THE dust settles, the Reds leave the Big Smoke with a point and we are all disappointed.
Do me a favour and have a think about that for a minute. Last year, Tottenham finished third in a two-horse race and were being praised by all and sundry as the most exciting young team around. If you engage the rational half of your brain a point away at White Hart Lane is a good result. And yet we are all disappointed.
Well, mainly because we deserved more. The Mighty Reds deserved so much more from the game. We went to their ground and dominated 75 per cent of the game, created the better chances, hit the bar, had a goal disallowed, missed an absolute sitter, had the better opportunities while limiting them to just a couple and somehow come away with a 1-1 draw and a huge sense of frustration. In reality, we should be taking nothing but positives from this performance.
This Liverpool team is pretty good all told. Overall, we are playing the game better than the teams we are facing. This means something, surely. Over the course of the season this means something, doesn’t it?
I had a conversation on Saturday with my mate who has gone a bit bluenose in his footie views of late.
He was unimpressed by the Reds’ performance and spent half-an-hour after the match bemoaning that this side doesn’t control games, always looks vulnerable to the break and doesn’t have anyone to control midfield.
Every one of his concerns was met by an emphatic response as to why he was chatting shite but on Sunday, as my wine-addled brain tried its best to get me through the day, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
While I wholeheartedly disagree with his assessment of the game on Saturday I couldn’t help but agree with the general points made. We do lack someone to control the midfield, we are always susceptible on the break and, in games of this nature, the way the Reds play is very much edge-of-the-cliff stuff.
We don’t seem, on the face of it, that arsed with controlling these games. The difference in my view is that I don’t see these things as much of an issue — I think it is just an alternative way to play, an alternative style that Jürgen Klopp has specifically set out to achieve.
We are potentially susceptible on the break because we are happy to commit so many men in the counter high up the pitch and are confident in our ability to scramble back into shape to disrupt any transition towards our own goal. We do lack someone to get their foot on the ball at times but is it essential for this team in this shape? The evidence so far this season would be that it isn’t, although it would be nice.
3 – Liverpool are the first team to play away in their opening 3 top-flight league games of a season since Chelsea & Bolton in 1997-98. Trip
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) August 27, 2016
One issue with this type of football that might be clouding people’s judgement is that it isn’t easy to watch as a fan. It is nerve-wracking — brilliantly exciting edge-of-the-seat stuff at either end of the pitch.
However, the way Liverpool play is so aggressive that the defence are constantly being asked to make last-minute interceptions, to step out on the front foot to intercept with a distinct lack of a safety net behind them. It could traditionally be viewed as a lack of control, but for me it is a known risk that we are happy to accommodate.
It can, however, put you out of your comfort zone as a fan watching it as you can’t help but think that every mistake will lead to a goal. I think this perceived lack of control is allowing people to harbour dark thoughts — a bluenose mentality which then affects their assessment of the game and the general state of affairs for this team.
I have a belief that this longing for control is a romantic hangover from Rafa Benitez’s time as manager. He is a man who loves control — who has fought for it at every club he has been at — and spent his whole time at our club telling anyone who would listen why it was so important.
Benitez’s approach is still infiltrating our mindset and is difficult to cast it aside. We spent the entirety of Brendan Rodgers’s reign decrying the lack of shape and our susceptibility on the break, even when we finished second. His inability to set up a team done for him in the end. We are still banging on about it now.
On Saturday, we should have been able to close the game down, apparently — to see the game out 1-0. While I understand the rationale, and agree with it to an extent, I don’t think many teams will go to Tottenham and limit them to as few opportunities as we did.
Some of the nonsense bouncing around about Klopp and Liverpool, at this stage of the season — his first full season in charge — is unbelievable.
The Reds have gone away to the second and third best teams in the league last year and have picked up four points. In both games they were the better side and had the better chances. In both games I think it is fair to say that the opposition managers were relieved with the outcome given that the result may have been much worse.
The relentless pressure being exerted by Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea has everyone going bananas when points are dropped but they haven’t played anyone of note yet and the season is only three games old.
All of those teams will get tired, make mistakes and have hard lines at some point this season. If Manchester United or Manchester City maintain a 100 per cent record after the fourth game of the season then we might have to start worrying a bit, but until that happens can we all just relax a bit and try to enjoy what we are watching?
Instead of worrying about things outside of our control let’s concentrate on what we can do. The first home game of the season, a 5.30pm kick off against last year’s champions and with more fans able to watch us at home than at any point in years — let’s get them beat before the game even kicks off.
Beat Leicester and that’s seven points from four games, having played last year’s top three.
Find a way to beat Chelsea and that’s 10 points from five played — two points a game. Go at that pace for the majority of the season and we will be alright.
As a great man once sang: “Don’t worry about a thing/’Cause every little thing gonna be alright.”
Let’s go, Red Men.
LISTEN: Tottenham Hotspur 1 Liverpool 1: The Pink.
READ: Tottenham Hotspur 1 Liverpool 1: How It Happened.
READ: Tottenham Hotspur 1 Liverpool 1: Match Ratings.
READ: Tottenham Hotspur 1 Liverpool 1: Match Review.
READ: Tottenham Hotspur 1 Liverpool 1: Ten From The Terrace.
READ: Home And Away – The Story Of The Season: Spurs (A).
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“If Manchester United and Manchester City both maintain their 100 per cent record after the fourth game of the season then we might have to start worrying a bit”
No need to worry – they’re playing each other.
But I agree completely with everything else in this piece – some of the views of the doom merchants on forums this past week or so is head wrecking.
And getting back to United, City and Chelsea – the three of them have ridden their luck to a certain extent in having their 100% records at this stage.
So less worrying, and more supporting and enjoying what our team are doing.
That was the joke mate.
Great article !! YNWA
Brilliant stuff Ben. Again, stops me writing what’s on my mind. They’ll learn to do the controlling bit too, that’s the thing.
Vs Spurs, during which periods of the game did they fail “to do the controlling bit”, though?
I like the line of reasoning. Very good writing.
How many sides will go to WHL and control the game? Not many, as they’re set up not to allow that kind of thing, particularly at home.
We get these flash, super successful managers in. The ones who bring new ideas to the table and it fucks with our heads.
It’s us that’s the problem. We’ve been watching and understanding football in retrospect for as many years as you care to admit.
No different here. This is new. It’s different. It’s fresh. It’s kinda what we wanted but were never sure to ask for as we had no idea what it looked like.
Now we don’t understand it. And it’s fucking with us. But we’re smart. It’ll come to us as much as it’ll come to these lads playing every week.
Onwards and upwards.
Well said, MKKM. I think you’ve nailed it.
Jurgen’s control is winning the game. I understand that there is a desire for Souness to lose 35 years and resume his imperious control of any midfield put against him, but he was simply unique.
I enjoy the need to control by scoring, by running, by some sublime football and by mesmerising the opposition. It won’t always succeed but then again Kennedy, McDermott, Case and Souness didn’t win every game either.
It should be added for completeness, the Arsenal and Spurs were not at full strength.
But let’s not let details and results cloud judgement and lets take one game at a time.
Liverpool weren’t at full strength either.
You mean Sturridge was injured?
He’s more likely referencing the absences of Can, Karius and Coutinho, and the fact that Matip is only at 75% fitness.
Excellent stuff as are the replies above. It’s been annoying me all weekend!
Burnley was poor but 4 out of 6 away to those two is very good.
Klopp is one of the best in Europe and does it a certain way – he isn’t and shouldn’t change what made him.
In 85-86. Man U won their first 10 games. The pro Utd papers ie all of them said Give Utd The Title Now! Well guess who won the title that year
Klopp has gone on the record in several interviews over the years explaining that his sides thrive on creating chaos. Not just handling it, but actively pursuing it as the most likely avenue to scoring opportunities.
There are some excellent articles at “spielverlagerung” discussing Klopp’s gegenpressing philosophy in action. I suggest googling them, if so inclined.
Dortmund struggled after other teams allowed them control of the ball, and Klopp had to deal with this to scrape them out of the relegation zone. But his preferred method works best against teams who want to score, which is why our away record and form against the top teams makes sense.
Personally, I was in no rush to get rid of Benteke – it wasn’t my money paying his paycheck – because we need to deal with turning the screw. It can still be done, but it never hurts to have a big, lethal striker in a crowded box.
This notion of klopps system being rumbled in his final season ( being in the relegation zone) needs to be put to bed.
His system was fine but a horrific injury list in the first half of the season was the cause of their terrible form NOT his system or tactics- he struggled to put out his preferred 11 for the whole of the first half of the season and at one point he was forced to play an entire u21 back 4 due to injuries.
After their winter break he got most of their main stars back and their form improved dramatically.
This article is bang on, we’re moving in the right direction and the positive signs are there to see and the positive results will follow.
Good read, any Dortmond fans on here ?
Personally,i love Klopps all action end to footy.Forget diving,the worst thing the foreigners brought to English game is the dull overly defensive counter attacking ‘chess on grass’ shite we have have to watch.I also include houllier and Rafa as part of this ‘zzzzzzz’s disease’. Klopps footy style is like professional pub footy and theres nothing worse than paying a good few quid to watch 2 world class teams play ultra cautiously in hope they can capatalise on a mistake and nick a win.winning trophies is great,but playing boss exciting footy week in week out is better and far more exciting and much better value for money IMO
We can’t control games anymore. Not properly anyway. I don’t even want us to. If I have to watch us ‘have all the possession but fail to create any clear-cut chances’ one more time I will eat my own face off, regurgitate it and eat it again.
The way we set up now means we do it best when we blitz attack teams with fast, direct play like against Arsenal. Robbing the ball high up the field and having so many men forward that a goal is inevitable.
Good stuff, except for the chicken-counting. I’m never convinced with counting points we’ve not even played for. “Beat Leicester and that’s seven points from four games… Find a way to beat Chelsea and that’s 10 points from five played.” Yeh. And beat the next four teams and we’re top of the league, and then beat everyone else and we’ve won it all. Let’s just get ready for Leicester in front of our fabulous new stand, and crush the fuckers. Then start thinking about the next game. One at a time.
Watching Saturday one other Dortmund style is starting to creep into the Reds’ game: the no look counter attack. I loved watching Dortmund break upfield with the midfield or back line launching a pass to an area because they knew a player would be there because that was the point.
Good stuff, great stuff coming. Good writing. YNWA
“this side doesn’t control games” =/= “We do lack someone to control the midfield”
The premise of the article is false. Klopp does aim to ‘control the game’ and we did “control the game” on all four occasions (3 League, one League cup).
He has outright said it, without being prodded to, himself during pre- and post-match press conferences.
Klopp speaks of “offensive defending” and of “defending our offensive game”. Probably counter-intuitive, but if one does not understand what he means, then one will not understand WHY we fail effectively to deal with counter-attacks/breaks by the opposition sometimes (hint: we surrender possession gratuitously from a position where our ‘defensive shape’ has not been maintained as we’re attacking).
By the way, look back at practically every situation in which we’ve been effectively hit on the counter or on the break since Klopp became our manager. You’ll see why (in light of the above) and you’ll be able to see the main culprits. One of them is our “little magician”.
I don’t think we have adopted the ‘full Dortmund’ yet precisely because it takes time to get right.
This is a great article by Ben Johnson and the end touches on exactly why we should be optimistic about Liverpool this campaign. Liverpool have picked up 4 points from games against Arsenal, Burnley, and Tottenham. After the first game we were all jumping around over the fact that we beat Arsenal 4-3 at the Emirates, a place we usually don’t fare too well. The result was positive purely due to Coutinho’s moment of magic and our eighteen minutes of completely running them over. Although we showed how dangerous we could be, we also showed our biggest and most glaring flaws: our lack of a good left back, our failure to defend set pieces and our incapability to close out games. We saw the best and worst of Liverpool and luckily snuck away with a win. At Burnley, we saw only the worst of Liverpool. Our team came into the game thinking that our previous performance would somehow scare Burnley into conceding, which would not be the case and we were missing our new main man Mane. Our offense became flat and we could not break down the well drilled Burnley defense. Our great amount of possession made Burnley have less time to make mistakes on the ball and let our quality show via counter attack. Burnley then capitalized off two of our mistakes and the game was theirs. We then luckily had time to recover our confidence and route Burton Albion 5-0. Now at White Heart Lane, we had mane and our confidence back. Within ten minutes, we were killing them, we were setting the cocks ablaze. We would pickup the ball in their half and we would charge forward. The so called “best defense in the league” should have conceded three before half if not for Vorm having the game of his career and Coutinho’s lack of end product. Now the second half, Tottenham still had not learned from their mistakes and we should have scored two more, 1 being unfairly taken away and the other a missed chance. Our failure in this game to not take our chances led to our demise. Our defense which I thought was very solid (especially Matip) showed a slight crack and Milner’s inability to defend at left back allowed for an easy cross to be put into the box. This cross then fell for Danny Rose and they had scored. This game resulted in a tie, but I believe that this was our best performance all season. We were tight and menacing in the center of defense, we did not give away the ball often and Milner could potentially do a job at left back, but only with help from a midfielder. Liverpool has been test much more than any other potentially title contending team this year and it is way too early to compare the point totals. Manchester United struggled to break down Hull, which miraculously have six points, Chelsea’s two of three wins have been decided late goals and Manchester City snuck away with a win at Sunderland and nearly lost it at home to West Ham. Liverpool’s performances will eventually match their point totals and all the others point totals will catch up with their under performances.
We did control the match completely against Spurs in the first half
The problem is as soon as we don’t have control of the match we aren’t very good with defending our way outta a hole. Always a defensive mistake that ruins it
It’s natural for people to hark back to Benitez because that’s the last time we had a consistent identity on the pitch. The fact that that was 6 years and 4 managers ago has probably got something to do with us spending the last several years going from one of the best sides in Europe to the 6th or 7th best side in the country.
‘Glad Rafa’s gone.’ ‘Fuck off, Hodgson!’ ‘Kenny’s jibbed Maxi, Meireles and Kuyt helping us control it to going direct with Carroll, Downing and Adam here. We need Rodgers to bring his possession footy in.’ ‘What so we’re crap at the back and just trying to out score everyone?’ Etc. We don’t know what we want basically.
My understanding of Klopp’s Dortmund side was that the midfield set up in front of the defence was very Benitez’s Liverpool with a mascherano breaking it up and Sahin as his Alonso playmaker. People who know more about it might be able to correct me on that though.
My opinion is our midfield set up currently is madness without Suarez and a more often than not fit Sturridge up there to justify it. Gerrard had a passing range Henderson obviously doesn’t and Henderson and Coutinho were much more combative than no. 10s like Wijnadim and Lallana are gonna be in there.
This isn’t what I expected Klopp to be initially (similar to Rodgers in that sense) but that’s probably my problem. If we’re performing well and winning games no one will care and we can all just enjoy it.
Funny how the fans who bemoan JK’s tactics at times are the same ones who wanted RB to get rid of the ‘shackles’.
Liverpool could play like Barcelona and people would still moan.
Boss article btw.
The hysteria around dropping of points is because of the Burnley result. Had we lost to either Arsenal or Spurs, but beaten Burnley I think peoples attitude would be more positive.
I’m still firmly of the mindset that come April / May we will be one of a few teams in with a chance of winning the league. It could also be, at that point in the season, teams missing out on first may also miss out on the top 4, I think it could be that close.
‘It can, however, put you out of your comfort zone as a fan watching it as you can’t help but think that every mistake will lead to a goal.’
Exactly Ben. If we dominated 75% of this game and limited them to so few chances why did we end up 1-1? Because every little mistake usually does end up leading to a goal. Those mistakes/lack of control are also what led to Arsenal coming back from 4-1 down. Had that game gone another 10 minutes would we have won? I’m sorry but even though Milner is doing his best at left back, we are basically playing with three defenders and seven attackers(Clyne could be counted as the 8th attacker). That’s a tall order for any side but in the Premier League? That’s the exact opposite of control. It’s reckless abandon. I used to pull my hair out in frustration over how cautious Rafa was and I’m glad we’ve all moved on but over the course of 38 games which approach is most likely to help us achieve our goals? What evidence supports that? Compare Rafa with Rodgers and you’ll see that while so many of us aren’t exactly longing total control we definitely don’t want a return to the “0” defending days either. It’s not being bluenose, it’s taking what experience has taught us and applying it.
Whats with the sly pops at Benitez?
Defense still plays an important role in any successful season… you can be assured the next champion WILL have a steadfast defense, something Rodgers was incapable of providing and Klopp doesn’t seem to value either.
This article convinced me it was time to cancel my subscription.
Loss of objectivity and disregard of empirical analysis on whats required for success has convinced me my money can be spent better elsewhere. Opinions like this wont be missed.
One word sums up a successful trophy winning team. SPINE. Try think of any League winning team who did so without a solid Spine and you’ll be looking vacantly into empty space. Play a Team consisting of 7 excellent consistent players occupying GK, 2x CB, 2x CM and 2x CF and this allows the team to play with less than perfect fullbacks and wide midfielders due to the dependable nature of personnel in the Spine.
The beautiful game is always best at its simplest which is generally over complicated by idiots, so once said a Great Man, and for those of us old enough to recall, a Title winning LFC which was always, and I mean ALWAYS packed with quality down the Spine. The wheel will never be reinvented.