Klopp: I’m not sure I will stop thinking about football – even in my sleep!

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The 49-year-old consumes all the football he can, impatiently counts down to half-time, and believes in allowing his players freedom on the pitch.

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Liverpool’s relentlessness in and out of possession may as well be a mirror to Jurgen Klopp’s unabated thirst for the game.

Long before he arrives at Melwood and well after he leaves the training complex, where the underpinning of the Premier League’s pacesetters is constructed, the German’s mind is transfixed on football.

Forever formulating solutions to the obstructions he anticipates his players – the division’s highest scorers, top passers, and entertainers supreme – will face on any matchday, Klopp then tunes in when conventional wisdom suggests he should tune out.

“I think a lot about football, I can’t measure it – I don’t know when I stop,” he tells Goal in an exclusive.

“I’m not sure that I stop even when I sleep! I watch football a lot, too.

“It’s not so easy, by the way, watching football in England. In each country in the world you can watch more Premier League games than in England, after one year here, I now know this.

“I watch a lot games from international leagues, because we have time this year to do it more.

“I also like the Championship – it’s really competitive with good football and good spirit in the teams, that’s cool.

“I watch Bundesliga of course, not too much anymore actually, but I keep up.

“That sounds really sad, but my life is full of football!”

Often, it is in the first half of matches when the mechanics of Klopp’s mind is most agitated.
Before an encounter, Liverpool prepare for what they assume will happen. During the interval, they have the opportunity to tweak their approach based on what’s actually happening.

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Time can’t tick any quicker on the touchline for one of the most animated tacticians around, who revels in the opportunity to adjust a gameplan accordingly.

“Sometimes I’m really waiting for half time. It’s like ‘come on four minutes, five minutes to go,’ so we can fix things,” Klopp explains.

“The break is a very important time. I give the players first the opportunity to breathe, to drink and the medical staff checks if they are all alright.

“Then we watch a few situations from the first half, only when they are really clear for our message we use them. If not, we don’t and I talk to the players.

“I really like it because it’s a very important situation. For example: you are 2-0 in the lead and everybody knows 2-0 doesn’t decide the game at half time, but actually sometimes it feels like it.

“So it’s a real challenge to stay concentrated, to stay awake, to do the right things, to keep on going and all that stuff.

“Or being only 1-0 down, which is a completely different situation and there’s so many to work through. I think I’ve had them all at one time – being behind, being in the lead all that stuff, so I like to find the solutions.”

Automatic improvement does not always follow the words in the dressing room during interludes. Klopp is honest enough to admit he felt his address at St Jakob-Park during the Europa League final last season was one of his finest.
Liverpool had been 1-0 up against Sevilla, before the Liga side thrice stung them in the 30 minutes after half-time. That is one example of why the 49-year-old prefers his team to have freedom on the pitch rather than rigid directives.

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“I don’t have a 100 per cent record, for example, I thought one of my best half-time speeches was in Basel!

“There’s no secret, nobody knows exactly how it works, but that’s how it is.

“We can only give the boys help, this is what I always say – we can give them advice, we can give them a few rules, we can give them opportunities, possibilities, all that stuff, but then they decide what they take, and when.

“It makes sense that we do the things together, it makes sense that we have good timing, it makes sense that we are really tuned as a team, but they have to decide and they need to feel free.

“If they always play a not so good pass, look at me and wonder ‘what is he thinking?’ that’s not right. They all know already that it was not to good, so I can say ‘yeah, it was no good,’ but it makes no sense when it’s obvious. So the message is to stay in the game, to do it again, to try everything.”

When an error occurs, Klopp prefers collective rectification rather than resignation, as was the case in the 4-2 victory against Crystal Palace and the 2-1 win at Swansea.

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“Really we want results, that’s what we’ve decided for us. We are patient enough to accept our mistakes just as long as we don’t allow these mistakes to define us. So we want to fight, we want to strike back, we want to fight against it.

“If your team-mate makes a mistake – help him. If we’ve made a mistake, if we’ve conceded a goal after a set-piece or whenever – let’s strike back.

“We were 1-0 down at Swansea and wanted to do that. We thought ‘okay, it’s not a perfect game today, but no problem, it should be possible to get a result.’

“That’s what we’ve done until now, and it only works when we feel this support from outside, because it’s something like a ‘soft’ factor, but it’s a factor of outstanding importance.

“When you walk around the stadium, when you walk around Liverpool, you feel this positive atmosphere.

“It’s like, ‘hmm, even the weather is not so bad!’ It’s really good to use this to stay on track and to stay strong and greedy in this situation, which is another challenge.”

Things are always tougher at the top of England’s premier tier, but Klopp is a subscriber to the theory that nothing worth having is easily attainted, which is why Liverpool’s seat at the summit has largely been fuelled by tirelessness.

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