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

There is a numbers accident that Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp is wary of. In his two previous positions as a coach, both at Mainz 05 and at Borussia Dortmund, he only lasted seven years. Coincidentally, this season is his seventh with Liverpool and talks of the German not making it to his eighth year at Anfield have gained traction following Liverpool’s miserable start this season – after seven games into the season Liverpool are finding themselves in 10th place again with 10 points, 13 points behind leaders Manchester City and 11 below Arsenal, whom they tip lances on Sunday.

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

However, he agreed it has been a difficult period as his side have lost one game and drawn four games, the last a thrilling 3-3 draw against Brighton. “Yes, it is a difficult time. Before the season, did I think we were ninth after the seventh matchday? No, because I don’t think about these things. But that’s the basis now, let’s go from here,” he said

Unusual problems have crept in – Virgil van Dijk, the impenetrable defensive wall, has broken, often being out of position and beaten by the pace; Full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold was woefully unpredictable despite rekindling the spark in the Champions League against Rangers; Mohammad Salah, winner of the Golden Boot in three of his five seasons at the club, was bewilderingly calm, appearing ragged and clumsy at times, and has scored just two goals this season. But Klopp jumped into the striker’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 it comes to the number of goals, the number of goals isn’t that crazy [for Salah] How often is he there? He really wants to score goals, absolutely, 100%, that has never changed. Call him in 20 years and it will definitely be the same.”

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

Often the Egyptian has overlooked the diligence of Sadio Mane on the opposite flank; Diogo Jota is injured and Darwin Nunez is reintegrated into the squad after the red card incident involving a headbutt. The midfield was also more like a rumbling truck than a purring Rolls Royce, with Thiago Alcantara spending more time on the operating table than on the field.

But the ever-vibrant Klopp is still hoping to turn the season around. “We have the chance to create something very special here,” he said. “Right now does it look like we’ll be champions at the end of the year? Unfortunately not. But in all other competitions we are not out yet and no one knows where we will end up in the league so let’s try. Difficult? Yes. Impossible? no That’s enough.”

In stark contrast, Arsenal have ridden a bounty of form and while this is still early in the season, title talks are gaining traction for the first time since Arsene Wenger’s prime days. There is a pervasive belief among the Emirates that they could be dreaming of their first league title since the unbeatable season. Beating Liverpool would be a strong statement of their suitability as title winners. Explained manager Mikel Arteta: “One hundred percent. The moment you gain momentum and have a good run, you can let an opponent go that far [behind] as possible, also psychologically it is very important.”

“Fear is the worst enemy, especially against the top teams because they spend a lot of time just winning football games. You can’t go into the game with that on Sunday. To win those games, you have to really believe that you can go there, win and compete against those teams, and if you don’t have that component, you’re scared,” he added.

However, there is one statistic Arteta’s team would like to bury first – Arsenal have not scored against Liverpool in their last six meetings in all competitions. That certainly looks destined to end this Sunday.

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