Jurgen Klopp claims he has become “a much better manager” after learning to cope with Liverpool’s injury crisis.
The Reds boss made the assertion as he hit back at those who accuse him of making excuses for his side’s slump.
Liverpool stormed to the title with 99 points last season – the second-highest tally ever – but have dropped off massively this term and are in a battle for a top-four finish ahead of Thursday’s clash with Chelsea.
Klopp has had to constantly chop and change his defence due to long-term injuries sustained by Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez – integral members of last season’s title-winning side – early in the campaign.
Fellow centre-back Joel Matip was ruled out for the season in late January, while makeshift defenders Fabinho and Jordan Henderson have also struggled for fitness, the latter undergoing surgery last week that will keep him out until at least April.
Liverpool brought in Ben Davies and Ozan Kabak in the January transfer window, though their arrivals coincided with Liverpool losing four home games in a row in the Premier League – their worst such run at Anfield in 98 years.
But “detail fanatic” Klopp, who has regularly bemoaned Liverpool’s injury luck this term, believes he and his players can grow stronger from the experience.
“Most of the problems are as a result of the injury situation,” he told Sky Sports. “This year we have faced completely new problems. I have never in my life – and I have been doing the job for 20 years – had to change the last line every week.
“I am a much better manager this season than I was before because usually you are not having to think about these things, but now I am having to think about them constantly.
“We had a situation on Friday night. We trained all week, or the few days that we had to train, with one specific line-up and then overnight we had to change it completely.
“That is another big thing to do that is common in football but we have had it plenty of times.
“People might say that is an excuse. I could not care less, to be honest. We do not use it as an excuse but if you ask me the question then it is the explanation for why things changed.
“We are all detail fanatics and it is very important that the little things work really well because then they become really influential on the bigger picture. Very often, that means the way you defend.
“You work on it but you do not change it too much because defending is something where stability is really important. And we have had to change our defence way too often to have any kind of stability, that is the truth.”
He added: “I am not angry about it or whatever, I am 53 years old. I have had different moments in my life. Wonderful moments, lesser moments. It is just a football problem.”
Liverpool can move into the Premier League top four with victory at home to Chelsea and are 2-0 up against RB Leipzig ahead of next week’s Champions League last-16 second leg.
Klopp, under contract at Anfield until 2024, can see signs of recovery but accepts results have to improve if supporters are to feel the same way.
“The problem is that football is all about results and if these little things that are better than before do not lead to better results, then people do not want to hear about them,” he said.
“If we are winning 15 or 20 games in a row, people listen to me and say, ‘Oh my god, what kind of genius stuff is he saying’.
“When we are not winning games, I can say exactly the same things and people will say, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, just make sure you win the game’.”