Liverpool may be top of the league with a 100 per cent record having not yet conceded a goal but manager Jurgen Klopp insists they are still a long way from being the finished article.
Mohamed Salah‘s 29th goal in 29 appearances at Anfield secured a 1-0 win over Brighton in a game when the Reds failed to reach the levels which is now expected of them.
However, they ensured they capitalised on Manchester City’s draw at Wolves earlier in the day to go top of the table for the first time since November 2016.
“Nine points after three games, I never heard anything negative about that. We didn’t concede a goal, nothing negative about that,” said Klopp.
“If you watched the games – we knew before the game but now a few more people know – we have a lot more to do.
“First half was a good mindset, really patient in the right moment, and we scored the goal and could’ve score more and I don’t think they had a chance in the first half.
Mohamed Salah equalled two 2018/19 single-game records vs. Brighton:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 25, 2018
• Most touches in opp. box (12)
• Most chances created (6)
Danger man. pic.twitter.com/PRVtNYd8g6
“Then there was half-time and we didn’t do exactly the same, the boys changed a little bit and it was not the best idea.
“We didn’t show the same patience and it was a more open game and there was absolutely no need for that. The last 10 minutes they (Brighton) had their moments as we started passing through an area where they was no space.
“They had their chances and Alisson had to make a big save; nice, good for us.
“We won the game very deservedly. One-nil is not a result we’ve had very often since I was in but I am very happy because it was the best we could get today.”
While Alisson Becker was becoming only the third Liverpool goalkeeper in 51 years to keep a clean sheet in the opening three league matches of the season the man he replaced, Loris Karius was joining Besiktas on a two-year loan.
The Turkish club will pay a £2.2million fee now and are obligated to buy him for a further £7.25million in 2020 if appearance and European qualification criteria are met.
“We said goodbye yesterday, He is really looking forward to it, it is good for him and I really think Loris is a fantastic goalkeeper at a very good age,” added Klopp. “A lot of people spoke about our improved defensive things and as good as Alisson was in the last three games we were good when he was not here and Loris did a lot of good things.
“Besiktas have a good team who have a good chance to win the league and they now have a really good goalkeeper and I am really happy for him.”
The German is on the verge of a two-year, £2.2million temporary deal with the Turkish club, who are obligated to buy him for a further £7.25million in 2020 if appearance and European qualification criteria are met.
Karius, who made two errors in May’s Champions League final defeat, has been replaced by Alisson Becker – who has kept clean sheets in his first two matches.
“It’s a normal thing in football. It happens to managers: as a manager you usually don’t need that much time between one game and another to get the sack!” said Klopp.
“It is not the sack, it is only change. That’s football, no problem with that.”
Alisson’s impact has been instantaneous and he could become only the fourth goalkeeper in the last 51 seasons after Bruce Grobbelaar, Pepe Reina and the man who will be his deputy against Brighton on Saturday – Simon Mignolet – to keep clean sheets in the first three matches of a league campaign. The Belgian has managed the feat twice.
How much of those two clean sheets has been down to Alisson and how much is as a result of the quality of opponents West Ham and Crystal Palace is open to debate.
However, the Brazil international has brought a new dimension to Liverpool’s game with his goalkeeping skills – which have not been fully tested yet – and his distribution.
“Good player, very good player and not only a goalkeeper but a player as well so that’s quite cool,” said Klopp of the man who commanded at the time a £65million world-record fee for a goalkeeper when he arrived this summer.
“He gives us a few more (offensive) opportunities so that’s cool as well, I like that.”
Not all the improvement can be laid as Alisson’s feet, however, as since their 4-1 October defeat to Tottenham last season Liverpool have the Premier League’s best defensive record.
Klopp was keen to stress that was due to the way the team is now operating.
“You (the media) tell me when we concede goals it is our defence and you talk a lot about the centre-halves or the goalkeeper being responsible – defending is always a team thing,” said the Reds boss.
“We did well not only this season, since a longer period already we defended well.
“We are an offensive-orientated team based on the best possible organisation and that means organisation is important in offensive and defensive things. It is something we are constantly working on.
“Every game we go in it is probably 60 or 70 per cent we talk about our defence and what we can do to create stability, you need to do a few offensive things.
“We improved in that step-by-step but it needs to stay like this. This season twice (we have had) a clean sheet but at the end of the season if we only have two clean sheets no one is happy about that.”
At the other end of the pitch Sadio Mane, the man overshadowed by Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino’s goalscoring feats last season, is setting the standards this time around.
The Senegal international, who is still in talks over a new contract at the club, is the Premier League’s top scorer with three goals – alongside Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero and Everton’s Richarlison.
Klopp added: “We knew we would get a good player when we signed him from Southampton. Did we exactly know how good? I wouldn’t say so.”
Liverpool owners Fenway Sports Group insisted Friday the Premier League club is not for sale after details emerged of a failed £2 billion ($2.6 billion) takeover bid from a cousin of Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour.
Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper reported that Abu Dhabi-based Sheikh Khaled Bin Zayed Al Nehayan approached the club over several months in late 2017 and into early 2018.
He then made the £2 billion offer that would have been the most expensive takeover in the history of the game.
Liverpool – 18-times English champions – said the club was still open to new outside investment but is not for sale.
Britain’s Press Association said it understood that the interest – one of a number of approaches FSG have received in recent years – did not get past the vetting stage because it was deemed neither credible nor worthy of being put to the ownership.
“FSG have been clear and consistent: the club is not for sale,” said a Liverpool statement.
“But what the ownership has said, again clearly and consistently, is that under the right terms and conditions we would consider taking on a minority investor, if such a partnership was to further our commercial interests in specific market places and in line with the continued development and growth of the club and the team.”
Malcolm Glazer’s £790 million purchase of Premier League rivals Manchester United in 2005 remains the most expensive football takeover deal.
Liverpool, bought by their owners, then known as New England Sports Ventures, for £300 million in 2010, were valued at £1.42 billion by business services group KPMG in May.