Jürgen Klopp believes it will become harder to stay at the top of English football because teams such as Brighton, who host Liverpool in the FA Cup on Sunday, are improving thanks to increased investment and elite coaching.
That Brighton sit three places above Liverpool in the Premier League in sixth highlights the underwhelming nature of Klopp’s season. Roberto De Zerbi’s side defeated Liverpool 3-0 two weeks ago in what Klopp described as the worst performance of his coaching career.
The Liverpool manager praised Mikel Arteta for creating a “sensational team” at Arsenal as well as the improvement under Erik ten Hag at Manchester United, who have surpassed Liverpool this season. “Consistency is really the most difficult thing to have in football and we will see how that goes for other teams,” Klopp said.
“How they deal with little drops, injuries, all these kinds of things. But it is pretty likely it will get tougher for everybody up there to stay in the league, to qualify for Europe, Champions League and especially to become champions. It will be absolutely difficult because of the quality of the teams, the money around and the quality of the coaches.”
Liverpool have suffered injuries to key players throughout the campaign, with Virgil van Dijk still recovering from a hamstring problem picked up at Brentford. “That it was going to be difficult was clear but with lesser injuries I think we can agree we could have easily had four or five points at least more,” Klopp said. “OK, we don’t play a brilliant season then but we are really around and fighting for the Champions League. That’s a normal season.”
Liverpool are 21 points behind Arsenal in the league, leaving the FA Cup and Champions League as their most likely sources of silverware this season. Progress in those competitions is reliant on getting past Brighton onSunday and Real Madrid in Europe – the first leg of their last-16 tie is on 21 February.
“If you look back 20 years at this team people will say: ‘What a time. Wow,’” Klopp said. “Will they talk about this season? So far we’ve not given them lots of reasons but we are still in two cup competitions and we’ll not give up in the league. Why should we? We have to make steps. There is a lot of games to play and we’ll be ready. But I can’t talk here like we’ve won them already so we have to fight, be positive and work hard and make the next step. Extend your good spells and be yourself much longer in a game. That’s what we will do and we’ll see where we end up.”