Jurgen Klopp’s expression and his words pointed to a siege mentality at Liverpool as they face up to life without Virgil van Dijk.
Four days on from the reckless challenge that damaged Van Dijk’s anterior-cruciate ligament and Klopp was bristling at Jordan Pickford facing no consequences. The outcome was flying to Amsterdam to face Ajax without his best centre-back, or Thiago Alcantara after Richarlison’s red card sidelined the Spain midfielder.
From being runaway favourites for the Premier League a few weeks ago they have since lost 7-2 to Aston Villa and could be without Van Dijk for most of the season. The new motivation after winning the title is to prove they can do it again without the cornerstone of their defence.
“So why should I think the boys cannot deal with the situation?” said Klopp. “But the number of questions suggests you think we will all struggle with it. So we have to prove you wrong? I am not even interested in proving you wrong. I am only interested in the best for Liverpool and for my players. That is what we try now. Hopefully the results in the next few weeks will calm you all slightly down, but I cannot promise it.
“A lot of people speak before they think. But they speak and then it is already out there. We try – sometimes at least – to think before we speak. We have a situation. We are here without Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip. We will still give it a try.
“People can say what they want, it is a free world. But three weeks ago, they said we would run away. Now, three weeks later, we are not even in contention for anything anymore. That’s football. That’s the world right now.”
With Joel Matip also picking up an injury against Everton, it will mean Fabinho dropping back from midfield to form a makeshift defence against Ajax.
It will be the first test of how Liverpool players have reacted to losing Van Dijk, with Gini Wijnaldum revealing that some had been given sleepless nights after Pickford’s challenge.
Klopp’s anger came from the recklessness of Everton's challenges. The Pickford tackle also went to video-assistant referee David Coote and was still unpunished.
“A few things came together,” said Klopp. “Firstly, the ref doesn’t see it. In this case Michael Oliver didn’t see and he is an excellent referee usually, but why he didn’t see it? I don’t know because he had the best view. Then VAR forgets the rules.
“We didn’t do anything wrong in the game. I don’t think we did anything since then. But still our players are still the ones who suffer. It doesn’t feel right and it is not easy to deal with these type of things.”
Klopp was adamant that his view has nothing to do with losing one of his best players long-term and another for the trip to Holland, where his side start their European campaign at Johan Cruijff ArenA.
“It’s really hard for us because Virgil is our boy and it has nothing to do with the quality of Virgil,” he said. “Injuries happen in football. Very often in challenges but often both players just try to play the ball. That was not the case in these two challenges and it makes it so different and difficult to take.
“In the last four years, if you look, we were the leader of the fair-play table. You don’t get anything for that, it is most often something to make a joke about that you are top of that table but not in the real table. We were pretty high in both tables which means you can play football without these types of challenges.”
Klopp’s siege mentality extended to him defending Liverpool’s transfer policy over the summer window when they did not strengthen their defence with a centre-back.
“Yes, we went into the season with three centre-halves plus Fabinho as cover plus young kids as cover,” he said. “That is usually quite a good number. As a football club it is difficult to have four world-class centre-halves – it is pretty expensive and one of them doesn't play for a long, long time.
“If anyone wants to tell us know we made a mistake in the transfer window, I think Jamie Carragher mentioned something, that is the reason why they don't do this job and do the other job. You cannot have the solutions before you have the problems.”