Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp voiced hope that his team’s 2-0 defeat at Newcastle United would puncture some of the giddiness engendered by their recent resurgence.
Liverpool were elevated to potential Premier League champions by some observers following a run of seven wins in eight games in all competitions, which saw them move to within sight of the Champions League places.
But Sunday’s defeat, inflicted by a Martin Skrtel own goal and a late Georginio Wijnaldum strike, left them six points off the top four in seventh place and Klopp said it was a timely reminder of the improvements that his team still have to make.
“If you think after a few weeks everything is perfect, it’s a little bit crazy, no?” the German told his post-match press conference.
On suggestions that his team had played their way into the title picture, he gestured to the journalists sitting in front of him and said: “Everybody on this side of the table, maybe.
“I didn’t hear anybody on this side (his side) of the table talk about this.
“I have no problem with everything you can talk about, but please don’t ask me because of this. I didn’t say before, so why should I explain now why we are not?
“We feel this defeat. We know it’s deserved, but it hurts, like it should.”
The key, Klopp said, was “not going nuts when you win, not getting crazy when you lose”.
“It’s not a reality check,” he added. “It’s only a bad game.”
Liverpool had won 6-1 at Southampton in the League Cup on Wednesday, but a side showing six changes toiled badly at St James’ Park, registering only one attempt on target.
Wijnaldum’s shot was turned in for an own goal by Skrtel in the 69th minute and with the visitors pushing for an equaliser, Moussa Sissoko freed Wijnaldum to loft a sweet finish over Simon Mignolet in added time.
– ‘Lightbulb moment’ –
Klopp was frustrated that Alberto Moreno had seen a lobbed effort chalked off for a questionable offside call at 1-0 — he called it a “world-class goal” — but he also found a partial explanation for his side’s disappointing display in the failure of their high press.
Asked what had gone wrong, he replied: “Nearly everything. The start, the middle and the end.
“Open game, with no rhythm from our side. Our defending in the last line was good. Our midfield pressing was not good. I couldn’t see offensive pressing.”
Where Klopp has been praised to the rafters in recent weeks, his Newcastle counterpart Steve McClaren has had nothing but bad press after seeing his side slip into the relegation zone.
They remain in the bottom three, on goal difference, but McClaren expressed optimism that his side’s performance would prove a “lightbulb moment” in their season.
Newcastle had lost 3-0 at home to Leicester City and 5-1 at Crystal Palace on their two previous outings, prompting speculation that McClaren’s position was in peril.
He cracked a joke when asked to confirm reports that he had contemplated leaving out Wijnaldum, replying: “I considered leaving out every one of them.”
Instead, he made only one change to the team humiliated by Palace, Siem de Jong taking the place of Ayoze Perez, and said the upturn in performance proved that Newcastle already possess all the raw materials they need to get themselves out of their current predicament.
“We’ve had a tough week in terms of that, looking at various things, changing the team and changing personnel,” said the former England manager.
“We just said, look, that team that started more or less the last six, seven games — before the last two — were collecting points and playing well.
“And it was just a case of people working hard, outrunning opponents, winning your duels, being competitive.
“We’ve pointed out why we lost the last two games and we gave everybody an opportunity to put that right. They’ve done that.” – Agence France-Presse