Jürgen Klopp feels Liverpool have been sucked into a whirlwind this season that has blown their Premier League and Champions League aspirations off course.
Liverpool are without a win in four matches going into Sunday’s visit of the league leaders, Arsenal, and 10 points adrift of fourth-placed Manchester United with 10 games remaining. Only in Klopp’s debut season, when he replaced Brendan Rodgers in October, have Liverpool failed to finish in the top four.
The Liverpool manager has refused to rule out a belated push for Champions League qualification but admits he and his players have been caught out by the extent of their drop-off since last season’s pursuit of the quadruple.
Klopp said: “With smart recruitment we will improve [next season] – definitely. That is the plan. It is one of these moments where it is really not good. I can’t explain it better in English but you get in this whirlwind and it sucks you in that direction and all of a sudden it’s like: ‘Wow, where are we?’
“I am not a worse manager than last year, definitely not. It doesn’t mean the outcome is good enough, not at all, but I’m not worse and the players are not worse players. They just play worse. That’s definitely the case. We cannot make 24 changes, not even 10, but we have to make changes – smart changes – and then we go again. We will have other moments when we think about what happens next year but this is not the moment.”
Klopp’s annoyance with this season’s performance was evident on Tuesday when he made six changes for the goalless draw at Chelsea. Trent Alexander-Arnold was among those dropped and, while taking exception to the full-back being singled out for scrutiny, Klopp admitted the defender’s form reflects that of the entire squad.
“He was one of six changes but the focus is on him?” Klopp queried. “For Trent it is the same, there is no difference. Not as good or consistent as he used to be, like pretty much all of the boys.
“Do you expect me to say he played a world-class season and I leave him out anyway? That makes no sense. Nobody performed on the level we saw and the level we know they can. In moments, yes, of course – great games, fantastic games, super situations – but consistently nobody, no. Trent not as well.”
Virgil van Dijk, who was absent at Stamford Bridge through illness, is available along with Thiago Alcântara. Luis Díaz, however, is more likely to return from a six month injury lay-off at Leeds on 17 April, Klopp said.