Having bemoaned his side’s inability to carry out basic instructions or play with the intensity required to match a decent but not outstanding West Ham side, Klopp was asked what he, as a manager, needed to do in order to improve the situation.
“It’s my responsibility. I can’t change a lot,” said Klopp. “I can’t explain. You want a few sentences, I would need to write a book.”
That summed up the exasperation felt by a man who has a reputation as a world-class manager, capable of innovation, excellent man-management and astute tactics.
Yet even he is struggling to work out how to get the best out of a squad of players that looked well short of a challenge for the big prizes in English football.
Shorn of Gerrard, Suarez, Sturridge and Sterling, the four players so influential as Liverpool led the Premier League for much of the season two years ago, the current group look like a mid-table team, and are playing like one.
Sandwiched between Watford and Crystal Palace, below West Ham after Saturday’s result, the Reds are the only side in the top half of the Premier League with a negative goal difference, usually a reliable indicator of where a team will finish. Only five teams have scored fewer than their total of 22 goals, and only one team in the top half of the table have conceded more than their 24 goals against.
Since Klopp took over in October, the two outstanding results have been comprehensive victories at Chelsea and Manchester City, but they look more like exception than rule, and Klopp knows that inconsistency is damaging his side’s prospects.
At West Ham, Liverpool got all the basics wrong. They failed to prevent the crosses that allowed Michail Antonio and Andy Carroll score with headers, they were largely outmuscled in midfield, and they failed to make the most of any chances they did create.
Christian Benteke had a miserable time, mishitting two shots completely and failing to show a fraction of the aerial threat that former Reds striker Carroll displayed for West Ham.
Carroll was given far too much time and space when he headed home Mark Noble’s 55th-minute cross, just as Enner Valencia was allowed to pick out Antonio for the opener in the 10th minute.
Conscious perhaps that Roberto Firmino was even worse than Benteke, Klopp refused to comment on Michael Owen’s criticism on TV of the Belgian striker. “It’s not the game to pick one player out, when we all did not do our best job,” said the manager. “I have no idea what he (Owen) spoke about, but take this from me — we could not do what we should have done at very precise moments, and that’s why we lost.
“We can talk about good crosses from West Ham, and also bad defending. But the rest of the game, when we had the ball in and around the box, we didn’t shoot at the right moment, didn’t pass at the right moment, didn’t play the ball, had no consistency in our crosses and things like this.
“We had moments when we could have won here, but we lost 2-0 and that’s really not good.”
He acknowledged the fatal combination of lack of confidence and bad decision-making. “That’s part of everything and that’s what we have to work on. We did not have enough shots, or not at the right moment. I can’t find any excuses for us. I’m not looking for them but I can’t find any.”
Andy Carroll scored in successive games for the first time since April 2013, but Slaven Bilic believes talk of an England recall with Euro 2016 looming is premature: “To talk about the Euros is wrong for him. If England is a serious team trying to win the Euros, then you can’t talk about the national team when the player has scored two or three goals. He’s got the quality but he has to show it on a longer scale.”
Bilic is delighted though that Carroll looks fully fit after three injury-hit seasons. “He looks really good, he didn’t drop for one single minute, he was running, tracking back, doing everything. He is fit and it’s all about him now. Is he going to maintain and progress and look after himself and train hard and rest, or is he going to go the other way? He has a history in that and I’m not his dad, I can’t demand things from him but I’m expecting that to be fair.”
Adrian 7; Tomkins 6, Collins 8, Ogbonna 7, Cresswell 6; Antonio 7, Kouyate 7, Noble 7, Lanzini 6; Carroll 7, Valencia 6.
Obiang for Lanzini 38, Payet for Valencia 65 Jenkinson for Antonio 85
Mignolet 6; Clyne 6, Lovren 5, Sakho 5, Moreno 6; Can 6, Lucas 5; Ibe 6 Firmino 5, Coutinho 6; Benteke 4
Smith for Moreno 60, Lallana for Firmini 60 Allen for Sakho 80
Referee: R Madley.