Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has challenged some of his star players, including Philippe Coutinho and Emre Can, to make improvements to their games after the Reds’ 0-0 draw with Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday.
Klopp’s first fixture in charge saw Liverpool battle hard for a point, but the team lacked the attacking spark required to get the better of a tenacious Spurs side. The German revealed afterward there is definite room for improvement among his players, per Dave Kidd of the Daily Mirror:
I'm not sure how many games you saw like this from Adam Lallana? What do you think? I know him since he was at Southampton and knew he can do 20 to 30 per cent more.
Philippe Coutinho? Do you not think he can play better football than that? Of course, he can. Lucas? You don't think he can play balls on the right and left? Of course he can. Emre Can? Learning between running and passing. He can learn. James Milner? The complete football player. The perfect professional. A machine.
Everything is there. ... We just have to create a situation where it's possible to do these things. There's pressure but not the biggest pressure, these guys are running for their life.
There was a renewed vigour to Liverpool’s play, even if ingenuity was scarce. The Reds pressed from the front, ratted around the Tottenham playmakers and sprung into action quickly when sequences broke down, whether reverting into a solid defensive shape or moving forward into dangerous positions.
As noted by Liverpool writer Tony Evans, there were definitely changes between Klopp’s side and that of his predecessor, Brendan Rodgers:
Coutinho and Can are two young players you suspect will be central to any success the German is going to have at Anfield.
The former struggled to get into the game on Saturday, and despite beginning the season with a bang with a stunning winner against Stoke City, he hasn’t been at his best in recent outings. Still, as noted by by Tom Williams of Agence France-Presse, there is little doubt Coutinho was buying into Klopp’s demand for hard work:
Can is someone who has shown flashes of class during his time at Liverpool but still needs a lot of refining. The Germany international is a quality operator with the ball at his feet and is adept at converting defence into attack with his surges forward from deep positions. Still, it’s unclear exactly where his best position is for the Reds.
Many feel it’s the central-midfield berth he occupied against Spurs on Saturday, and while he impressed there, some decision-making left a lot to be desired, as Klopp alluded. Still, B/R German football expert Clark Whitney thinks the former Bayer Leverkusen man will ultimately thrive under Klopp’s tutelage:
It’s tough to accurately gauge Liverpool’s performance. Klopp’s bespoke principles take plenty of time to implement appropriately, and once the Reds have a better fitness base, they’ll be a much greater threat on the field.
As we can see here, courtesy of Liverpool writer Viktor Fagerstrom, the players are clearly on board when it comes to the punishing style of play the former Borussia Dortmund boss wants to put in place:
Players such as Coutinho and Can will find increasingly defined roles in this system going forward. If these burgeoning players can add an industry off the ball to their intricacy and ingenuity on it, then Liverpool are going to become a much more rounded side. Naturally, the aforementioned pair will be much better players as a result too.
Coming in at this point of the campaign, when matches are coming thick and fast, isn’t really ideal for Klopp as he seeks to get his beliefs entrenched. Consequently, we may not see this Liverpool team’s full potential—or that of the star names aforementioned—until as late as 2016-17.