As TAW Unwrapped examines what we’ve seen from Klopp so far, we take an in-depth look at some of LFC’s future attacking options. Phil Blundell kicks us off.
GOALS. It’s what we all love, isn’t it? Liverpool score and you go mental. Defending is great and that, but when Alberto Moreno pulled off one of the best pieces of recovery defending you’re likely to see with a brilliant challenge on Saido Mane on Sunday, the most he got was a round of applause and a ‘well in lad’. You put the ball in the onion bag and over 40,000 people go crackers.
It isn’t really happening for the Reds at the minute. In our last five home games we’ve scored seven goals from an absolutely astonishing 150 shots on goal. With numbers like that, the casual observer would check the match stats and think that the Reds have been rampant, I saw as much after we played Carlisle. A lazy assumption was made that Liverpool had 47 shots on goal so they must have been quite good; obviously you don’t have that many shots in a game of football and play badly.
Well, as anyone who actually watched the game will tell you, we did actually play badly. 47 shots over 120 minutes sounds absolutely great, loads of fun, loads of chances to score goals. But there’s nothing fun about watching a gang of idiots panic and having pot shots instead of trying to work an opening and do something mad like exploit a right back who’s got one leg and can’t walk. There wasn’t any creativity, there was just loads of hitting and hoping.
That kind of summed up our attacking play this season. Bar games against Arsenal (when we didn’t actually score) and Aston Villa (when we had Daniel Sturridge on the pitch) we’ve looked incredibly dysfunctional as an attacking force.
Jürgen Klopp has overseen the previous two home games and going forward we haven’t looked sparkling. But is it surprising? Divock Origi has started all three games as a lone striker – while I feel you have to allow him a great deal of mitigation, it’s clear to me that he isn’t currently of the required standard to lead the line for Liverpool. Sturridge he isn’t, Benteke he isn’t, and Danny Ings he isn’t either. You add those three to the absences of Firmino and Henderson and you’ve got five players who would all contribute greatly to our attack unavailable. Until these players return, Klopp is in a real quandary.
Sunday was encouraging. Benteke and Firmino both came back in and showed good signs; Benteke, while being reasonably quiet, showed some nice touches and scored a fantastic header out of absolutely nothing, while Firmino showed glimpses. There was one lovely example of him getting the ball and driving forward with it at pace that included a couple of lovely pieces of skill that was in keeping with Klopp’s MO: Get the ball, move it up the pitch quickly and if you don’t actually achieve anything, you’ve moved the opposition and stretch them, meaning that if you press effectively you’ll get it back again quickly.
Pace isn’t to be underestimated in this attack for two key reasons. Firstly, you need to be quick to press properly and secondly, you need to be quick to get up the pitch and stretch teams. On Sunday our front seven was sorely lacking in pace. Lucas and Milner have a number of great assets but quick they are not, Emre Can is bizarre in this respect in that he looks quite quick once he gets going while still looking cumbersome, Coutinho is quick of thought but no more than average in terms of running, Lallana isn’t quick at all, and Origi showed one fantastic turn of pace but little else.
So if you accept that that is what Klopp requires, you’ve got to think the play we are seeing now isn’t representative of what the manager will want in the long term, and even in the short term. When Firmino returns you would think he’d take Lallana’s place, when Henderson returns you would think we’ll be seeing less of Emre Can, and when we’ve got an established centre forward you’d expect us to play better. A midfielder happy to break the lines in Henderson, a creative player with pace like Firmino should freshen up the attack greatly.
The last few games have seen a 4-3-2-1 in which you questioned where the goals are coming from. What comes when Sturridge is back and we can put both he and Benteke on the pitch? There’s lots of questions about how this Liverpool team can set up; we have options. Do we go with the two strikers? I suspect we might have to, as the midfield isn’t exactly something that is spilling over with goals, but at the same time – given we only have three strikers until Ings returns – playing one and keeping them fresh would also be a perfectly logical thing to do.
We haven’t had our first choice side on the field once this season – Henderson, Coutinho, Benteke, Firmino and Sturridge haven’t started one game together. There’s goals in that five. Coutinho being the fourth most likely scorer on a list as opposed to being the second most likely on the list that’s started the first three games makes a massive difference to a team’s ability. It means he’s got three people to pass to, as opposed to one.
I don’t think this side needs too much in an attacking sense in terms of players, I’d just quite like to see everyone fit.
Neil made a very good point on the Podcast on Monday: “Liverpool either need to keep a clean sheet or get a second goal and don’t look like either can be done at the minute. The two are linked really, get those five players on the pitch, you get the second goal and you lessen the chance of giving one away at the other end.”
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda-Photo