Peoples Digest Online- “Only the game, yes?” Jürgen Klopp teased, all mock earnestness before Liverpool’s visit to the Etihad. “The transfer window is now closed and Philippe Coutinho is still with us, so the only thing to talk about must be Manchester City.”
There was little chance of that. The Liverpool manager would have been entitled to do a lap of honour of the Melwood press room after keeping Coutinho out of Barcelona’s clutches and pinching Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain from under Chelsea’s noses on the last day of the transfer window, yet perhaps his greatest source of pride is that Liverpool can go to Manchester without feeling the need to rush either of his “two new players” into action.
“Philippe loves football and he still loves this club,” Klopp said. “We could have put him in the squad to play at City but we both agreed it was probably better to wait and do a few more full-intensity training sessions. The same applies to Alex. He has had time for only one full session with us and obviously we play in a different way from what he has been used to at Arsenal. I cannot pretend we had the easiest of times in the transfer window but I thought we handled a difficult situation [with Coutinho] really well. Nothing happened that I am aware of that was unforgivable – it was a normal thing and now we have to move on.”
Klopp is likely to name a similar team at City to the one that beat Arsenal a fortnight ago, though he knows someone will have to make way for Coutinho at some point and does not see any problem with resentment within the dressing room. “Most of them have been friends for several years and of course everyone understands that, if a club like Barcelona is around, then things are a little different,” he said. “Nobody is going to say: ‘Are you crazy, what do you want to go there for?’ Everyone understands the situation.
“It’s not like he wanted to go to Everton. It was a difficult time for a while but now its over. The window is closed and personally speaking I am happy it will close a little earlier next season. Every manager feels the same way about this – we all want to start the season with a full set of players.”
Liverpool might have missed out on Virgil van Dijk but Oxlade-Chamberlain was not the only transfer coup of the summer. Naby Keïta’s future was settled too, even if the midfielder will be arriving only after a further season with RB Leipzig. Liverpool managed to secure the services of a 22-year-old regarded as one of the best players in the Bundesliga and, according to Klopp, the subject of whether the club can promise Champions League football next season did not even arise.
“All the players we were allowed to speak to were really positive about joining the club and it is more about the project than the Champions League,” he said. “Naby, for example, has no idea whether or not we play Champions League next year because in England it is always difficult to be sure. He did not ask for one second about this, he just wanted to be part of the club. With Ox it was quite similar. He just wants to develop as a player and with all his talent and skills he has space to do that. What I like about him is that he can play in several positions and is good in small spaces as well as being able to run into the big ones.
“People have said we lack creativity at times but I don’t think that has been the problem. What we have been short of is players making runs into the box. Everybody would be involved in the build-up but often there was nobody there at the finish. That is what we have tried to address and I think now we have a few more options. From the squad we had two weeks ago we are plus two in Ox and Phil. Not everyone can play in every match and there will be hard decisions to make at times, but even quality players know this is the way it has to be.”