Mohamed Salah and Virgil Van Dijk ensured Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was a very happy boss after Liverpool downed Wolves 2-0 on Friday to lock in the top spot in the Premier League table on Christmas morning.
Salah scored inside the opening 20 minutes and Van Dijk bagged his first Premier League goal for Liverpool with 22 minutes to go, leaving the Reds with 48 points heading into the festive period.
[ RECAP: Liverpool tops Wolves 2-0 ]
Klopp, speaking to Sky Sports after the match, was filled with glee as he talked fondly about his players and how well they executed his instructions. He spoke at length about how he asks a lot of his players, especially the wingers who make blistering runs even when the midfielders lose the ball, and how his defenders must deal with a hard-working opponent. Then, he singled out his attackers for their play up front.
“We were a constant threat, Mo [Salah] was…pff…unbelievable, quick, I think he had 20 or 30 sprints tonight,” Klopp said. “Bobby [Firmino] again, outstanding between the lines, he changed the whole game for us, he was everywhere and he’s hard to mark, that’s good. They’re really in the game, it’s brilliant. We all know it’s so important that Friday night, Wolverhampton, they are in a good run, one of the more difficult games of the season.”
He also said that, with Wolves coming into the match on a three-game winning streak and impressing the league after promotion from the Championship, his team played well to disrupt their style of play.
“For their style of play, they didn’t have a lot. It’s difficult to play…everybody wants to press these times, everybody wants to be compact, and they shoot the ball from one side to the other, and it’s quite difficult [to play against], and they’re good at that. So I thought we did well, we deserved to win, we were the better side, that’s all cool but the boys showed that we are ready for these different games, and that makes me really happy.”
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With the adrenaline still clearly pumping pitchside, a scatterbrained Klopp was all over the place, switching between talking tactics and praising his players. He specifically called out his midfield duo of Fabinho and Jordan Henderson for taking the foot off the gas pedel before halftime – although not by name, referred to as “the two six’s” – but said the team picked it right back up after the break. Still, he said his team overall put in a good performance, using possession in the second half to nullify a dangerous Wolves attack.
“The last 15 minutes [of the first half] was clear, we could give the game away, you could see body language lurch a little bit, the two six’s wanted the ball but standing in the situation, giving the ball…’oh you’re not free you don’t want it’…we stopped playing football. You control a game like this in possession, that’s what you do, and we did that very long, but the last 15 minutes not, and the second half we started again with that. When you play the ball around, it’s not the most exciting game anymore [with Liverpool controlling the ball], of course not, but you have to keep the ball.”
Then with a big grin on his face, like a child opening a present on Christmas morning, “And um, yeah, we won it, so that’s cool.”
Eight of the last nine teams top of the table on Christmas have gone on to win the league title, with Liverpool in 2014 the only outlier. Asked again about Liverpool’s title chances, with the Reds top of the table, Klopp continued to skirt the question, but conceded that he’s excited about the prospects of what could be.
“So far it looks like a really special season, 48 points mid-December before Christmas, that’s just crazy, but other teams – Chelsea, City, Tottenham, Arsenal – all are winning as well, they all have 40-something as well. So that’s the season, everybody from 4, 5, 6 nobody drops points, at the end of the season you probably need 105 or something to be champions. We know we are good, we know we are in a good moment, but we have to respect that the others are good as well, so we cannot start a party or plan a party for something now.”
The Reds now have four days to rest before meeting Newcastle on Boxing Day, beginning a stretch of three matches in nine days.