Jurgen Klopp praises academy stars for leading Liverpool through tough January

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp says it is a credit to their academy players that his side have emerged unscathed from a difficult January to lead the Premier League by five points.

The 4-1 victory over Chelsea was the Reds’ sixth win in seven matches in the month, with the other a draw in the second leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final at Fulham having gone into the game with a lead from the home tie.

During that period the side have been without three senior full-backs, as well as the likes of midfielders Dominik Szoboszlai and Alexis Mac Allister at varying times and, of course, Mohamed Salah.

Deputy right-back Conor Bradley has impressed hugely and put in his second successive man-of-the-match display with his first Liverpool goal and two assists in the victory.

But with Trent Alexander-Arnold close to full match fitness after two substitute appearances, it has given Klopp a decision to make ahead of Sunday’s trip to Arsenal.

“There is no situation. It is just how it is,” said Klopp.

“We had seven games in January with 11 days off in between. We couldn’t have put the string of results together without the kids, (Jarell) Quansah, Conor and we had midfielders out so we played with James McConnell at six.

“These boys used this situation. I am happy they all could perform the way they did. The academy is doing an incredible job.”

Striker Darwin Nunez had one of those games where he did everything but score, becoming the first player since Opta records began in 2003 to hit the woodwork four times, once from the penalty spot.

Darwin Nunez hits the post with his penalty
Darwin Nunez hits the post with his penalty (Peter Byrne/PA)

It was at the extreme end of what has become a frequent trademark from the Uruguay international, who set up the fourth goal for Luis Diaz, but Klopp is not concerned.

“Insane first half, unbelievable. Outstanding. Why do we speak about Darwin? Obviously because he has so many situations where he missed,” he added.

“The first time since we count a player hits the woodwork four times in a game. Think you are in his boots and how that feels. Missing a penalty you could see at half-time he was really upset with himself.

“It’s just crazy that he creates that many. Imagine for a second he would take them all. The numbers would be absolutely insane, to an extent where we wouldn’t understand it any more so it’s normal.

“For us, it’s unimportant. We scored four goals, who cares if we could have scored a fifth or sixth?”

It would not have flattered Liverpool to have added two or three more such was their dominance over opponents who they will meet again in the Carabao Cup final in a month’s time.

Chelsea head coach Mauricio Pochettino admitted his side were second best and even penalty shouts in the first and second halves would not have done much to alter the direction of travel.

“I think it is not to find excuses. The performance was not good enough from us. They deserved to win, they were better than us,” he said.

“We didn’t perform in the way we wanted to. In this type of game you need to say ‘well done Liverpool’.

“In the final (next month) we need to compete in a different way. If we compete the same way as today for sure it is going to be the same result.

“For us it is about learning. We are competing against a team that is on the top and is consistent to always be challenging for the big trophies.”

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