Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has attributed their record-breaking goalscoring spree to pre-season brain-storming sessions intended to sharpen their attacking edge.
Wednesday’s 4-1 win over Everton in the Merseyside derby set a new top-flight landmark of scoring two or more goals in 18 consecutive matches in all competitions.
Their 43 Premier League goals from 14 matches is the best in Europe’s top five leagues, edging Bayern Munich’s total by one, and their 25 from seven away from home is the best domestically since Burnley in 1961-62.
Last season’s tally of 68 – a campaign in which they struggled until the final two months – was the lowest return for a full league season of Klopp’s reign but there was not that much wrong with a forward line which can boast Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Diogo Jota.
Nevertheless, Klopp and his coaches analysed what they had been doing and found ways to make improvements.
“It’s a thought process. What can we do? How can we increase the probability of winning football games?” he said.
“That’s the challenge for all of us and that was the challenge we had last season.
“I think we were in a good place that season after winning the league and then we lost important players (to injury). Could we have done better? Maybe yes, maybe no.
“That’s not important any more but we realised just how reliant we were on specific things.
“You can change the players but you can still stick to your patterns and philosophy and be all right.
“For us that was not possible any more so we had to adapt. Over the year, we realised in games we had problems which we didn’t have before.
“We were constantly in a room together in pre-season. It was a long camp, and we had a lot of time to talk about it.
“It’s clear the influence of Pep (Lijnders, assistant coach) and Vitor (Matos, development coach) is massive because they are brilliant football brains.
“Pete (Krawietz, assistant coach) is constantly thinking too about how we can use the things we have by analysing everything.
“If the players feel the benefit, that’s very helpful, but you can only be offensively creative if you have defensive protection. It’s not children’s football, it’s a constant process to find that balance.”
Last season, without the defensive protection of their three senior centre-backs Virgil Van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip whose campaigns were all over by January, Liverpool struggled with midfielders filling gaps in defence until Klopp eventually put his faith in rookies Nathaniel Phillips, Rhys Williams and loan signing Ozan Kabak.
Of those three only Phillips is currently with the club (Williams is on loan at Swansea) but as fifth-choice following the summer signing of Ibrahima Konate has been reduced to just 45 Carabao Cup minutes against Preston and a late substitute appearance against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League.
With further chances remaining limited there is the likelihood of him leaving in January but he could yet bid a final farewell against AC Milan in next week’s dead rubber in the San Siro.
Klopp has raved about the player and made a surprising comparison when talking about his development.
“People often ask me which player made the biggest improvements under my leadership, and I say Robert Lewandowski,” he added.
“That’s probably right, but not far off that is Nat Phillips, just in a completely different department.
“I remember when I saw Nat Phillips first. I spoke to him after the game and he’s one of the smartest players I ever worked with.
“I told him ‘You know you are not the easiest on the eye, eh?’ but he improved in pretty much everything since, and he’s not playing.
“Life is sometimes not fair and I can’t blame him. We cannot keep him forever, that’s clear.
“We needed him, just to be safe, for that half year. We will see what happens in the window.
“But his development is absolutely insane. I would sign him for any club except Liverpool because we have him.”
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