Jurgen Klopp admits he cannot take risks against Arsenal with team selection

By Sports Desk January 06, 2024

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp admits he cannot afford to take too many risks with his team selection for the FA Cup third round tie at Arsenal.

Even though his side are already just two matches away from Wembley with a Carabao Cup semi-final first-leg at home to Fulham on Wednesday the Reds boss said he could not make huge changes against the Gunners.

Three will be enforced with forward Mohamed Salah and Wataru Endo at the African Nations Cup and Asian Cup respectively while fellow midfielder Dominik Szoboszlai has been ruled out for at least two matches with a hamstring problem.

The return of Alexis Mac Allister, out for a month with a knee injury, and Ryan Gravenberch are likely to fill the gaps in the middle of the pitch but the troublesome spot is Salah’s right-wing berth.

Harvey Elliott played there in the League Cup quarter-final with West Ham and the 19-year-old Kaide Gordon did the job in the Europa League defeat to Union Saint Gilloise but it seems unlikely the teenager will be pitched straight in at the Emirates.

“If you bring a boy who didn’t play for five or six weeks, it’s very rare he can play to his best. That’s why so far I think we did that quite well,” said Klopp of his rotation policy this season.

“But actually I am not sure if Arsenal is now a game to rotate. I don’t know 100 percent if we have the opportunity to do so to be honest.

“We have players available and we can line a good team up. If that looks then afterwards like rotation, I don’t know yet.

“We’ve had six days between the games (since Newcastle on New Year’s Day) and there’s no need for rotation.

“You can say, ‘OK, three days later we have another game’. Yes, that’s true, but we can think about that when the other game is over. That’s what we do usually.

“And both have the same importance, there is nothing in between. We want to win these games, we want to go to the final but we want to go to the next round as well but it is probably the most tricky draw you can get.”

Liverpool recalled Owen Beck, nephew of all-time top goalscorer Ian Rush, from a loan spell at Dundee as both left-backs Andy Robertson and Kostas Tsimikas are injured, although the former is expected to be back by the end of the month.

The 21-year-old cannot feature against Arsenal due to an existing Scottish League Cup ban but should help to give Joe Gomez, standing in at left-back a break, with Klopp saying: “In Dundee he made big steps, and now the situation here is clear: we lose two of our left-backs so we think it makes sense if a boy we like is available for us.”

While December was busy Liverpool could have seven matches this month if they progress on Sunday.

And the nightmare scenario would be a draw which forces a replay and interrupts what should be the weekend of their scheduled Premier League break.

“I think a rematch against Arsenal would really not be helpful because it just doesn’t fit in, would kill the winter break,” added Klopp.

“We have the most busy month you can imagine in December and then some teams obviously don’t play that often in January. We don’t have that.

“For us it is a normal month: busy but not crazy busy like December where there were five games in 13 days. That just makes no sense, but that’s how it is.

“I think rhythm helps but in the end we will see that.”

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    Defeat to Crystal Palace last weekend saw Klopp’s side drop to third as Manchester City moved into a two-point lead at the top of the table.

    But with results faltering, the performance by Alexander-Arnold in the Europa League win over Atalanta, particularly in the first half, has offered renewed hope.

    The defender was making his first start since mid-February after a knee injury and, while Jota has yet to have the same impact in three relatively short substitute appearances after a similar two-month lay-off, the clinical nature of his game could offset some of the deficiencies currently being experienced by his fellow forwards.

    “We need Trent Alexander-Arnold, of course, but we need him in a really good shape and form and that’s what he has to get up to,” said Klopp ahead of the trip to Fulham.

    “It’s not about him and it’s not his fault if he wouldn’t be, it’s just the situation. So how quick can we get him rolling if you want – the same for Diogo.

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    Klopp remains positive about their chances despite recent failures and feels six wins could see them snatch the title from the grasp of their rivals.

    Although a Europa League exit on aggregate was disappointing there were positives to take from the game.

    Alexander-Arnold’s display, drifting infield to dictate play and even popping up in the centre-forward’s position on occasions in Bergamo, was one and a first clean sheet in 10 matches was another.

    With struggles up front continuing – Liverpool have scored only two goals in the opening 15 minutes in a league game this season – a more solid backline offers a better platform and that is why Klopp is optimistic.

    “I don’t have a lot of qualities but I am always completely honest. If I don’t feel great the players feel it pretty quickly,” he said.

    “I cannot really deny or just keep it under the carpet so that means after the game against Palace people ask ‘What do you tell the team now?’.

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    “The boys know that I don’t tell them things which I don’t believe in and I am 100 percent sure we can really win all of the games we will have to from now on.

    “What should influence us more: the last game, the last week or is it the chance in front of us?

    “I am fully (of the opinion) that there is a next chance for us and we can turn things absolutely around in all departments. We can make it still an outstanding season.

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    They had to come from behind as Stevenage went in front through a Sam Long own goal in the 32nd minute, Cameron Brannagan replying from the penalty spot on 58 minutes when Carl Piergianni fouled Ruben Rodrigues – though that appeared to have been outside the box.

    Buckingham said: “To play three games in six days is a big ask.

    “We had 26 shots but couldn’t get that second goal we needed.

    “There was a clear penalty not given in the first half, and for us that’s the second game in a row that one hasn’t been given when it should have been. It was a huge moment in the game, and very frustrating.

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    “When we looked to rearrange the Lincoln game we chose this week because it was a free week, then Sky told us they wanted to bring this Stevenage one forward and show it on the Friday night which meant three games in six days.

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    Stevenage had lost manager Steve Evans in the week, with Evans heading north to become Rotherham boss.

    Caretaker boss Alex Revell said: “Steve always had two clubs very much in his heart – this one and Rotherham. Believe me, making the decision was probably the hardest thing he’s had to do, he said.

    “I wanted to take today and make the players ready. I really enjoyed it because they gave everything.

    “I’m very proud of what the lads did tonight.

    “We had a great day yesterday in terms of training and getting ready and trying to get a few bits into them.

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    They are still in contention to retain two of the three trophies they won last season, holding a two-point lead over Arsenal and Liverpool in the Premier League title race in addition to Saturday’s meeting with Pochettino’s side as they seek a third FA Cup triumph in six seasons.

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    Jurgen Klopp’s side triumphed in extra time despite finishing the game with four highly inexperienced academy graduates aged 21 or under on the pitch.

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    “We are not looking for heroes,” said Pochettino.

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