Liverpool have lost three games in the last two seasons of the Premier League, but since the most recent defeat has been four goals, it has already been suggested that the new champions have enjoyed a little too much of the success of their title.
Jürgen Klopp has already heard everything before. Not in Merseyside, where he has just delivered the first title since 1990, but in his native 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 season two, all we did was keep on training hard and trying to keep improving,” said the manager of Liverpool.
“We didn’t expect to win the championship again and we didn’t start the season too well. We lost three times in our first six games and the media were going out with all the usual rubbish, we had lost focus, we were still celebrating.
“Then we had some luck in a game against Mainz. We won with a really scruffy goal and since then we have never looked back. We ended up breaking many Bundesliga records that season [81 points was the highest total, a 28-match unbeaten run, the longest by a Bundesliga side in a single season]so in the end we were still a good team. The critics had been wrong. “
Klopp isn’t necessarily anticipating that the same thing will happen to Liverpool next season, although he is aware that the rest of this season will attract close scrutiny after Manchester City’s defeat on Thursday.
“The circumstances were a little strange,” he said. “Immediately after winning the championship we had to play one of the best teams in the world. They had nothing to lose, we had nothing to win. We didn’t have the right to expect to win after scoring four goals, but we had three chances to score that we normally would have taken.
“I try not to worry too much about the things I can’t change, and I certainly can’t change the result of the City now, I can only try to use it for the next game.”
Klopp provided a generous evaluation of his counterpart City Saturday on 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 of being the best manager of our time. That’s not a problem for me. I have fought so often against Pep Guardiola’s 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 that battle. “
Aston Villa is the visitor to Anfield on Sunday afternoon and, although they are separated from the City for almost the length of the league, Klopp not only has a vivid memory of the scare at Villa Park in November when the late goals from Andy Robertson and Sadio Mané turned a probable defeat into victory, a key achievement. “The guys on this team are exceptional characters, and it was one of the games to prove it,” he said.
“There is still a lot to play this season without thinking about the next one and I’m sure these guys will return. I don’t have to tell myself if my players are ready for the next challenge, I can see it in their eyes. “