Liverpool’s Juergen Klopp shrugs stagnation talks; Mikel Arteta wants his team to shed fears

There is an accident of numbers Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is wary of. In both his previous stints as managers, withMainz 05 as well as Borussia Dortmund, he has lasted only seven years. This season, coincidentally, is his seventh with Liverpool, and talks of the German not progressing to his eighth year at Anfield has gathered heft after Liverpool abysmal start this season—seven games into the season, Liverpool find themselves on the 10th spot with 10 points, 13 points adrift of table-toppers Manchester City and 11 beneath Arsenal, who they tilt lances on Sunday.

But Klopp, with his characteristic dryness, stubbed out whispers of stagnation. “I can understand that I left after seven years [previously] and now we are in a difficult situation and people take that [view] but, if you think twice about it, you realise the situation is completely different,” he said.

He, though, agreed that it has been a difficult time, wherein his side has lost one and drawn four games, the last, a thrilling 3-3 draw against Brighton. “Yes, it’s a difficult time. Did I think before the season we would be ninth after match-day seven? No, because I don’t think about these things. But this is the basis now, let’s go from here,” he said

Unusual problems have crept in—Virgil van Dijk, the impenetrable defensive wall, has cracked, often caught out of position and beaten by pace; full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold has been woefully erratic, though he showed glimpses of reigniting his spark against Rangers in the Champions League; upfront, Mohammad Salah, a Golden Boot winner in three of his five seasons at the club, has been bewilderingly quiet, looked ragged an clumsy at times, and has scored just twice this season. But Klopp sprung to the forward’s defence; “You can say whatever you want about Mo and is it his season so far? No, like for all of us. But even when the goalscoring numbers are not that crazy [for Salah] how often he is involved? He wants to score goals, definitely, desperately, 100% that never changed. Call him in 20 years and it will be the same, definitely.”

Arsenal's manager Mikel Arteta Arsenal’s manager Mikel Arteta gestures during the Europa League group A soccer match between Bodo/Glimt and Arsenal, in London, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

Oftentimes, the Egyptian has missed Sadio Mane’s industry at the opposite flank; Diogo Jota is injured and Darwin Nunez is being reintegrated into the side after the red card incident involving a head-butt. The midfield too has been more like a rumbling truck than a purring Rolls Royce, with Thiago Alcantara spending more time on the surgeon’s table than on the field.

But the ever-buoyant Klopp is still hopeful of turning the season around. “We have the chance to create something really special from this point,” he said. “Does it look at the moment like we will be champions at the end of the year? Unfortunately not. But in all other competitions, we are not out yet and nobody knows where we will end up in the league, so let’s give it a go. Difficult? Yes. Impossible? No. That’s enough.”

In total contrast, Arsenal have been riding a rich vein of form, and though these are still early days in the season, title talks are assuming heft, for the first time since peak Arsene Wenger days. There is a resounding belief at the Emirates that they could dream of their first league title since the invincible season. Beating Liverpool would be a powerful statement of their title-winning adequacies. Explained manager Mikel Arteta: “One hundred per cent. The moment you get momentum and you are on a good run, and you can leave an opponent as far [behind] as possible, psychologically also it is very important.”

“Fear is the worst enemy, especially against the top teams, because this is what they use a lot of the time just to win football matches. You cannot go with any of that into Sunday’s game. To win those matches you really need to believe you can go there, win and compete against those teams and if you don’t have that component then you have fear,” he added.

There though is a stat that Arteta’s team would want to bury at the earliest—Arsenal have not scored against Liverpool in their last six meetings across all competitions. That certainly looks destined to end this Sunday.

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