A dedicated VAR operation at Anfield will ensure information is relayed to supporters inside the stadium as quickly as possible throughout the Premier League season.
Video Assistant Referees are to be used for every league fixture in 2019-20 in the event of clear and obvious errors, or serious missed incidents, in four match-changing situations: goals, penalty decisions, direct red card incidents, and mistaken identity.
Preparations for the implementation of the technology at Anfield – which, due to the absence of a big screen, were different to the majority of Premier League clubs – began months before a ball was kicked.
As it happened, there were no VAR reviews across the 90 minutes as Liverpool finally got their campaign under way with a 4-1 home win over Norwich City.
But when one does occur in future matches, a process of communication is in place to quickly keep fans updated.
Using the exact wording of the VAR live information feed, the VAR operator positioned in the control room at Anfield will announce the nature of the review over the public address system first and subsequently on the two scoreboards inside the ground.
When a final decision is made, it will be announced via the same process – PA system and then scoreboards – followed by confirmation that the review is complete.
“It’s all about giving fans information and getting that information to them as quickly as you can,” explained Ian Barker, the club’s assistant stadium manager.
“There’s nothing more frustrating than if you’re a fan and you’re just standing there, nothing is happening, no-one is telling you anything and you can’t see anything.
“So, basically the quicker we can get the information to them, the better for them.
“For the opening game against Norwich, the operator was up there, coiled like a spring! And ready. But nothing happened, so we’ll see for Arsenal on Saturday.”
Premier League clubs unanimously voted for the introduction of VAR from the current season in November 2018.
Liverpool’s clash with the Canaries therefore marked its top-flight debut at Anfield, but it was not the first time the system had been used at the stadium.
The technology had previously been deployed for several domestic cup games and each of the Reds’ three Champions League knockout ties at home last season.
“The Premier League is slightly different in the way they do things than we did in the cup and Champions League. It’s similar but slightly different. But it certainly helped that we’d had it here before,” said Barker, who has been at LFC for more than two decades and was involved throughout the implementation of VAR facilities at Anfield.
“The Premier League sent us all their technical requirements for VAR for the coming season. We put in place the additional power points needed in various locations around the stadium. And then additional cabling, infrastructure and fibre in different locations in the stadium, ready for VAR for this season.
“There are challenges in all stadiums, it’s different routes and ways. But I’ve worked here for 24 years and the people around me, a lot of them have worked here for a very long time, so most of the places where we need to get power and cables and infrastructure, there are normally cable routes that are already there.
“There were maybe half-a-dozen additional power points put in. And there were 10 cable fibres that we took from the OB [outside broadcast] compound, which is at Anfield Road, up to George Sephton’s room. We had to take fibre up there so they have got the link from Hawk-Eye to the VAR monitor where the operator sits.”
Video Assistant Referees, based at Stockley Park, west London, are designated for each Premier League fixture and constantly monitor the action.
In line with its philosophy of ‘minimum interference – maximum benefit’ the league’s guidelines set “a high bar for VAR to intervene on subjective decisions, to maintain the pace and intensity of matches”.
When a review is required in relation to one or more of the four aforementioned situations, the referee will halt play at the next stoppage of the game until a decision has been reached.
The final decision will always be taken by the on-field referee, who also has the option of using the Referee Review Area to view VAR incidents. At Anfield, the RRA is located in the Main Stand tunnel.
It is only during a review phase that VAR communications are delivered to fans inside the stadium.
The system will next be in operation at Anfield for Saturday evening’s meeting with Arsenal.
For Barker, there is a natural anticipation to witness the first use during a match.
“Yes, I am [eager],” he added.
“It’s the first time and you’re going to make a PA announcement to 54,000 people. I’m sure the operator wants to get the first one out of the way, and then of course they have got to type the message into the scoreboard.
“But I’ve got a lot of confidence, I’m sure it will be fine. You’ve just got to do the best you can.”
James Milner headed to Anfield Sports and Community Centre (ASCC) this week to visit participants of LFC Foundation’s summer camps.
The Reds’ vice-captain met with youngsters attending football and multi-sports camps - which are funded through his own charity, The James Milner Foundation (JMF) - to see first-hand how participants benefit from the sessions.
For the past three years, JMF has made an annual donation of £16k to LFC Foundation, allowing local Anfield children to enjoy safe and fun activities throughout school holidays.
Free-of-charge camps run during the half-term and summer breaks and offer youngsters the chance to take part in a variety of sports including football, dodgeball, cricket, hockey and rugby - with over 1,000 young people benefitting from the sessions to date.
Together, LFC Foundation and JMF aim to encourage children aged 6-15 years to participate in healthy recreation and lead more active lifestyles.
Both charities promote physical activity in young people throughout the UK by focusing on the development, improvement and provision of sporting opportunities – with a particular focus on football, rugby and cricket.
Jürgen Klopp has been pleased with the way his Liverpool squad have utilised their full week to prepare for the Arsenal encounter and challenged them to prove it with a strong showing on Saturday.
The Reds have had lengthy time to prepare for the affair with Unai Emery's side after beating Southampton last weekend following the UEFA Super Cup triumph in Istanbul.
Speaking at his pre-match press conference at Melwood on Friday afternoon, Klopp stated his excitement about the meeting between the only two teams to possess a 100 per cent start to the Premier League campaign.
“We believe in training, so we hope we can see the impact," he said. "If we cannot see it tomorrow then we should see it in the next couple of weeks.
"We work on a lot of tactical stuff. Tactical work is always possible, but you kind of have 20 minutes usually and that’s not really cool.
"So this week we had today, yesterday and the day before yesterday – three days where we could pretty much work on everything which we thought we have to improve on, it's all the things we have to do during the season. That's really good.
"It's about defending, attacking, about everything. That's what you're involved in [during] a week like that.
"We said at the beginning of the week, 'This is really important that we use it and I expect 100 per cent concentration in all these sessions'. That's what the boys showed. But at the end, we still have to play tomorrow against Arsenal.
"They [Arsenal] probably didn't sleep the last week, they did very important things for them as well. Like it should be, it's a big opponent, very strong opponent, it’s Anfield, it’s us, so I’m looking forward to it."
Liverpool have started the 2019-20 season with two wins from two in the top flight, with a piece of silverware sandwiched in between.
The mood currently inside the dressing room is a positive one, but it's laced with a determination to build on last season's success.
Klopp continued: "The spirit in the team could not be better at the moment – they won the Champions League last year together and won 32 games, I don't know exactly. So if they would not be close then that would be really funny.
"They're very close, but what you need is a competitive team spirit as well. You have to kick the butts of your teammates in the right moment. It's a very competitive team spirit what you need to be really difficult to beat and all that stuff.
"It's not about wanting to have a drink every night together, it's about doing the right things and knowing much better than others for who you are doing it for – for your mates, for your best friend.
"I like what Hendo said in pre-season when he got asked about that, he said, 'Yes, we will stay friends forever'. That’s how it is, but in the moment we have to be friends, not best friends, because best friends means that everything what you do is what the other guy likes.
"We have to push each other, we have to be really as a team. I use the word too often probably, but we have to be as a team very angry about everything else around.
"We have to really stay greedy in all these things – and we are, I'm not in doubt about that – but that's what I mean in a different kind of team spirit.
"The best team spirit in the world is not helpful if it's only about being together and stuff like this. We need this kind of team spirit where everybody pushes each other.
"That's what we had, what we have, but we need to have it as well in the future. That's not guaranteed, you have to work on that every day and that's what we try to do."
Liverpool must be brave if they are to clinch three points against Arsenal, according to Jürgen Klopp's analysis of Saturday's opponents.
The Reds host the Gunners – the only other side in the Premier League to have won each of their opening two matches – at Anfield in an intriguing early-season meeting.
The last 11 league clashes between the teams have produced 50 goals, though Klopp feels the timing of this encounter in the campaign makes it unpredictable.
That is why the manager will call on his players to be ‘brave, greedy, angry’ and more in the pursuit of a victory against Unai Emery’s visitors.
Asked at his pre-match press conference about the prospect of another goal-filled game, Klopp said: “I wouldn’t expect it, to be honest.
“Both teams are probably offensive-orientated at least, but I have no clue about the result. Arsenal can and will probably change at least two key positions: probably [Nicolas] Pepe will start, which doesn’t make them weaker, and [Granit] Xhaka probably, and they can still make other changes.
“It happened a lot to us in the last few months or maybe years that you make an analysis, especially in the early stages [of the season], and then you see against us they play completely differently – playing build-up against everybody and not against us. I’m not saying Arsenal will be like this, but it makes analysis quite tricky, especially in the early stages of the season, where we are now.
“I know what they did in the first two games, I know what they did last year against us, but I don’t know more. We have to make a couple of decisions, which makes us kind of independent of what they do, so we try and each result which gives us three points I’m happy with. I don’t care about how often we score, it’s not the moment for thinking about that. I don’t think Arsenal are doing it like that.
“If you look at their team and how they set up, pretty much each line-up [has] good football players in all positions and real speed up front. Wow, real speed. That makes it tricky to defend it all the time.
“We have to be brave, have to play your own football, you have to try to keep possession, you have to be direct. There are a lot of things to do and consider, against a very strong opponent. That’s why I’m really looking forward to it.
“It’s the early part of the season but these games will come up anyway. Now it’s pretty early and we have to show we are ready again.”
After guiding the Gunners to wins over Newcastle United and Burnley so far this term, Emery joked earlier this week that he would rather not face Liverpool at all in the season.
In the last meeting, at Anfield last December, Klopp’s side recovered from an early concession to register a 5-1 result with the help of a Roberto Firmino hat-trick.
But the Reds boss insists his players can only trouble opponents with their actions during the match, not through what has gone before.
“It’s not what he [really] thinks. He makes a joke and we cannot make a serious question of it,” Klopp replied to a question about Emery’s comment.
“What I said is that we want to be the team nobody wants to play against, but they still have to. It’s not about before [the game] you don’t want to play against us, because we need opponents; it’s about in the game you think, ‘Wow, that’s too much – they are too intense, too quick, too strong, too fast, too greedy, too angry.’ That’s what we want, not what people say before the game – that’s not really important.
“We have to make ourselves ready for the game and have to make sure that at the end people think, ‘OK, that was not a joy for us today.’ The other team thinks that – that’s the plan. But not what they say before.
“It was a joke of Unai Emery and nothing else, that’s why I don’t have to think about that really.”
Naby Keita remains unavailable for Liverpool as he continues to recover from a muscle strain.
The midfielder sustained the injury in the lead-up to the UEFA Super Cup game against Chelsea in Istanbul and subsequently missed last weekend’s 2-1 win at Southampton.
On Friday, Jürgen Klopp was asked for an update on Keita’s condition during his press conference to preview Saturday’s game versus Arsenal and said: “’Long-term’ doesn’t mean six months, it means a couple of weeks.
“So no, no real news. He’s still doing well but not close enough for this weekend.”
Watch Jürgen Klopp's pre-match press conference again in full.
The Liverpool boss addressed the media at Melwood this afternoon ahead of Saturday's Premier League clash with Arsenal at Anfield.
See everything Klopp had to say about facing the Gunners via our YouTube stream below.
Alisson Becker is making progress in his recovery from a calf injury, but Jürgen Klopp remains unsure on when the goalkeeper will be ready for a return to action.
The Liverpool No.1 has been out of action since sustaining the issue during the 4-1 victory over Norwich City in the Premier League opener at Anfield on August 9.
Alisson has been undergoing a rehabilitation programme with the club’s medical team and is making steps towards a return; however, Klopp admits it’s still too early to pinpoint a potential comeback date.
The boss told his pre-Arsenal press conference on Friday morning: “[He is] not that close, but nobody told me that I have to consider him for tomorrow in training or the game.
“I had lunch with him today, so at least he can eat! He looks good, he is in good shape, a good mood, but it will take time, I don’t know [how long] exactly.
“[There is] no date in my mind and nobody told me a date, we didn’t ask, we want to give him the time he needs, but it looks good.
“In the beginning he was on crutches, which is normal with the injury he had. They are not there anymore, so he walks normally and he can really train completely differently now to a week ago.
“I think from now on it will go quick, but how quick I don’t know.”
Former Liverpool striker Fernando Torres played the final game of his glittering career on Friday.
Torres, who scored 81 goals in 142 appearances for the Reds, announced his retirement from football in June and brought the curtain down on his time as a player in Sagan Tosu's match against Vissel Kobe.
The 35-year-old spent 18 years in senior football, with two spells at boyhood club Atletico Madrid sandwiching periods with Liverpool, Chelsea and AC Milan. Torres then joined Japanese side Sagan Tosu in 2018.
After making his full international debut for Spain at the age of 19, Torres went on to amass more than 100 caps and was part of his country's golden footballing era, winning back-to-back European Championships in 2008 and 2012, as well as the 2010 World Cup.
Torres signed for Liverpool in the summer of 2007 and duly established himself as one of the game's premier forwards during his three-and-a-half year Anfield career.
His stay on Merseyside is perhaps best remembered for an acute understanding and prolific partnership shared with Steven Gerrard. Indeed, Torres recently described the former Reds captain as 'the best player I played with'.
Xabi Alonso considers Jordan Henderson to be a crucial cog in Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool machine.
Both Champions League-winning midfielders with the Reds, Henderson now captains the club in the No.14 shirt Alonso wore with distinction during his own five-year Anfield career.
And the legendary former playmaker has detailed how he sees Henderson as having a significant influence on the successful implementation of Klopp’s system.
“Jordan Henderson has become a figure in the changing room,” Alonso told BBC Sport.
“I think he's so respected, so important for his teammates - that's the sense I get from watching in the stands. For the way they play it's very important, the energy he has.
“He's able to take that step forwards, not backwards to make that pressure a bit higher. The way he connects with the three players up front, they play very direct and the way Liverpool is playing is the Jürgen way - the way they played at Dortmund with him and the way they play at Liverpool now.”
Liverpool U18s boss Barry Lewtas has spoken of the inspiration his young team have taken from having Anfield legends such as Sir Kenny Dalglish and Steve Heighway cheering them on from the touchline.
Dalglish was present alongside Academy director Alex Inglethorpe for the opening-day 7-1 win away at Blackburn Rovers, while Heighway was pitchside for last Saturday’s 3-2 victory over Stoke City.
Also present were Curtis Jones and Rhian Brewster, who, after finishing their training session with the U23s, were spotted celebrating Layton Stewart’s dramatic late winner.
"It’s probably the atmosphere that has been put together here at the Academy by Alex [Inglethorpe],” Lewtas told Liverpoolfc.com.
"Sir Kenny was with us down at Blackburn and Steve was here for the Stoke City game.
"The likes of Rhian and Curtis might have finished training but they want to come and watch us and support the lads. It’s a real family atmosphere here and those kind of examples show that, so it’s really good.”
After back-to-back wins to start the new campaign, the young Reds face an away trip to Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday, a game you can watch live on LFCTV GO with kick-off set for 1pm BST.
Read on for Lewtas’ thoughts ahead of the match...
On a promising start to 2019-20 for his side…
We had a really good pre-season in terms of the quality of the opposition we played and the boys also went away to Germany to play in a tough U19s tournament in Oberndorf. Having a tough pre-season gets your season started and we had a really good opening day, winning 7-1 away at Blackburn Rovers. We finished that game strongly and then we beat Stoke City 3-2. Stoke is always a tough game so we knew what we were in for. It was tough but a really exciting one as well.
On the dramatic 3-2 win over Stoke last Saturday…
Both teams gave it a real good go. In the first half our goalkeeper Ben Winterbottom made a couple of good saves to keep us in the game and without question in the second half their goalkeeper took over in that goal and made a number of good saves as well. We were pleased with the amount of chances we created but obviously from a defensive point of view we were quite disappointed at how easy we let the opposition get on top of us at times. But it’s early days and it’s a young team, it’s a new team and there are going to be plenty of ups and downs. So to show the character we did and score a late goal was pleasing. The quality of that late goal was very pleasing, so overall it’s an exciting start to the season but there’s still plenty to do.
On Stewart’s dramatic winner against Stoke courtesy of a perfect pass from Jake Cain…
We said at half-time about the space we had in the game to play over and attack the space in behind them. Near the end of the game they did start to drop off a bit and we put the pressure on. It was funny because the boys have done a lot of work on that. We talked about Jake’s range of passing and showed the boys a little video from training when Jake put the ball in for Layton to score. The finish was fantastic and the pass was fantastic, so it was a really good goal.
On having a very young team at U18 level this season with many of his FA Youth Cup-winning squad stepping up to the U23s…
At the moment we have the likes of James Balagizi, who is still a schoolboy, training with us and he has done ever so well playing out of position up front. It has been a really good experience for him with our two games so far, really tough games for him and he’s done ever so well. We have also got a few of the boys like Fidel O’Rourke and Niall Brookwell who were with us last season just back from injury, we will have Tyler Morton with us soon as well. Hopefully the group size will get a little bit bigger and we will have more competition for places.
It’s a young and evolving group but that’s the job. It’s not a shock to me, it’s exciting. Obviously what we did last year was great and a really great journey for the boys. I really enjoyed it and the boys did but that time has gone now. They move up [to U23s] and it’s someone else’s opportunity and that’s a really exciting part of the job for me. There will be a few ups and downs along the way but we will be patient with them. They have started really well and set the standards, so it’s up to them to meet that and exceed them week to week. I’ve got a really positive group, a group who work hard every day and I think that’s the main thing.
On the promising displays of 16-year-old France U17 international centre-half Billy Koumetio…
Billy has been around us a little bit now and made his U18s debut this season. He has settled in well and he is a real imposing figure at centre-back. He certainly looks like a centre-back, he is aggressive and he defends on the front foot. He works ever so hard in training, he’s keen to develop and he knows he’s still got a lot to do. He is good in possession, so he helps us with the way we want to play and he has the ground work for us to do some really good work with him. He is really keen to learn and he has shown that with his English, which has come on in leaps and bounds. Billy has also become a real character in the dressing room as well, so hopefully he is one who will continue to develop on this journey.
On Koumetio stepping in for Rhys Williams, who was a real leader and communicator at the back for the U18s last season…
Rhys became one of the leaders of our group in terms of his communication and his performance levels. Billy is still in his infancy in terms of his U18s career and his English is good. He does communicate but he will take time to lead.
On filling the vacant gap left by Paul Glatzel and Bobby Duncan, who fired 60 goals between them last term…
We have scored a few so far which is good [10 in two games] but obviously they lead the line well for us and they were a really good combination. Don’t forget within that league campaign we had Fidel chipping in with a few goals and he’s back for us now. Jack Bearne contributed with some big goals as well, so we are not looking at how we replace Bobby and Paul so we need to find a different way. What has been pleasing so far is the contribution with the goals from midfield. Jake [Cain] has stepped up to the plate with goals and assists and young Tom Hill has scored three goals. I’m certainly not putting pressure on our No.9 to score 60 goals! It would be great but at the same time we’ve got to make sure we are contributing from other positions as well and that has been a really pleasing part of the season so far.
On captain Leighton Clarkson getting the chance to train at Melwood during the past week…
He got an opportunity to go there and train which is great for his development. I had a good chat with him, which was quite lucky really because it was his review meeting this week. I was able to pick his brains, he enjoyed it and he was very honest in his reflections. Those experiences are good for him.
On Saturday’s trip to face Wolves…
They beat Stoke City on the opening day and they also beat Manchester United last Saturday, two fantastic results. We had two challenging games against them last year and we know how difficult it is going to be. We will prepare well in terms of what we want to do and developing the players every day. We are certainly excited for the game. We scored a few good goals against Wolves last season and the away game when we won 3-0 was one of our better performances. We had to be really patient in the way we pressed and won the ball back and that was a real standout performance from us. In Kirkby it was the run-in when we were going for the title, so the pressure was on to get three points, which we did. The two games against Wolves last season hold fond memories really, so hopefully we can continue that on Saturday.
The competition is a chance for Reds fans to win huge cash prizes and autographed Liverpool items.
And, new for this season, we’re adding a baseball cap signed by Jürgen Klopp in every draw.
The LFC Lotto, brought to you by the LFC Foundation, is especially proud to announce that this season 50 per cent of all net proceeds will go to military veterans and men’s health programmes.
Simply visit www.liverpoolfc.com/lfclotto to grab your tickets ahead of our match against Arsenal, or purchase from one of the LFC Lotto sellers located at Anfield to be in with a chance.
John Achterberg has provided an update on Alisson Becker's calf injury.
The Liverpool No.1 sustained the issue in the first half of the 4-1 win over Norwich City on August 9 and was subsequently ruled out for ‘the next few weeks’ by Jürgen Klopp.
Summer signing Adrian has stepped in for Alisson and enjoyed a fairy tale start to his Reds career with the decisive save in the UEFA Super Cup success against Chelsea.
Alisson continues to work on his rehabilitation at Melwood and Achterberg anticipates a clearer idea of his potential return date after the forthcoming international break.
“Ali is good. He’s in every day for treatment and they try to improve things,” the first-team goalkeeping coach told The Athletic.
“He’s able to do some fitness work in the gym without using his leg. It’s difficult, but you have to try to look forward and be positive. You have to try to turn a negative into a positive.
“They haven’t given us a specific time he’ll be out as it’s difficult to say how quickly it will heal. That’s all with the medics. There’s an international break coming up and we’ll have to wait and see how long it takes after that.
“When something like that happens, you look at everything. Had the training load changed? The reality is that we hadn’t done anything differently in the build-up to that game. Ali felt fine. We have a rule with the goalies that if there’s any kind of issue you always have to talk.
“He actually came back in much better shape this summer than last year when we first signed him. It was all positive and that makes what happened so frustrating for everyone.”
Further evidence of Liverpool’s ability to win different types of games has provided Trent Alexander-Arnold with a sense of early-season satisfaction.
The Reds’ fifth fixture of 2019-20 will take place on Saturday when Arsenal visit Anfield - and Alexander-Arnold is certain that they will be fully prepared to meet that challenge, too.
Jürgen Klopp’s side head into their third Premier League match of the campaign having previously collected six points from meetings with Norwich City and Southampton.
Last Saturday’s 2-1 victory at St Mary’s was earned just three days after Liverpool had overcome Chelsea on penalties to lift the UEFA Super Cup in Istanbul, and Alexander-Arnold is buoyed by the continuation of a positive trend that was present throughout last term.
“I think there’s different types of games: there’s wanting to perform well in some games and some games it’s purely about just getting the win, and I think Southampton was one of them when we needed to win the game,” the No.66 explained to Liverpoolfc.com.
“It was a tough place to go to, especially after the week that we had with all the travelling and obviously playing the extra-time and pens. It was tough for us but we got through that so we’re showing once again this season that we’re mentally resilient and we can win different types of football games.
“I think Saturday’s going to be a different kind of test to the one we faced last week so we’re preparing for that. We did well against them last year, especially at home, and we’ll be looking to do the same kind of thing.”
Alexander-Arnold and his teammates have had the relative luxury of a full week to get ready for Arsenal’s visit, something the full-back believes will be beneficial.
“Yeah, I think the manager will say as well that he likes to prepare for a game with a full week,” he said.
“I think we can go into more detail on the opposition and find out what we want to do and the game plan, it gives us more time to train that.
“It helps having the full week [and] I think for us it’s important to get used to both sides of the game - having not much time to prepare and having a full week. We need to be ready for all of them situations throughout the season and the lads have really adapted well.
“So early on, playing three games in a week is tough physically and mentally but we’ve done well. Last week was positive, we won all of our games and hopefully we’ll be able to carry that on on Saturday.
“The manager gave us a day off [after Southampton] and that always helps the legs, to have that bit more time to recover and get ready for the next game. So yeah, all the lads are ready: physically we’re ready, I think mentally we’re getting there as well now we’re near the end of the week so for us it’s all about preparing properly now and getting ready.”
Unai Emery’s Gunners are the only other team in the division to have won both of their opening two Premier League games and Alexander-Arnold expects to face attack-minded opposition this weekend.
The England international continued: “I think over the last few seasons, especially at Anfield, we’ve always had high-scoring games. That’s the way both teams play, in an attacking-style of football, so I’m sure both teams will want to win the game and it’ll be tough for both sides.”
If there was such a thing as the Joel Matip Appreciation Society, the last person you would ever expect to become a member is Matip himself.
Yet, on the third anniversary of the modest, softly-spoken central defender’s Liverpool debut against Burton Albion, it’s probably fair to say that membership of said group would be at an all-time high - perhaps even with Jürgen Klopp serving as honorary president.
“I think everything about him has been said, what a guy he is, what a player he is,” Klopp replied when asked about Matip’s defensive colleague Virgil van Dijk during Liverpool’s pre-season tour of the USA this summer.
The question was designed, it seemed, to tee up Klopp to further eulogise his No.4, but he chose instead to shine a light on his No.32.
“But not a lot of people spoke about the impact Joel Matip had in the last third of the season,” the Reds’ boss continued. “I don't see a lot of centre-backs in the world who are better in that period, 100 per cent, pretty much without any mistakes.”
Of the 20 games Liverpool played in all competitions between the start of last season and the visit to Burnley in early December, Matip started only three and appeared from the bench five times.
Of the 33 games bookended by that Turf Moor outing and the season’s unforgettable finale at Estadio Metropolitano in Madrid, however, Matip started 23 - despite spending a month on the sidelines with a fractured collarbone sustained against Napoli in December - and distinguished himself as one of Europe's in-form centre-halves.
Come March, off the back of four consecutive clean sheets achieved with Matip starting, Klopp was voicing his satisfaction with the man whose signature he had secured on a free transfer back in July 2016.
“When he got injured it was outstanding what he did, especially the Napoli game where he got the injury,” stated the boss. “We then lost him in pretty much the wrong moment. He is a really high-class player. He is doing the job and not asking for any credit or whatever, he is just there and loves what he is doing. It’s really nice to have him around.”
The 28-year-old’s positive influence wasn’t difficult to divine over the course of the campaign; Liverpool keeping nine clean sheets in his 17 Premier League starts and four in his eight Champions League games.
Compare his individual statistics from last season - such as the 3.9 aerial duel wins, 4.5 recoveries and 5.6 clearances he averaged per 90 minutes - to those of the other centre-backs playing for the Premier League’s top six, and Matip more than holds his own in every regard.
The former Cameroon international’s proactive style is also evident, with his average of 1.8 interceptions per game topped only by Arsenal’s Shkodran Mustafi and only Tottenham Hotspur’s Juan Foyth edging out his tally of 2.3 tackles per 90.
He managed one goal and one assist throughout the campaign, and didn’t half choose his moment well for the latter, nudging the ball into Divock Origi’s path with three minutes left to play against Tottenham in Madrid.
If some were taken aback by the authoritative nature of the former Schalke stalwart’s performances, Derek Rae certainly did not count himself amongst them.
Perhaps best known in the UK for commentating on Scottish football during his time with BT Sport, Rae now lives and works in the USA, but is fluent in German and makes frequent trips to cover the league that fascinates him most - the Bundesliga.
He was therefore well-positioned to observe Matip’s transformation from callow 18-year-old debutant to one of European football’s hottest prospects during seven years in the first team with Schalke.
“He comes from what I would call the industrial heartland of German football; he comes from Bochum and started at a local club called SC Weitmar,” remarks Rae.
“I remember watching interviews with some of his coaches there who said he really stood out from a young age. There was something very special about him - his control of the ball, his ability to do everything well. I think one of the Weitmar coaches said if he was in the line-up they’d win 6-0, but if he wasn’t they would lose 4-0!
“So he went from there to VFL Bochum as a youth prospect, and then to Schalke, and the thing about the Schalke experience is, it’s generally regarded as the best youth set-up in Germany. The Knappenschmiede, as they call it, is where so many great players have had their footballing education.
“So Joel got a very good education there and it was no surprise when he very quickly made his way into the team, having gone through all the age groups and the second team. It’s just been a refining of his game from that point on, he preferred to play in central defence but has always been a ball-playing defender, not one that just does the basics and I don’t think Schalke fans begrudged him the chance to move on to Liverpool when that chance came.
“Obviously Jürgen Klopp, although he hadn’t worked directly with him, he had come up against him in the biggest derby in Germany, the Revierderby between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke. So it’s been great to see him go from strength to strength.”
Occasionally deployed as a midfielder by Schalke, Matip averaged between three and four goals every season in Germany, and it’s a side of his game Liverpool fans can perhaps hope to see more of this term after the 6ft 5in stopper got off the mark early with a header in the FA Community Shield against Manchester City earlier this month.
“The goal threat and capability at set-pieces is something that’s been there from a young age, he’s always had that in him,” adds Rae, whose voice will soon be accompanying Liverpool fans on their virtual adventures to the Champions League final, with the Scotsman having provided commentary on all UEFA competitions for EA SPORTS' FIFA 20.
“And although he preferred to play central defence, he always had that the ability to play in central midfield. But in Klopp he’s certainly now got a coach that understands him.”
Easy-going as he may be off the field, the manner in which Matip battled back from injury and performed so consistently in high-pressure games last season spoke to a grittiness of character, and it’s a trait Rae believes was moulded partly at Schalke, and partly during a childhood spent immersed in the game.
“That soft-spoken nature, that’s definitely who he is, but anyone who’s been around him and knows his background knows that he is a determined competitor, and you don’t get that far in the game - certainly not in competitive environments like Schalke and Liverpool - without having it.
“People are writing about those two teams every day in the papers and you’ve always got to be fighting for your place, there’s always a lot of competition and things going on around the club. To have that experience, I think it does make you quite battle-hardened and ready to step in when you have to.
“He comes from a very down-to-earth football family in the Bochum area, his whole family have been around SC Weitmar and his brother Marvin [a centre-back for FC Ingolstadt] has played on the German football scene for a long time. So he’s sort of steeped in football but one of the nice things is, I saw a little video that spoke about how after winning the Champions League he went back to Weitmar - and we’re talking the club he was with when he was six years old here! - and helped out for a day, sharing the memory with them and encouraging them.
“So that tells you everything about him. He’s somebody that is certainly never going to forget his roots, and his roots will always be in that industrial western part of Germany, which I think is very similar to Liverpool in the way people live and breathe the game of football.
“He’s greatly respected, very highly thought of and has all the qualities you look for in a top central defender. His is very much a feel-good story. If he wasn’t at Liverpool I think a remarkable number of other clubs would be after him. But Liverpool is where you want to be, they are the European champions.”
As for the man himself, unsurprisingly there is no complacency or sense of entitlement when asked what his fourth season on Merseyside might hold, just a willingness to continue working hard and contributing to the cause.
“It was nice to play and have the success, but a new season begins. You only have to take the things, learn the things from last year, but we all start from new.”
Watch Jürgen Klopp's pre-match press conference live with us from 1.30pm BST on Friday.
The Liverpool boss will address the media at Melwood this afternoon ahead of Saturday's Premier League clash with Arsenal at Anfield.
Return to this page shortly before the start time to tune in via our live YouTube stream.
Jürgen Klopp is confident Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain can build on a first Premier League start in 16 months by ‘kicking on and showing how good he is again’.
The manager made the assertion as he spoke of his delight at the news the No.15 had committed his future to the Reds by signing a new long-term deal at Melwood on Thursday.
It comes just days after Oxlade-Chamberlain marked his first top-flight start since April 2018 due to injury with an excellent display in the 2-1 victory over Southampton at St Mary’s on Saturday.
Klopp admits the character and mental fortitude of the midfielder meant has never in any doubt about his ability to come through a tough period in his career and once again become a top-class option at his disposal.
The boss told Liverpoolfc.com: “When I heard Ox had signed his new contract with us, I am sure my emotions were the same as every Liverpool fan hearing the news tonight – absolutely delighted.
“This is because an absolutely outstanding player and person has shown his belief and commitment to our project here and it’s a deal I think makes sense on both sides.
“I think Ox has said himself it feels to him like he has been here a lot longer than he actually has and that is something I would agree with. I think that’s down to his personality around the place here at Melwood. I have said in the past, one of the best things about him is what an outstanding human being he is, one of the nicest guys you will meet. Of course, he is also an outstandingly talented footballer, too.
“We all know Alex’s story since he came to the club, and yes there have been disappointments as well as highs, but what has impressed me and everyone is his attitude to dealing with setbacks and his character.
“That’s why none of us were ever in any doubt about him fighting his way back in the way he did. To see him play almost the whole game at Southampton on Saturday was such a positive moment for all of us, especially him.
“Now he is no longer injured, he is fit and he can kick on and show once again just how good he is. But there is still a lot of hard work on that road, there will be times things don’t go the way he’d want, there are times he will need to be patient, times he will be angry in the right way, but I am convinced everything will be fine.
“And who knows, maybe this is the season we hear the Kop sing an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain song? I can tell you it would mean a lot to me and the boys to hear that, let alone him!”
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has revealed the moment it dawned on him that Liverpool supporters are ‘really special’.
The Reds’ No.15 committed his future to the club by signing a new long-term contract at Melwood on Thursday.
And, after putting pen to paper, Oxlade-Chamberlain sat down for an in-depth interview, which you can read and watch in full on Liverpoolfc.com from 8pm BST.
“It's [Liverpool] a hard place not to embrace. It's such a full-on culture, so much passion from everyone that is associated with the club – it's really endearing,” the 26-year-old said, during the wide-ranging discussion.
“The thing I respect so much about them is, yes, the fans want results and they deserve results and that's what this club is about, but at the same time, if you give them everything you can, they respect that.
“As a footballer, I think the least you can do is respect the fans, the club and who you play for and give them everything you can. When you get the support back that you do, you can't really have any complaints.
“The first time I really noticed that was when we played Sevilla away in the Champions League in my first season. Obviously we were 3-0 up and we drew 3-3. We should never have let that happen and for fans to have taken days off work the next day and spend money to come out there, for them to still applaud us as we walked over, I couldn't believe it.
“That was when I realised: 'These guys are special, this set of supporters are really special.' They give us everything and, at the minute, the team are giving them everything.”
Read and watch the full interview with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on Liverpoolfc.com from 8pm BST
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain signed a new long-term Liverpool contract at Melwood on Thursday and our photographer was there to capture the special moment.
Two years after joining the club, the midfielder committed his future to the Reds by extending his deal with the European champions.
And you can see our pictures from a milestone day in the gallery below…
Photos by John Powell
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has today reaffirmed his commitment to Liverpool FC by signing a new long-term contract at Melwood.
The midfielder put pen to paper on a fresh deal which extends a spell with the Reds that began when Oxlade-Chamberlain joined the club from Arsenal in August 2017.
The No.15 has made 47 appearances and scored five goals for Liverpool to date and was part of the squad that clinched European Cup glory in Madrid in June, having overcome a serious knee injury sustained in April 2018.
“I’m really, really excited - it’s been in the pipeline for a little while, so it’s nice to finally get it done and just extend my time here, which I am really looking forward to,” Oxlade-Chamberlain told Liverpoolfc.com after signing the new contract on Thursday.
“I feel like I missed out on a year, which I obviously did, so it’s really exciting for me to be able to sign. It’s something that I feel is an opportunity to give that year back and make up for lost time – and hopefully put in some good performances to make amends for not being around last year.”
“You’ve got to count your blessings every time you get an opportunity like this, you don’t get the chance to play for Liverpool Football Club every day. I am really excited to be able to extend my time here.”
The England international has featured three times in the 2019-20 campaign – and made his first Premier League start in 16 months in Liverpool’s 2-1 win at Southampton last Saturday.
With a full pre-season under his belt too, Oxlade-Chamberlain is determined to produce the levels of performance that established him as a fan favourite again throughout the season.
“I can promise the supporters that I'll give them absolutely everything moving forward,” he added. “There might be times where I have bad games and good games and moments where it's not so good, but I'll always work through those moments and give my everything to correct them and keep pushing this team forward.
“I hope that I can do some special things like I did before I got injured and, most of all, be a part of this group of players that go on to hopefully win more things.
“I'm really excited to see what the future holds for us all and I look forward to seeing them every game moving forward.”
Liverpool Football Club today reaffirms its intention to redevelop the Anfield Road stand with ambitious new plans now under active consideration.
As part of this process, the six-time European champions have committed to engaging with the local community and other key stakeholders while pursuing a vision in keeping with the club’s aspirations.
As a direct result of this development, existing outline planning permission will be allowed to lapse in order to allow work to continue on alternative options with a view to submitting a new planning application for a larger scheme in due course.
Liverpool FC chief operating officer Andy Hughes said: “The progress that has been made during ongoing feasibility studies has resulted in us being in a position to allow the outline planning permission to lapse. We are committed to working with local residents, planning officials and others as we now focus on the detail behind any proposed redevelopment for Anfield Road.
“Throughout this process we have been clear that our objective is to find the best possible solution for Anfield Road and that remains the case."