Despite likening new midfielder Wataru Endo to a “machine”, coach Jürgen Klopp has outlined a couple of areas for improvement for the Japan international to be a success at Liverpool.
With a lack of options in defensive midfield, Endo has been immediately thrust into the action. Barely 24 hours after joining the club from Stuttgart for approximately £16.25 million, he made his debut with the Reds down to 10 men against Bournemouth.
He then earned his first start in the thrilling 2-1 victory against Newcastle, a match in which Liverpool also played with a numerical disadvantage following Virgil van Dijk’s early red card.
Now, with the dust settling, it’s time to refine his tactical approach, admitted Klopp in his press conference ahead of this Sunday’s clash with Aston Villa – a match which sees the 30-year-old drop to the bench, with Curtis Jones returning to the frey.
The German emphasised that it will take time for Endo to adapt to life at Anfield and concedes that he has held “discussions” with Endo regarding his positional awareness.
Explaining his comments further, Klopp said: “We’re still a counter-pressing team, with a focus on possession, which means you have to be in specific positions. And you can observe instances where he positions himself slightly too deep.
“I’ve had conversations with him, and we will address that. He’s eager to get it absolutely right and in training you can see that when the spaces are tighter, he operates like a well-oiled machine.”
Klopp conceded that the circumstances of Endo’s late arrival have been a challenge: “Could you imagine a more challenging start than playing twice with 10 men for such an extended period? Probably not. We’re making progress. He didn’t have a preseason, and that’s the key distinction between him and the other two new arrivals [Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai]. They had the preseason with us, and it changes everything.”
The hope now will be that Endo can be used more sparingly as he adjusts to the demands of the side’s tactical set-up: “He just needs training, and everything will fall into place.”
That said, the suggestion that Endo may not be fully prepared may concern supporters, given that he is the squad’s sole specialist ‘number six’. However, this also gives an insight into how we might expect fellow new recruit Ryan Gravenerch to be slowly integrated into Klopp’s midfield setup.