Jurgen Klopp has admitted that he is under pressure to secure Liverpool’s first trophy in seven years and is braced to deal with the expectation.
Fenway Sports Group, Liverpool’s owners, have shown their ambition this summer. They have backed Klopp’s judgment in the transfer market and four players have arrived for a combined £175million. The squad has not had such depth since Liverpool won three cups in 2001.
It has taken time for the club to get back to a position of strength but that outlay, on top of the lucrative new contracts that Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino have signed, mean Liverpool have no excuses and Klopp is well aware of what that means for him. Liverpool have contested three finals since Klopp arrived in 2015 and lost them all.
Their last success was in the 2012 League Cup final against Cardiff and the German manager recognises he has a duty to change things for the better. For that reason, he has vowed to attack every competition, although his priority is leading Liverpool to the Premier League title.
‘You are right – people will say that (we have to win something),’ said Klopp. ‘It is the next step and we need to be ready for that. I cannot give guarantees here but I understand if people think that. I know about the expectations and that is completely normal. First of all we have to play the football that gives us an opportunity to win something. We cannot talk about winning something before we start the season. I am confident we can build on last season.
‘We have to reach the level of last year, which was quite good, and make the next steps. We have to create circumstances where we can be more consistent. We expect more from ourselves. We will go again for the championship and each kind of cup but that does not mean I can sit here and we will get it. We have the highest ambitions – 100 per cent.’
So, too, do Manchester City and Manchester United, who Liverpool will face in the final games of their US tour. Klopp sees last season’s champions City as favourites for the title again and expects United boss Jose Mourinho to be active in the final two weeks of the window to strengthen his hand.
‘Other teams, of course, will do transfer business as well,’ said Klopp. ‘They will not be weaker than last year. City have brought in Riyad Mahrez. I didn’t hear they lost one player so far. So it means the quality of last year plus Mahrez. That’s a nice plan! United will go for it too. That’s completely normal.’ What is also normal is the rising pressure on Klopp.
He knows critics will be lining up should Liverpool wobble at any stage and it is how they deal with the difficult moments that will determine what they can achieve. In each of Klopp’s three campaigns, there were periods when Liverpool lost their way and it is entirely possible that they will take some time to hit their stride, given that seven of Klopp’s first-choice team are yet to train properly this summer.
‘I don’t want to prepare anyone for a bad start because I don’t want to have one, but it is possible,’ Klopp warned. I cannot ignore that completely. I am in for the start of a third season and in each season there was one period when people questioned me or our progress. In the end it was OK. I am prepared for these moments. I don’t want to have them but I don’t go nuts in those moments and think we have lost everything. Our new players will make us stronger, 100 per cent. But it will not happen from the first day.’