Liverpool have become ‘too easy’ to play against, admits Jürgen Klopp

<span>Jürgen Klopp salutes <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Liverpool;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Liverpool</a>’s travelling supporters following the team’s Europa League exit to <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Atalanta;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Atalanta</a> in Bergamo on Thursday.</span><span>Photograph: Antonio Calanni/AP</span>

Jürgen Klopp has admitted Liverpool have become “too easy” to play against and must toughen up if they are to stand any chance of winning the Premier League title.

Klopp’s side travel to Fulham on Sunday in third, two points behind Manchester City and below Arsenal on goal difference, having drawn and lost their past two league fixtures, against Manchester United and Crystal Palace, respectively. On Thursday they also exited the Europa League at the quarter-final stage after a 3-1 aggregate loss to Atalanta and, all in all, are performing poorly. Their hopes of winning a quadruple in Klopp’s final season in charge are long gone but the German still believes he can leave on a high, though only if his players rediscover the character, as well as class, that had them competing on all fronts a little over a month ago.

“There is no season where there were no moments I thought: ‘Ah, we should have won that, we should have done that.’ It is part of life that you have to deal with them,” said Klopp. “It is never about how many punches you get, it is always how you deal with them. That’s how we have to deal with the situation.

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“That’s the challenge in football because we never play just for ourselves, we always have an opponent. So we have to make sure we become that opponent for each team again that they don’t want to play against – we made it a bit too easy and we should change that.”

Klopp was generally pleased with Liverpool’s display at Atalanta on Thursday – “I loved our game,” he said afterwards – and in winning the second leg in Bergamo 1-0 they kept a first clean sheet in 10 games. Trent Alexander-Arnold also made a first start in two months after his recovery from a knee injury while there was a third substitute appearance in succession from Diogo Jota after he had been sidelined with a similar problem. A squad ravaged by injury is slowly but surely returning to full health – Andrew Robertson, Dominik Szoboszlai and Curtis Jones have also returned – and Klopp sees that as another reason to believe Liverpool can be champions for a second time under his charge, albeit he also expressed caution in that regard.

“It’s good to have them [back] but it is not about who wears the shirt, it is about how we perform,” he said. “We have to find a way to help the boys in the best way, to bring them as quick as possible into their best form or shape and from there we have to go. But of course each player plays with that quality anyway and without them we wouldn’t have a chance. With them we have a chance, with them in a really good football moment the chance gets bigger and bigger.

“I think if we would win all our games there is a good chance we will be champions. Maybe we only have to win five, but nobody knows. Who would have thought that Arsenal lose against Aston Villa? We have to go there still, it’s not one of my favourite away games. But it happens. We don’t think about that. It is just how can we make sure we start wining games again. I’m absolutely positive and after processing things properly, I’m more than happy with the situation.”

After facing Fulham, Liverpool travel to Everton on Wednesday evening for what will be the final Merseyside derby of the Klopp era before taking on West Ham at the London Stadium next Saturday lunchtime. It is a run of away games that Alexander-Arnold has described as “huge” in regards to his team’s title chances. “We’ve got a very difficult week ahead of us,” said the 25-year-old. “Three away games, we need to learn from [the last week] as quickly as possible.”

Speaking about his return to first-team action, the England international added: “It’s amazing to be back out there. It’s amazing to be part of the team and starting again. It’s special to play for the club. My objective was to be back as quickly as possible and fit as possible.

“I just ran out of juice in the second half [against Atalanta on Thursday] but in the first half I was enjoying my football, finding passes, playing the game I love. It was special for me to be on the pitch. But it was disappointing to not go through.”