Jurgen Klopp admits Liverpool were in “crisis” this season but they have come through it and will be better in the future as a result.
The Reds were challenging for the quadruple last season yet have not come close to a trophy this term – dumped out of the EFL Cup and FA Cup in the fourth round before losing in the Champions League last 16.
Liverpool’s hopes of finishing in the Premier League’s top four are also slim, although they are still alive thanks to a seven-game unbeaten run, including five consecutive wins, which has seen them turn a corner ahead of Saturday’s meeting with Brentford, live on Sky Sports.
“It is, was, a very difficult season for us, that’s the truth,” Klopp exclusively told Sky Sports. “Of course, we all feel better now after winning a few games, it’s the biggest mood changer in the world of football.
“I’m still looking forward to a new season, that’s true, that hasn’t changed. We have the information we wanted to have, how the boys go through situations like that. You can always take something out of difficult periods and that’s what we did.
“The way you behave in a crisis defines what you will be after the crisis. I thought we went through okay, nothing between me and the players, the club, nothing. We knew we are responsible for it but we have to solve it together.
“The main difference here is in a lot of other clubs, the manager would have been sent away. That’s not cool but on the other hand, you don’t have to go through it for that long!
“We’re happy we went through it so now we’re on the other side of the tunnel and now we have to keep going to get something out of this season.”
Liverpool were hampered by a short pre-season on the back of a gruelling 63-game campaign which was then followed by a series of injuries.
The team’s midfield, a crucial aspect of their past success, has not functioned in the same fashion, while the departure of Sadio Mane has been felt due to a serious injury to his direct replacement Luis Diaz.
Klopp believes his calm approach away from the touchline has helped the club get back on the right track.
“I make mistakes, obviously, it’s clear. In football, I know after 90 minutes most of the time if my line-up was right, if that decision was right,” he said. “Everyone knows after 90 minutes but the difference is the people don’t know the reasons for why I made my decisions. As long as I’m fine with that, it’s absolutely okay.
“Of course, you question pretty much everything. That’s very important in lesser-good times that you question the right things. That’s a completely normal human thing. People go out there and say, ‘We have to change this and that, and last year in pre-season it was that, and we cannot do that anymore’.
“Wait, wait we did that two years ago in pre-season, it’s not about that, there are other reasons for our bad spell and I’m pretty good at that because I stay calm. I know it’s not really funny when you see me on the touchline, I get that, but left and right of the games, I’m a pretty calm and thoughtful person. I learned early to deal with setbacks, difficult moments in life and football.”
‘I’ve watched more football than 99.9 per cent of the planet’
But how does Klopp maintain his self-belief in what he is doing at Liverpool?
“It’s experience. I know my highs, I know the lows I had in my career. I know when I look back some are hard to explain, some not because hitting the post is not really hard to explain, but makes a massive difference,” he said.
“I know my craft, I know what to do with it. That doesn’t mean I always have the solution but I don’t doubt that. The game is not rocket science. It’s football, the pitch size hasn’t changed since I’ve been in the game and a lot of other things.
“I’ve watched more football than 99.9 per cent of the population on this planet so if I didn’t understand it would be really tricky. It’s just experience. Things can happen and you want to minimise the time you go through bad spells. This year we struggled with that slightly.”
The visit of European hopefuls Brentford is another must-win game if Liverpool are to gatecrash the top four. Nonetheless, Klopp sees plenty of potential in his evolving squad ahead of next season.
“The potential is obvious,” he said. “We all live pretty good off the fact that everybody is interested in football and has an opinion. We all know if we make decisions after a bad defeat, that would just not be right. All of a sudden, everyone is ‘too old’ in the squad apart from Stefan Bajcetic, probably. You have to calm these things down.
“I see them in training, yes I saw a lot of bad sessions as well but not from an attitude point of view, just from a confidence point of view, from a clicking point of view. I see all the other things as well.
“I love this team, honestly. It’s a really good group. Yes, we will change slightly, but the basis is absolutely great. Age-wise the basis is great, up front, last line, in midfield we have super young talents as well and there’s everything there you need to have a really positive and optimistic view of it.”
Watch Liverpool vs Brentford on Saturday Night Football, live on Sky Sports Premier League from 5pm; kick-off 5.30pm
May 6: Brentford (H) – Premier League, kick-off 5.30pm, live on Sky Sports
May 13: Leicester (A) – Premier League, kick-off 3pm
May 20: Aston Villa (H) – Premier League, kick-off 3pm
May 28: Southampton (A) – Premier League, kick-off 4.30pm