Keita & Fabinho will be praised like Ox next season – Klopp defends under-fire midfield
Posted On March 22, 2019
Midfield questions surround the Reds after their 2-1 defeat to Paris Saint-Germain but their manager believes it is unit in development
Jurgen Klopp believes his midfield is still developing and is confident in a year people will talk about Naby Keita and Fabinho as positively as they discuss Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Liverpool’s midfield came under scrutiny once again in Wednesday’s 2-1 Champions League defeat to Paris Saint-Germain, which puts the Reds on the verge of elimination from the competition.
Though Liverpool remain undefeated in the Premier League and just two points off also undefeated Manchester City, the vaunted attacking trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino have failed to hit the highs of last season and the creativity from Klopp’s midfield has been assigned part of the blame.
Though the German accepts that his midfield hasn’t been as productive as some he’s had in the past, he thinks that is part of an ongoing process of development, which began with his side showing the defensive resilience they have been long accused of lacking.
“Yes, in specific games we can say that [the attack and midfield are not linking],” Klopp told reporters ahead of this weekend’s Merseyside derby. “But to be honest for me it is quite strange.
“When everything is brilliant and we score goals you always ask about defending and how can we fix that?
“We fixed that, kind of, and it always happens that the first step is it costs you a bit of fluency and creativity. That is a completely normal thing.
“If someone would think about it for one second they would see it is clear, it is logical.
“Now, when we fix that, I can’t say in the first moment to the boys: ‘But that’s not enough offensively’. That would be crazy. We still have to develop, that’s what we do.”
Klopp downplayed the impact that there is a simple answer for Liverpool on the transfer market or internally that can speed up the process – a process he thinks the club already have the players on hand to complete.
“Bringing one player in would change everything? That is bulls*** and you all know that. One player doesn’t change everything.
“We have the players for it. We have to win football games. Really, with all the things I saw in this country football-wise, if people cannot enjoy our football then I really can’t help them.
“There were a few games last season, when we were really flying and the opponent collapsed like Watford here, then we had the big games like Roma and Man City, where were these games in the league?
“But I get constantly confronted with the question – something is missing. What’s that?
“Of course it could be better but it is not because of one player. We are creative. I don’t know how many goals we’ve scored but we’ve had many more chances.
“Creating is not a problem. You could say finishing the problem, whatever you want.
“In the end, in the games we won we were always the better side. That’s pretty rare. Not one lucky game when it was ‘wow, how did that happen?’
“I get that you have to write about things, no problem, but write it and don’t ask me about it because I’m not interested about it, I don’t think about it and I can’t answer it.
“I don’t tell my boys to do one thing and then tell them publicly to do another thing.
One player who Liverpool do lack is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who is sidelined for potentially all of the campaign after having surgery to repair a ligament in his knee.
While his loss was expected to be felt, there was hope that new additions Keita and Fabinho would mitigate that by increasing the depth and quality of the midfield.
That has not happened yet, as both players have struggled to make an impact at Anfield.
Klopp however, believes the injured midfielder is proof players can be judged too quickly by the media after making a move, noting that last season at this time Oxlade-Chamberlain’s big money move to Liverpool was being criticised as he had yet to make his presence felt at the club.
“I get that,” Klopp said when discussing the emphasis on the midfield because of the £90 million ($115m) spent on the pair this summer.
“Same time next year we will all talk Naby and Fabinho like we talked last year about Oxlade.
“In the beginning, it was not there and we always asked ‘what about Oxlade-Chamberlain?’ Maybe you did not ask that much because nobody expected that much, they thought he was too expensive, then he came back and he was ready.
“I get it, 100 per cent. But that’s really not our problem.”