Liverpool’s plan for Billy Koumetio explained as Jurgen Klopp takes hands-on approach


It’s been a whole month for Billy Koumetio. The teenage defender signed his first professional contract on August 12, officially making him a Liverpool player.

And days later, the 17-year-old was taken to Austria with his more senior teammates as the Premier League champions began their pre-season schedule in the town of Saalfelden.

With Dejan Lovren sold to Zenit St Petersburg and Joel Matip still nursing an injury, the opportunity presented itself for Koumetio as he was drafted into Liverpool’s traveling contingent.

A lack of a center-back forced Klopp to lean on reserves and Koumetio did the job perfectly.

“The ideal situation would be if he could really be the first with the U23s and stuff like that,” manager Jurgen Klopp said. “But a training camp is a great opportunity for him, it’s good for us to see him. “

A table tennis tournament at camp was the perfect icebreaker for Koumetio as he got to know his new teammates a little better.

People around the Austrian camp said the defender was polite, friendly and eager to learn from his most esteemed colleagues.

With Liverpool’s reputation as one of the longest lasting and fittest sides in the well-deserved Premier League, Koumetio was gently relieved in the proceedings with Klopp keen to ensure double sessions were in order. of the day in Austria.

“I took him [Sunday] morning in a session because we have to make sure not to overdo it [it] with him, ”Klopp says.

” Its very important. So he was not part of the last part of the session physically but I took him aside and explained to him what we are doing there. “

“I think things like these help him a lot and I’m pretty sure he will make great strides. We just need to make sure we manage their age range and physical demands well. ”

At 17, Liverpool’s reluctance was understandable. It’s a tough request for a young player to immediately get up to speed with champions, from a fitness standpoint.

With Koumetio determined to seize the opportunity presented to him by a lack of options in the center half, the former US defenseman of the Orelans set out to try to make his mark.

Substituting Sepp van den Berg in the 68th minute of Saturday’s 3-0 victory over Stuttgart, the great center-back quickly acclimated alongside Nat Phillips at the heart of the visitors’ defense.

“He is physical, very impressive and he looks calm,” explains a source who was present in Austria. “He’s got good timing and he’s strong and powerful too. He’s got good speed, all the tools you want in a central defender. “

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And with 63 minutes left in Liverpool’s second pre-season match at Red Bull Salzburg, it was Koumetio who received the nod to Sepp van den Berg replacing Joe Gomez.

With Van den Berg being a player more familiar to Klopp, the Liverpool boss may have been eager to get a closer look at someone whose development had already dwindled without too much spotlight.

As Koumetio landed at Merseyside on Tuesday night, the young Frenchman will have been forgiven for thinking he had taken a huge step forward in his bid to secure the long-term note at Anfield.

After earning a place on the bench for last season’s Carabao Cup game with Arsenal, Koumetio may have drifted his thoughts to a potential start for the season ahead.

Anfield insiders, however, are reluctant to place too much weight in expectations on the young shoulders of a burgeoning talent.

“You don’t want to put pressure on the boy and you want him to enjoy his football,” says a senior club official.

“You want him to take the next steps. We never try to put a player in the wrong position and say he’s going to be this or that because it can only work against him. We just let the boy be a boy and watch him. improve.

“He has some good players around him that he can watch and learn and I hope he can take some steps with that. This is what the boss created, to give young boys a chance and we always want to look at this model to find the ‘next one’ so he can develop.

“We have a good team and they all help each other. Senior players give them information the same way coaches do to improve them and we just try to help them take the next step and it’s the same for all coaches.

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“The players are fed information and it all comes from the top with Jurgen and Peter (Krawietz) and Pep (Lijnders). It helps all young players to take steps. And we try to help like the players do.

“We never like to put pressure on boys, let’s help them take the next step and hope the game shows them what they’re doing. That’s all. ”

Working with Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez – players who have helped make Liverpool’s nastiest defense in the last two Premier League seasons – Koumetio has not failed to improve.

And Liverpool fans might be lucky enough to find out how many over the next few months.

* Do you think Liverpool need another center-back from this sumer or could Koumetio do the trick? Let us know your feedback in the comments section below


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