Jürgen Klopp says Manchester City have helped Liverpool by forcing them to improve. Pep Guardiola’s team have won the past two Premier League titles with 100 and then 98 points and Klopp’s players have risen to the challenge to open a substantial lead this season.
Their fixture on Thursday at second-placed Leicester gives a clear indication of the dramatic increase in standards over the past few years. Leicester are better off for points and goals than they were at this stage of the 2015-16 season when they won the title, yet Liverpool arrive with a 10-point advantage and a game in hand.
“The Premier League has changed in the short time I have been in England,” Klopp said. “It is not allowed to lose games any more, not if you want to win the title. The reason for that is the consistency Manchester City have shown in the last three years. They have raised the bar massively and, to be honest, they have helped us by forcing us to try and catch up with them. It is difficult, obviously, when you have to be ready to win a football game every three days but winning the Premier League should be difficult.”
Klopp cites Watford as an example of the strength all the way down the league. Liverpool’s somewhat laboured victory against the bottom side a couple of weeks ago was dismissed as an off-day by some but a much improved Watford performance at Anfield was followed by an impressive defeat of Manchester United.
“A few weeks ago Watford looked like they were gone, relegated,” Klopp said. “Then they changed their manager and now everyone down there is on their toes again. The top four is the same. A short time ago everyone was saying it was already established but now there are suddenly seven or eight teams back fighting for European places again.”
Klopp has become used to the English penchant for a hectic festive period in the last four years, though he is not a complete fan.
“I quite like playing through Christmas because in Germany, where there is a break, everyone tends to slow down or switch off early beforehand,” he said. “In England it is good that the intensity continues but there are still too many games in a short period. None of the managers in this country have a problem with playing on Boxing Day – in Germany we are not used to it and it would probably cause problems at home if a man said he wanted to watch football on the 26th – but playing on the 26th and again on the 28th [as 14 clubs are being asked to do this year] is a crime.
“This is absolutely not OK, yet we still have it. Sports science gives you absolutely nothing to deal with this – the body needs a specific amount of time to recover and go again – but we ignore that completely. The managers all say it should not happen, but no one is listening.”