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Jurgen Klopp Tells Philippe Coutinho, Emre Can, Liverpool Stars They Can Improve

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistOctober 19, 2015

Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp applauds fans during the English Premier League soccer match between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool at the White Hart Lane, London, England, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)
Rui Vieira/Associated Press

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.

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 17:  Jurgen Klopp manager of Liverpool during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool at White Hart Lane on October 17, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images)
Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images

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:

Tony Evans @TonyEvans92a

Ah, the way LFC used to win the passing under Rodgers, they're winning the running under Klopp 😀 But a fair few positives today

Coutinho and Can are two young players you suspect will be central to any success the German is going to have at Anfield.

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STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - AUGUST 09:  Philippe Coutinho of Liverpool (10) celebrates with team mates Martin Skrtel and Emre Can as he scores their first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and Liverpool at Brittania Stadium on
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

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:

Tom Williams @tomwfootball

Philippe Coutinho gritting his teeth and actually sprinting to close down Kyle Walker. The Klopp Effect.

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.

Can was one of Liverpool's best performers against Spurs.
Can was one of Liverpool's best performers against Spurs.Michael Regan/Getty Images

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:

Clark Whitney @Mr_Bundesliga

Remember when Emre Can was said to lack stamina to play in MF for > 45 mins? Boss today - definitely has the athleticism for Klopp's system

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:

Viktor Fagerström @ViktorFagerLFC

Liverpool's distance covered and total sprints this season. Both the highest in Klopp's first game. #LFC http://t.co/KWuWv53thK

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.

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