The Liverpool manager admitted that his decision to start the 26-year-old on the wing against Chelsea was a mistake
Jurgen Klopp praised Roberto Firmino’s unique qualities as he admitted starting Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the UEFA Super Cup win over Chelsea was a mistake.
Oxlade-Chamberlain started on the left of a front three in Istanbul, but was replaced by Brazil international Firmino at half-time on Wednesday.
The former Arsenal midfielder only made his return from a serious knee injury in April and is still working his way back after an impressive start to life at Liverpool, who claimed a 5-4 penalty shoot-out victory following a 2-2 draw with Chelsea.
Klopp admitted his decision to start Oxlade-Chamberlain was an error, however backed the 32-time England international to find his best form once more.
“I didn’t say a lot to Ox, I don’t think it was necessary. For Ox it was very important to have these minutes, it’s a position he can play,” he told a news conference.
“He can play much better than he did but that’s how it is and after a long injury you have to find back the rhythm. In training it’s already there and now in the game he had good moments but of course not enough for his quality.
“It was not about that. I knew it was a very, very intense game so it was clear that we have to make that decision because we didn’t want to push him through, we want to give him the opportunity to perform, to shine if you want.
“In that position and the circumstances it was obviously not as possible as we would have wished, but that’s then my mistake and not his mistake because I made the decision.”
Firmino had a huge impact after being introduced, setting up Sadio Mane’s equaliser and the attacker’s extra-time goal, which was cancelled out by a Jorginho penalty.
Klopp hailed the Brazil forward and while he insisted there was depth in the central attacking position, the German admitted Firmino played the role like no-one else.
“Bobby Firmino is pretty vital, but Sadio Mane can play that position as well. Divock Origi played in that position really well,” he said.
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“They are all different, they all have different strengths, but I think for tonight when the opponent kind of learns from the game and gets used to what you do, then it’s important that you can make a change and it was a big change because Bobby is different to all other players in the world, probably, in that position and it helped us a lot.
“For him, it was really, really intense. It was not the plan that he plays around 80 minutes, now he had to play it. You saw it was hard for him, he had pretty much no pre-season and played after one week. That was the problem for us a little bit, it’s our third competitive game where we had to throw in everything to be on top of it after the pre-season we had.
“We know that we have to improve a lot of things, but a lot of things were good … we can play and we will play better football but for tonight it was only about winning and we did that. We found again a way to win the game – and that’s big, really big, it feels incredibly big and I’m really happy about that.”