The look across Jurgen Klopp’s face said it all.
He applauded the stands at Anfield as usual, but his exuberant fist pumps were missing this time. A feeling of deflation settled around the ground, and even Liverpool’s manager – a notoriously upbeat character – understood the situation.
The 1-1 draw with Tottenham is typically not a world-ending result, and it still isn’t. Unfortunately, every dropped point is crucial and damaging in the tightest of title races. Their slip-up was capitalised upon by Manchester City in ruthless fashion.
Jurgen Klopp will demand a quick response from Liverpool after their draw with Tottenham
The Reds handed the title advantage to Manchester City are failing to pick up all three points
In his pre-match press conference, that cheesy grin was back for Klopp. He is at his charismatic best in these moments, and his players will need to channel their optimism in their final games. Against Aston Villa, they can make a statement.
The importance of bouncing back in football cannot be underestimated. Morale can change in an instant and change the course of a trophy dogfight. That is exactly what Liverpool are embroiled in, and they need every advantage they can get.
Klopp was relaxed when asked about the tussle with City, and he is desperate for his players to keep believing they can win the title for a second time under him.
‘I am not sure I said [the title race is still on] because it is obvious,’ he said. ‘We both have three to play, my concern is how can we win our games.
City thrashed Newcastle 5-0 at the Etihad to move three points clear at the top of the table
‘We shouldn’t add on points before games are played.
‘Why should we stop believing? The perfect situation would be nine clear, 30-plus goals but it’s not possible, so let’s go from here.
‘Whatever happens tomorrow night, if we win, it helps. If not, we train for cup final. Ideal world, we win them all. We have to respond.
‘Only chance to win is to win all the games.’
Klopp insisted there was no need for a ‘funeral’ after his side slipped-up despite the frustration
His words may echo a man at ease remaining firmly grounded, but there is no doubting that Klopp will have his squad working harder than ever to correct the handful of wrongs that saw them drop two points against a frustrating Spurs.
They will have to be more creative on the ball against Villa, however. Too many times they were too predictable when faced with Antonio Conte’s well-drilled system, with countless chances wasted. Their decision-making was also surprisingly poor.
But supporters will hope the only way is up now. If they were to score four unanswered goals at Villa Park, they would move back ahead of City. Just by topping the table once again, they may seize back the psychological advantage.
The current league leaders currently enjoy that extra piece of comfort, and they have showed time and time again that pressure does not faze them. Their swashbuckling 5-0 victory over Newcastle attested to that, and also bolstered their goals tally.
Liverpool have been named the ‘mentality monsters’ and are in need of another comeback
But if anyone can usurp City, and firmly believe that they can do it, it is Liverpool.
They are not nicknamed the ‘mentality monsters’ for nothing. That was their catchphrase for two seasons of glory at Anfield, which encapsulated their never-say-die attitude on their way to winning the Champions League and league title.
Klopp has roused his players back from rock bottom more times than he can count and, while they are not there yet, he will need to breathe new life into them again.
He has been quick to insist, though, that the dour atmosphere is premature.
While the Reds face Aston Villa next, City take on Wolves and boast a better goal difference
‘First and foremost, we should stop behaving like we’re in a funeral,’ he said.
‘I didn’t say that to the boys but it’s a little bit the mood in here (his post-match press conference).
‘We will go again (away to Aston Villa). We have to show resilience and we will.’
In search of that all-important marker, Klopp has focused on his players taking ‘initiative’, pointing back to their limp attacking display against Tottenham.
Boss Klopp said his team needed more attacking ‘initiative’ against the well-drilled Spurs
‘We could have shown more initiative in moments, just a little dribbling here, getting closer to their formation to keep them busy,’ he admitted after the game.
‘We passed a little bit too early. We could have caused more problems.’
So, the problems have been identified and the determination is there. The question now is whether these hardened superstars can deliver the statement they want.
There is also the small matter of the FA Cup final right around the corner. Their clash against Chelsea at Wembley promises to be an intriguing one, with the Blues sharing similar hallmarks of Tottenham’s defensive set-up and counter-attacking threat.
After the game, Klopp took a swipe at Antonio Conte’s style of play, but later apologised
Both teams shared the spoils in their two league meetings this season, and their Carabao Cup final showdown in the capital went all the way to a penalty shootout.
It would be fair to suggest that Chelsea may be somewhat bruised after their dramatic draw at Wolves, which saw them throw away a two-goal lead when Conor Coady headed home at the far post deep inside stoppage time.
Klopp appears ready to bite the bullet for his team, having savaged Antonio Conte’s defensive-minded approach last time out, and it is now down to his players to do the same. They cannot afford to wait any longer to get back on track.