Given the nature of Jurgen Klopp’s results against Arsenal in his time at Liverpool, it is no surprise to hear his enthusiasm about Friday night’s Premier League visit to the Emirates.
‘It will be exciting and I would buy a ticket if I was not there already,’ the Liverpool manager said with a smile.
In four games against Arsene Wenger’s team since arriving in England, Klopp’s team have scored 14 goals in winning three times and drawing once. Back in August, Liverpool beat Arsenal 4-0 at Anfield and it appeared that the teams were heading in opposite directions.
Jurgen Klopp anticipates a must-watch game when Liverpool visit Arsenal on Friday night
Friday night, though, they meet with only a point between Liverpool in fourth and Arsenal in fifth. The Gunners have subsequently proved to be a little more resilient than many thought they would, which prompted interesting observations from Klopp.
‘I think Arsene gets a lot of criticism,’ Klopp said. ‘I’ve seen it since I’ve been in England and for sure, it’s not right.
‘But he’s still there and he’s doing a brilliant job again. Top five, six, fighting for fourth and being involved in different cup competitions and things like that. He’s obviously still very ambitious and as long as you feel that, you can stay.’
Klopp insists the criticism his Arsenal counterpart Arsene Wenger receives is ‘not right’
Klopp can no doubt understand a little of what Wenger feels for Arsenal. In his own career, he has had two relatively long club stays by modern standards. The German managed for seven years at Mainz and then seven more at Borussia Dortmund. In terms of his spell at Liverpool, he refuses to acknowledge how long he thinks it will be, only saying that careers like Wenger’s will never be repeated.
With the Frenchman into his 22nd year at Arsenal, Klopp, who has been at Anfield for just over two years, said: ‘If anyone thinks they can make a similar career like Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger in clubs, I’m not sure it would be possible.
‘Could I stay here 20 years? I don’t know. So far, after seven years, I’ve felt maybe I should move on.
‘A few weeks ago I saw a statistic for the longest-serving coaches in the Bundesliga and I’m the record coach of two clubs — Mainz and Dortmund.’
Tom Watson was Liverpool’s longest-serving manager, leading the club for 19 seasons until 1915, and Klopp, 50, said: ‘It would be quite difficult to become the record coach at Liverpool so I don’t know.
‘As long as it works really, really well then it’s OK. That means as long as there is space for improvement. Because even if you win something, which everyone here is desperately waiting for, it could be the moment I say, “OK, but now we have to leave it”.
‘So far in my career I think I have had a very good feeling for these moments. In both situations, at Mainz and Dortmund, I think it was the right moment for the clubs and for me.
Klopp said he would remain Liverpool manager for ‘as long as there is space for improvement’
‘We will see. But I don’t feel I am close to that moment here. Everything is fine. It feels really good at the moment and hopefully it can stay like that long term.’
Liverpool’s season still feels as though it could go either way. A 4-1 defeat at Tottenham in mid-October seemed to indicate that defensive frailties remained but subsequently they have conceded only four more times in nine league games.
After Friday night’s game, they face Swansea, Leicester and Burnley before a home league game with Manchester City in mid-January. So if Klopp’s team are going to make some kind of move on the teams ahead of them, it feels as though it will have to come now.
Arsenal, Klopp believes, will change their style to face Liverpool. He believes every team apart from City does so.
‘It is always like this,’ he said. ‘When we played City, they played their football against ours. All the other teams change, always.
‘Arsenal are not parking the bus but will be more occasionally a long-ball playing team. They are complex to face.
Arsenal were thrashed 4-0 by Liverpool in a disastrous performance at Anfield back in August
‘We know how they play in the half spaces and Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil are in good moments. That’s difficult to defend. Jack Wilshere is back on track, Granit Xhaka has shots from distance, they have wing-backs or full backs on the run.
‘So it’s a real job to do. You close one gap and another one opens. We have to be ready for this.’
Liverpool won this fixture 4-3 on the opening game of last season and it is unlikely to be a quiet affair on Friday night. Klopp’s attacking quartet of Mo Salah, Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane have scored 26 of Liverpool’s last 31 goals and all four are likely to start in north London.
Train strikes in and out of London will not help supporters from Merseyside wanting to travel to one of the most inconvenient of TV fixtures of recent times. As Klopp indicated, however, it still feels like one of Christmas and New Year’s hottest tickets.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is preparing to take on his former club Arsenal on Friday night