Jurgen Klopp has said Liverpool know they need to show a reaction when they take on Ajax on Tuesday after they produced the “worst game” in the manager’s tenure against Napoli last week.
Liverpool – who reached the Champions League final last season – opened their 2022/23 campaign with a 4-1 humbling in Naples that Klopp ranked below even the 7-2 thrashing suffered at the hands of Aston Villa in October 2020.
Klopp’s side saw their Premier League fixture against Wolves last weekend postponed following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, meaning their first opportunity to bounce back from their nightmare start to their European campaign comes at home to the Dutch champions on matchday two.
“We have to show a reaction, we know that,” Klopp said. However, he admitted even an improved performance will not “guarantee a result” against Ajax, who have won all seven of their matches this season, including a 4-0 win at home to Rangers in their opening group game.
“Ajax are, I would say, in the opposite situation [to us],” said Klopp. “They’re again in a really massive rebuild but, no surprise, are doing a really good job.”
Klopp also dismissed any suggestion that the Wolves game being called off would have knocked Liverpool off their “rhythm,” joking: “Which rhythm? We had no rhythm.
“Did you watch our game? Losing this rhythm would be really cool!”
‘Everything is based on defending’
Klopp said after the defeat in Italy that Liverpool would have to “reinvent” themselves in a bid to arrest the form that has seen them win just two of their seven matches in all competitions so far this season.
The manager said he had been thinking “a lot” about how to handle that reinvention, adding: “I’ve watched the game back plenty of times and it was a real horror show.”
Klopp said he believes Liverpool’s issues against Napoli were caused by too many players producing sub-par performances, explaining: “We showed the boys the situation – they knew but seeing it again makes it really obvious.
“It was the worst game we have played since I’m here and we’ve had a few bad games – everybody probably remembers Aston Villa and some others where we were just not up to speed.
“But there were always glimpses of us, even in these games. In this particular game? Nothing.
“So obviously you have to understand why that happens. I think it’s more an individual thing because probably eight of the 11 were absolutely below their level.
“In football you solve all individual problems as a team and that’s what we have to do – to follow a common idea again.
“Everything is based on really solid defending. That’s what we had to work on and that’s what we did.”
Klopp: We’ve used extra time to deliver ‘absolute truth’
Liverpool will have had five days to prepare for their meeting with Ajax due to the Wolves game being called off, and Klopp revealed he has used that time to deliver the “absolute truth” to his players regarding their current circumstances.
Klopp also said he had spoken individually to some of the players involved in the Napoli loss. “Do I question the players generally? No,” said Klopp. “But about the situation? Yes.”
The German added: “We have had four or five days now of absolute truth. We didn’t hide anything, we didn’t hold back.
“But not to knock the players down, just to make sure that now is the starting point and that we sort the problems together on the pitch.”
Robertson out until October
Liverpool will have to do without Andy Robertson as they bid to kickstart their season against Ajax after the left-back was ruled out of the game through injury.
Robertson suffered the issue against Napoli and will be forced to miss the visit of Ajax, with Klopp saying: “Robbo is not 100 per cent. He is out for at least, I would say, after the international break.”
Liverpool will also have to do without Curtis Jones, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita – who Klopp does not expect to join up with Guinea for their fixtures this month – but will be able to call on Fabio Carvalho.