Christian Benteke and Roberto Firmino, who were returning from injury. Faced with a solid defensive wall after their visitors went down to 10 men, Liverpool could not find a way through and, according to the new manager, the answer is improvement from within.
“We have the players we need and you will never hear from me: ‘With Sturridge we can do this’ or: ‘With Benteke we can do that’,” he said. “I am really satisfied with the guys we have on the pitch already. I am not saying we don’t need strikers. Sometimes you need a finisher, a guy for the last ball – that is always the same in football – but if for any reason they are not available or not fully fit, then you must make the probability bigger that you can win with the players that you have.”
The celebrity circus surrounding Klopp’s arrival should start to die down after this weekend, which brings his third game in charge and his first Premier League game at Anfield. Liverpool are still in contention in the Europa League – the point picked up against Rubin Kazan was not the worst result possible – although it was a missed opportunity to start on a positive note and the manager would dearly love to get a first win under his belt on Sunday. Having seen his players at first-hand now, which was not the case when he gave his first round of oversubscribed press conferences, Klopp can be under no illusions about the size of the task he has set himself.
“It is a hard job but I always knew it would be,” he said. “If I wanted it the easy way then I would have stayed a little longer on holiday. I knew all about the problems Liverpool had and then I was presented with some new ones when Danny Ings and Joe Gomez became injured but all the rest was completely clear.
“I have watched football for many years and I know it is not easy to do the right things at Liverpool at this moment because the expectations are so big. We should all cool down a bit and understand that it will be hard work and a long journey. In the games I have seen we have taken the next step for sure. There were small things against Rubin Kazan that were better than in the game against Tottenham.
“OK, if you were looking for the fast result it didn’t work but if you wanted development you could find some. That is where we are at the moment. We are not Barcelona or Bayern Munich, making a genius plan for genius players. We have to try to bring out the best in our players and that is what we will do.
“I could see the reaction in the players when Rubin Kazan took the lead. It was only one goal, we were still in the game but they obviously wanted to win 8-0 or something. We were not always calm enough and that is what we have to learn. The defending was most OK, I thought. The offence was often good but not perfect. That is what we need to work on: we need to stay calm and improve our decision-making.”