Belfast Telegraph

Liverpool now have better team than Brendan Rodgers' nearly men: Mignolet

By Ian Herbert

Liverpool's Simon Mignolet has said that Jurgen Klopp's team is a better all-round unit than the Brendan Rodgers equivalent which came within two points of ending their title drought three years ago, because they are less dependent on individuals.

Mignolet, who agreed that he had been quietly putting together a good season despite being dropped by Klopp between September and December, said that the end of an over-reliance on Luis Suarez helped improve on Ulsterman Rodgers' side which narrowly lost the title race to Manchester City.

"Ask me is there any comparison to the team we had a few years ago with Luis Suarez?" Mignolet said.

"We were challenging for the title but it was a totally different game and a totally different 11 people. Then, we were a bit reliant on the individual ability of Suarez to make the difference and score goals. Now it is more about the whole team, the way we create chances and defend as a unit. We need everybody."

Being less reliant on individuals was "a good thing," he said. "It is always better to have a good unit than being reliant on one or two players."

Mignolet, who played in his side's 1-1 draw at Old Trafford on Sunday, steadfastly refused to discuss how it would be to belong to a Liverpool squad that ended the 27-year wait for a title.

"No. You don't think about that. There is no point in talking about that. There are six (teams). There are seven. Everybody has the same objective. We are just taking it step by step," he said.

Of his own form, since being brought back into the side at Loris Karius' expense before Christmas, Mignolet said: "I feel fine. I feel like I am playing a good season. The strange thing is that I have been out of the team for a while. I feel I am in a good moment. I just try to do my job, stay calm and will try to do the same things the next time I play.

"Of course I want to play every game. I always want to play. But it is about making sure you stay ready. At a club like Liverpool, it is normal there is going to be competition for every single place. There is only one keeper who can play."

Klopp's assistant Pepijn Lijnders, meanwhile, has revealed the German is only 30 per cent interested in tactics - with 70 per cent of his focus on team building.

Though the intense focus on Klopp's success in the Premier League has centred on his strategic ideas, including the double press which was effective in the 1-1 draw at Old Trafford, 33-year-old Lijnders said the tactical element was a relatively small part of the strategy.

"Jurgen creates a family. We always say: 30 per cent tactic, 70 per cent team building," he said.

Lijnders said that the difficulty clubs have in retaining players for six or seven years made it more important than ever to have a coach who can create lasting 'clarity' of focus and cited Liverpool's team building in Barcelona after the recent League Cup quarter-final win over Leeds United as an example of Klopp trying to build collectivism.

"Twenty years ago, PSV had six, seven players who played for seven years at the club, with two foreigners," Lijnders said.

"Those six decided what really happened. When coming into contact with a top coach, they won. Now there are not six, seven more players who remain six years. In modern football, the coach is the most important person for clarity. He needs to bring all these identities together."

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