JÜRGEN Klopp never goes into any football game accepting a point. You’ve seen that in the performances at Manchester City, Chelsea and Borussia Dortmund last season.
Even when we’re pinned back, it’s not the way he wants to play. He wants to come out and be on the front foot, come out the traps quickly, and take control of the game, attack the opposition, create chances and score goals.
That is exactly what he is going to want to do against Chelsea. Whereas many managers might say “we’re away from home, let’s get through the first 20 minutes, quieten the crowd – well, at Stamford Bridge the crowd is quiet anyway – keep it at 0-0 and then build from there and frustrate Chelsea. If we get out with a point it’s a good result, if we get out with a win it’s a phenomenal result.” Klopp won’t do that. He wants to be on the front foot.
Chelsea are building some momentum now, a point away at Swansea isn’t a disaster but they will see it as two points dropped, so it’s a massive statement of intent if they can get three points against Liverpool on Friday night. So, on the one hand, they may want to come out the traps quickly themselves, which means it’s going to be quite an exciting start to the game, on the other hand, they go with the ‘Italian’ approach, and think the last thing we need is for Liverpool to get in behind us. With the likes of Diego Costa and Eden Hazard, and the running power of N’Golo Kante they may see it as though they can counter attack us.
Breaking Teams Down
From a tactical perspective, it will be interesting to see how each team sets their stall out in the first 20 minutes, and who gets their success, and then see how the game flows from there.
The main thing for Liverpool is if Chelsea and Hull do choose to sit deep and force us to break them down we need to learn from the mistakes we made at Burnley. Against Burnley we played in between the two penalty areas, we were very central, which allowed their back four and midfield to remain tight.
If you look at our games so far, we’ve been at our best when the opposition have had to come at us. For example, we were at 1-1 against Arsenal, 1-0 up at Spurs and Leicester we went a few goals up and they had to push forward more. The big test will come if we go 1-0 down to a Chelsea or a Hull, and then we’re forced to break them down.
If you look at Klopp’s Dortmund side – although it is different system and different players – he is trying to do the same thing, whereby the front three and one, or maybe two in this case, of the central midfielders need to be close together. Yes there will be a lot of rotations, but it means they can play those combinations. More importantly, it also means that if we lose possession, we’re going to have a lot of numbers around the ball without having to use a significant amount of energy to try and win it back.
The problem that it gives us is that, most of the time, we’re not going to have lots of width. You either have to get that from Nathaniel Clyne and James Milner or Adam Lallana and Georginio Wijnaldum, because he doesn’t really want Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino to do that. He’d rather Lallana and Wijnaldum had a bit of movement and did some overlapping. That is a brave tactic away at Chelsea, particularly when you think of what Hazard can do on the break and how good he was at Anfield last year. He seems to be back to his best, since the end of last season.
The key to breaking down the likes of Chelsea and Hull is that our forwards are on top form, and their movement to be great, to allow our combinations to work. We need to stretch them by making sure we get width from either the full backs or the two central midfielders.
Attacking is such a difficult thing, because you can have off days where things just aren’t clicking, it’s such fine margins. With the combination football that Liverpool are trying to play, there are going to be days where it just isn’t working, or you have a bad half an hour or so. It’s crucial that, if that happens, Liverpool don’t let themselves get exposed on the counter attack, more so against Chelsea than Hull.
Something to focus on is how Hazard’s positioning affects what we do, and when we’re playing down the left hand side does Clyne come into a more central midfield position. We have seen some of that from Clyne, and it’s a bit of a Pep Guardiola trick, to try and stop the counter attack.
Ultimately, most of our attacks are going to fail, so it’s important that we recover the ball back quickly and, when we do lose possession, we don’t let it lead to a counter attack where they cause us trouble within about five or six seconds of having the ball.
One thing that does disappoint me with this Liverpool team is that I don’t think we’re ruthless enough, in that when teams break on us we’re not as willing to get involved in the ‘dark arts’ of the game, doing a pit of pushing and shoving to give away fouls that don’t draw yellow cards, but do break up the rhythm of the opposition, and allow us to get men behind the ball. Sometimes we need to accept that we are going to lose the ball, and that certain teams can be dangerous on the counter, and we might have to be willing to take that yellow card.
One positive is that, particularly against the likes of Chelsea and Hull, Klopp is able to spend more time with his players going over defending set pieces, and hopefully practice makes perfect, in that sense.
I would keep Simon Mignolet in net for the next two league games, and throw Loris Karius in against Derby on Tuesday. With Karius, it’s not about not having faith in him, it’s an issue of timing. With the run of games we have, you can almost do his confidence a bit of a favour by putting him into a game where he’s more likely to do OK. There’s a big difference between playing Derby in a League Cup game and playing Chelsea away on a Friday night, live on Sky Sports.
The other thing is, not that you want it to happen, but if Mignolet makes errors against Chelsea, then Klopp’s mind is more likely to be made up, he can say to Karius: “you’re going to play against Derby and Hull.” Whereas, if Mignolet has a cracker against Chelsea, and you put Karius in against Derby, he can say “what do you want me to do? It wasn’t my fault you got injured, and this lad is playing really well.” There’s not a lot to gain, but there is everything to lose by putting Karius in against Chelsea – you don’t want to kill a young guy’s career before it’s even started. It’s an unnecessary risk.
Dejan Lovren should come back in for Lucas. I’d persist with Milner at left back, you can play Alberto Moreno against Derby and let him prove that he’s working on his game with Klopp, and get his confidence up. With Emre Can it’s still too early, put him in against Derby instead.
Here’s the big one. I’d leave Philippe Coutinho on the bench. I’d keep the same midfield and attack that started against Leicester. It would mean a lot to Sturridge to be able to start at his former club, and perhaps bang a couple of goals in. Against Derby, I would give Coutinho about an hour and then, when we play Hull at home, I’d put him in for Wijnaldum in the midfield three, and keep the front three of Mane, Sturridge and Firmino – that’s our strongest front three.
However, Klopp probably won’t do that. He’ll most likely revert to his ‘tried and tested’ formula and put Sturridge on the bench, play Firmino centrally and bring Coutinho in on the left hand side, as he did have a good game at Stamford Bridge last season despite not starting well.
Our weekend preview show is FREE this week, you can listen via the link below.