Jurgen Klopp claims the best way to defend a title is to attack the next one, writes Andy Hampson
Liverpool’s charismatic German boss wants his side to hit the new Premier League campaign at full throttle when it begins later today, Saturday 12th September.
The Reds ended a 30-year wait for the title last season after an outstanding campaign in which they clocked up 32 wins and 99 points.
Topping that would be a remarkable achievement but Klopp feels that is the aim his players must have.
He feels they showed that mentality last year after accumulating 97 points and winning the Champions League in 2018-19 and he wants to see the same again.
“We will not try to defend it, we will try to attack the next one,” said the German, whose side suffered a recent blip in the form of a penalty shootout defeat to FA Cup winners Arsenal during the Community Shield two weeks ago.
However, this has not changed Klopp’s plans for the new season, which will see his side begin their new campaign in a much-anticipated showdown with Leeds United, a team that will want to mark their return to the Premier League after a 16-year absence from English football’s top division by making a name for themselves against the current champions.
“That’s the truth, you don’t change your approach. That is what we always did and there is no reason for changing it,” said Klopp.
“Motivation will not be our problem. I know this team will not stop trying.
“I don’t expect everything to happen for me, I never expected it, but I expect we will give absolutely everything and I expect the boys to do that as well.”
Liverpool will have to deal with the tag of being champions, which could provide opponents with extra motivation, but Klopp feels he is well used to dealing with that anyway.
He said: “When I came here I was really surprised how much a game against Liverpool means to other teams, even when we were not considered as Liverpool of the past, like seventh or eighth in the league.
“When we arrived at the stadium I thought, ‘Wow, they really have a proper go for it’.
“That has never changed, so I am not sure we can have a bigger target on our back than we already had last season.
“Everybody wanted to beat us, obviously, for a good reason. (Although) not so many could do it, I don’t think that will change.
“If we think because we are champions they want to beat us even more, then we have already lost a few per cent of our approach, mood, attitude and all that stuff. I am not ready for that.”
The season has a disjointed start for Liverpool, beginning only five weeks after they wrapped up their last, glorious, campaign. They have been back in training just a fortnight and, after their Community Shield defeat, their preparations are being further disrupted by the loss of a number of players due to international duty.
In light of the current situation regarding the coronavirus and international travel, Klopp admits he is concerned, even if fully trusting of national associations.
He said: “I don’t want to use the word ‘worried’ and see this in a headline. I know everybody tries their best to keep the boys safe but if a 16-year-old goes – a first time out – even when it is a good guy you are slightly concerned.
“I would like to keep them here, not for training, just because we know what we do but I am really sure all the FAs will try to make sure the boys are in a safe place.”