Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp explained his surprising decision to withdraw Mohamed Salah as the struggling Premier League champions chased a goal during their 1-0 defeat to Chelsea, insisting he did not want to risk an injury for the Reds star.
With Liverpool still trailing to a first-half Mason Mount strike just past the hour mark, Klopp substituted top scorer Salah as part of a double change that saw Diogo Jota and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain enter the fray on Thursday.
Salah made no attempt to hide his displeasure as he took to the bench at Anfield, while his agent somewhat cryptically shared a tweet featuring only a full stop in the immediate aftermath.
However, speaking in his post-match news conference, Klopp played down the significance of the moment, insisting Salah was substituted only to guard against fatigue.
“That the boys look disappointed, that’s not a problem. I didn’t see what Mo did,” Klopp told reporters.
“The reason for the substitution… I could have changed other players in that moment, that’s true, but the reason was that he looked in that moment like he felt the intensity really and I didn’t want to risk him, that’s all.
“It’s very rare, I’ve known him now long, and usually Mo looks surprisingly fresh until the end.
“[But] he didn’t look fresh anymore and I thought that’s a sign; in our situation I didn’t want to risk him.”
62′ – A double change, as Jota and Oxlade-Chamberlain are on to replace Salah and Jones.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) March 4, 2021
Having previously gone three-and-a-half years without a Premier League defeat at Anfield, Liverpool have now lost their last five home outings in the top-flight – the longest run in the club’s history.
Liverpool are now seventh in the Premier League, four points adrift of the top four and 22 points behind runaway leaders Manchester City.
Asked if he had spoken to his players about what needs to be done to arrest that alarming slide, Klopp replied: “Not tonight. I try to be as honest as possible. I told the boys what I saw tonight.”
Pushed on what he meant by honesty, the Reds boss added: “It’s not that we go for any kind of excuses in these moments.
“These games are decided in moments, it was always like this. And to get these moments back you have to fight and in some moments you have to fight on a different level as well.
“That’s what I told the boys. In these moments, it’s not about tactical things or stuff like that, it’s about heart and these kind of things.
“I’m not saying that the boys didn’t show heart, I know that they [did] their best, but talk about the decisive two/three/four per cent.
“[That] we will start blaming the circumstances or whatever, that’s just not the case.
“We had a good team, a really good team on the pitch tonight, and we played in a lot of moments good football.
“But not in the decisive moments good enough and there’s only one person or group to criticise for that: that’s me and us. That’s what I told the boys.”