Jurgen Klopp is happy to see Liverpool through to the fourth round of the FA Cup after beating Aston Villa’s under-23 side on Friday, but the Reds boss indicated that much work lies ahead in regards to his side returning to its very best and retaining the Premier League title.
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It’s been a thoroughly challenging season for Klopp and Liverpool — in some ways, even more so than other clubs — given their lengthy injury list for the majority of the 2020-21 season. Yet, they remain top of the table — albeit level on points with Manchester United, who have a game in hand — despite the fact they’re yet to look like the team of the last two seasons more than once or twice thus far. Whether it’s the condensed fixture list or the lack of rotational depth, the Liverpool players are simply our of gas and not a single one of them donning the famous red shirt looks anything near the best version of themselves these days.
In theory, Friday’s clash with COVID-19-decimated Aston Villa, whose eldest player to see the field was 21-year-old Callum Rowe, should have been a walk in the park — a glorified training session — but it proved to be anything but that for the first hour. As such, Klopp observed plenty of areas to improve before ending the day satisfied to his side’s in-game adjustments and response.
“[It was] a bit more of a challenge than it should have been, but first we have to say the kids did really well — that’s good, and they scored a nice goal. We had football problems.
“We needed a little bit longer, but then it was completely clear. Problems in passing and moving. Too many on the wrong side of the ball – not enough recoveries of passes. We had chances and shot the ball directly at the goalie — we changed it in the second half.
“It was rusty, but better in the second half. Against Southampton [1-0 defeat], from the first second they were more on the pitch, but that was not the case today.”
“We have a lot players with no rhythm. We will do a lot of 11 v 11 training.”
As for the Aston Villa youngsters, they performed admirably under impossible circumstances, which drew praise from current Liverpool leader James Milner, an Aston Villa favorite himself during two spells (one on loan) at the club between 2005 and 2010 — quotes from the BBC:
“They’re a good set of lads. They put a shift in. In the first half they got the goal to keep playing. We got the result in the end, but not an ideal situation for our team.
“We had a situation where we got into areas but we didn’t get the final ball — that has happened in the past few games.”
Liverpool will learn their next FA Cup opponents when the draw for the fourth round is held after all results are in on Monday.