Jurgen Klopp has apologised for his outburst on Antonio Conte’s tactics following the draw between Liverpool and Tottenham on Saturday, suggesting it was a “backhanded” compliment.
Liverpool dropped ground in the Premier League title race as they were held to a frustrating 1-1 draw at Anfield, Luis Diaz’s deflected second-half strike salvaging a point for the Reds.
Spurs managed just 35 per cent of possession against the Reds, who outshot their opponents 22 to three – though the visitors registered as many shots on target (three each).
Having defended deep and relied on the counter-attacking prowess of scorer Son Heung-min and Harry Kane, Tottenham became the first team to stop Liverpool from winning at Anfield in the Premier League since Brighton and Hove Albion last October.
Klopp took aim at Spurs’ approach after the game, stating he “could not coach” Conte’s defensive style as he implored Tottenham to do more with their talented “world-class players”.
However, the German manager has since retracted his remarks as he hailed the work that Conte and Atletico Madrid’s Diego Simeone do in setting their teams up to defend.
“No. It’s what I think, it’s just not what I should say because it’s not appropriate,” Klopp told reporters when asked if he would contact Conte to apologise. “We didn’t lose and it felt like a loss.
“One of you guys asked how they defended and that was the moment it clicked. I mean it when I say I couldn’t coach it – it was a backhanded compliment.
“I couldn’t. What they do is incredible and so difficult for the opponent – they make it hard to score.
“When you don’t score and then Harry Kane gets on the ball, it’s not a brain f***, but what can you do in these moments? My main message is I can’t coach it.
“Diego Simeone and Atletico Madrid, I can’t wait to face them again. That’s what I mean, it’s unnecessary I say these kinds of things. It came out before I was thinking.”
Liverpool also attempted 46 crosses to Tottenham’s 17, but Klopp refuted suggestions his side should not have relied on sending the ball in from the flanks, even if he bemoaned the Reds’ build-up play.
“The crosses you can read easily are not right with the way they defend,” he added. “They need to go back in the centre, get to the touchline and square it.
“It’s just that the main challenge of a game like this is that you are in a creative mood, but every missed pass is a massive problem, it is hard to stay calm.
“If we chip the ball in behind the wing-back that’s great football, but we didn’t anticipate it. If we had won 3-1 you wouldn’t have asked me about all these crosses and that’s the problem, not a perfect game but great things.
“The counter-press was amazing. I don’t forget but we keep going. If we win 1-0 and there’s no counter-press, we have only a few games left and I have to say ‘Boys, what happened?’.
“Nothing is broken, that’s how I see it so let’s keep going from there. It doesn’t always work out and that’s the nature of it.
“We had the situations where we could have scored. Virgil [van Dijk’s late header], he could have scored and it would have been perfect.”
Liverpool will look to cut Manchester City’s three-point lead at the Premier League summit when the Reds visit Aston Villa on Tuesday.
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