Liverpool have lost three games in the past two seasons in the Premier League, but as the most recent defeat was by four goals, it has already been suggested that the new champions are enjoying their title too much.
Jürgen Klopp has heard this before. Not in Merseyside, where he won his first title since 1990, but in Germany, where he followed his unexpected Bundesliga title with Borussia Dortmund in 2011, with an even more unlikely retention a year later. “We didn’t do anything different in the second season, all we did was keep training hard and trying to keep improving,” said the Liverpool coach.
“We didn’t expect to win the league again and we didn’t start the season very well. We lost three times in our first six games and the media was leaving with all the rubbish ever, we had lost focus, we were still celebrating.
“So we were a little lucky in a game against Mainz. We won with a very misaligned goal and, from there, we never look back. We ended up setting a lot of Bundesliga records this season [81 points was the highest total, a 28-match unbeaten run, the longest by a Bundesliga side in a single season], so we found out that we were still a good team. Critics were wrong.
Klopp is not necessarily anticipating the same thing that will happen to Liverpool next season, although he is aware that the remainder of this season will attract scrutiny after Thursday’s defeat against Manchester City.
“The circumstances were a little strange,” he said. “Right after winning the league, we had to play one of the best teams in the world. They had nothing to lose, we had nothing to gain. We had no right to expect to win after scoring four goals, but we had three chances to score what we normally would have done.
“I try not to worry too much about things that I can’t change, and I certainly can’t change City’s result now, I can only try to use it for the next game.”
Klopp made a generous assessment of his City colleague on Saturday at the BBC Premier League breakfast, Robbie Savage. “I respect what he’s doing. When we meet, I want to beat him. But I have absolutely no problem admitting my 100% honest opinion that he is the best manager of our time. This is not a problem for me. I fight so often against Pep Guardiola teams. I don’t know how many years … about four, three in Germany. I wasn’t even close to Pep Guardiola’s teams, so I had a different path to reach this battle. “
Aston Villa is the visitor to Anfield on Sunday afternoon, and although they are separated from City for almost the entire length of the league, Klopp not only has a vivid reminder of the Villa Park scare in November, when Andy Robertson and Sadio Mané transformed a probable defeat into a victory, a fundamental result. “The guys on this team are exceptional characters, and that was one of the games that demonstrated that,” he said.
“There is still a lot to play for this season without thinking about the next and I am confident that these boys will go again. I don’t need to know if my players are ready for the next challenge, I can see it in their eyes. “