The Reds have now triumphed in both domestic cups this year and have an even bigger final still ahead
Jurgen Klopp wasn’t wearing the Parisian beret that some of his players were, but he was wearing his medal and a celebratory T-shirt. There was also a huge smile, as he settled into his FA Cup post-match press conference at Wembley. Klopp was clearly in the mood to party.
That was why the one “complaint” was that his victorious team couldn’t go out and celebrate, since they have a match away to Southampton on Tuesday.
“Why do this,” Klopp wondered, “a competition as great as this.”
It was the persistent feeling throughout the day at Wembley, even amid the euphoria of victory. Liverpool constantly had to be conscious of what’s next. It was also why, as singularly brilliant as any FA Cup win should be – and especially a first in 16 years – this was always about so much more.
Take what could have been the decisive moments of the day. There was Mohamed Salah going off in the first half, and then Virgil van Dijk at the end of the second.
For most of FA Cup history, those withdrawals would have been devastating, and purely seen in the context of this contest. Klopp naturally had bigger concerns. As Salah sat on the ground injured, he actually told the Liverpool staff he could continue. Klopp wasn’t taking any chances, though. There is still the Champions League final to come.
“A football game is not a perfect physiotherapist,” the Liverpool manager quipped. Victory can be a pretty good physiotherapist, though. It might also be the best possible psychotherapist.
Salah and Van Dijk showed no sign of any physical problems after the game, as they danced with glee. Klopp confirmed they should be fine for the next fixtures.
Consider the difference had they lost this final. All the talk would have been about a ravaged Liverpool dragging themselves to the end of the season, barely able to put a full team out, let alone win the full complement of trophies.
That has evaporated amid the glory of victory. Even the players carrying knocks were moving with a new freedom, as Salah and Van Dijk showed.
And that, of course, was all down to the difference of something as simple as single kicks in a penalty shoot-out.
That isn’t coincidental, of course. Although Klopp stressed penalties can indeed be a “lottery”, he made a point of mentioning the company Neuro11 in his post-game press conference.
“They said they can train penalty shooting. I said, ‘Really?’ They worked with us. This trophy is for them, too.”
They’d clearly had an effect. An obvious response here is that Sadio Mane had his shot saved, but Klopp put some of the blame on himself. Given that Mane and Edouard Mendy are international teammates, the Liverpool manager advised his Senegalese forward to put his penalty to the other side.
“The first time in my life I learned not to speak,” Klopp laughed.
There is a serious point here.
Although Klopp is obviously a managerial figure of singular effect and charisma, one of his many qualities is the awareness to delegate; to listen.
Liverpool have employed many specialists that other football people have scoffed at, from those working on throw-ins to this. The true benefit is not the little gains but what it all adds up to. It raises the ceiling of the squad. It allows them to do more. There’s a multiplying effect. They may well be the smartest club in football.
Hence they can still go for all four trophies this late in the season.
“The difference for me is that they can go again on Wednesday, and then Saturday,” Thomas Tuchel argued, his Chelsea team having drawn with Liverpool for the fourth time this season.
“This is where the gap comes from. They can produce these performances more often. They have built this team for longer.”
Klopp has now won every major trophy in that time. He can now win them all in one season. The German wasn’t getting ahead of himself, though.
It would be wrong to say he was “resigned” to Manchester City winning the league, but he acknowledged how difficult it could be, as he pointed to the goal difference.
In any other season, given how much Liverpool want the league, that could be deflating. Klopp said all this with a smile.
That’s the effect of victory. It ensures an energy surges through this Liverpool team again. The quadruple is still alive. The squad are more than revived. They’re ready to go again.