Jürgen Klopp feels Liverpool have been sucked into a whirlwind this season that has blown their Premier League and Champions League aspirations off course.
Liverpool are without a win in four matches going into Sunday’s visit of the league leaders, Arsenal, and 10 points adrift of fourth-placed Manchester United with 10 games remaining.
Only in Klopp’s debut season, when he replaced Brendan Rodgers in October, have Liverpool failed to finish in the top four.
The Liverpool manager has refused to rule out a belated push for Champions League qualification but admits he and his players have been caught out by the extent of their drop-off since last season’s pursuit of the quadruple.
Klopp said: “With smart recruitment we will improve [next season] – definitely. That is the plan. It is one of these moments where it is really not good. I can’t explain it better in English but you get in this whirlwind and it sucks you in that direction and all of a sudden it’s like: ‘Wow, where are we?’
“I am not a worse manager than last year, definitely not. It doesn’t mean the outcome is good enough, not at all, but I’m not worse and the players are not worse players. They just play worse. That’s definitely the case.
“We cannot make 24 changes, not even 10, but we have to make changes – smart changes – and then we go again. We will have other moments when we think about what happens next year but this is not the moment.”
Klopp’s annoyance with this season’s performance was evident on Tuesday when he made six changes for the goalless draw at Chelsea. Trent Alexander-Arnold was among those dropped and, while taking exception to the full-back being singled out for scrutiny, Klopp admitted the defender’s form reflects that of the entire squad.
“He was one of six changes but the focus is on him?” Klopp queried. “For Trent it is the same, there is no difference. Not as good or consistent as he used to be, like pretty much all of the boys.
“Do you expect me to say he played a world-class season and I leave him out anyway? That makes no sense. Nobody performed on the level we saw and the level we know they can. In moments, yes, of course – great games, fantastic games, super situations – but consistently nobody, no. Trent not as well.”
Virgil van Dijk, who was absent at Stamford Bridge through illness, is available along with Thiago Alcântara. Luis Díaz, however, is more likely to return from a six-month injury lay-off at Leeds on April 17th, Klopp said.
Meanwhile, Mikel Arteta knows Arsenal must let cooler heads prevail if they are to end their Anfield hoodoo.
The Gunners have a woeful recent history on the red half of Merseyside. Arteta was in the team the last time Arsenal won a Premier League game at Anfield back in 2012 and in seven away games since Klopp became Reds boss, Arsenal have lost by an aggregate score of 25-7.
Arteta attempted to prepare his players for the atmosphere at Liverpool last season by putting a sound system around the training pitch to pump out You’ll Never Walk Alone.
It failed as Arsenal slipped to a 4-0 loss and arguably the Anfield crowd was actually whipped into a frenzy when Arteta squared up to Klopp on the touchline with the game goalless.
Asked if it is important for everyone to keep their cool on Sunday, Arteta replied: “Yes. They know that. They experience that. We know what we have to do. We’ve played in the toughest places.
“We went to White Hart Lane and did what the team did, the atmosphere doesn’t get much tougher than that.
“They are a great team managed by a top manager and they create an incredible atmosphere that makes it very difficult for any opponent. It is the same to come to the Emirates. It’s very, very difficult so we know that and the opportunity is there ahead of us in Sunday.
“Something we have done in the last two or three years is to win in places that the team didn’t do for many years.”
Arteta’s side could be boosted by an injury return of one of his crocked players – although he remained tight-lipped on who he hoped would be back in training on Saturday.
William Saliba’s back problem could rule him out once again while Eddie Nketiah has been sidelined with an ankle issue. Bukayo Saka is over the illness that restricted him to a second-half substitute in the 4-1 win over Leeds last weekend and is expected to be recalled.