NOW the season has started and some good performances have been put in, the form our squad is taking is becoming clearer, writes LUKE CHANDLEY.
From where I’m standing, our squad is looking good. Maybe it was looking bare a few weeks ago — and yes, granted, a specialist left-back could have been brought in — but we as fans sometimes seem to be looking at our transfer business with the mindset that Jürgen Klopp hasn’t thought about what he’s doing. As if he’s making decisions just because he has to. As though he hasn’t got a plan. Just because you can’t see the plan, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. It’s in his head, and if we all knew it I’d be concerned.
Based on what we’ve seen so far this season, the plan Klopp seems to be enforcing is one of effort and energy. Everyone is familiar with gegenpressing and the idea of “Heavy Metal football” under Klopp, so we all expect lots of running and lots of pressing. But, in reality, we’ve seen a different type of press from what we might have expected, which is a clear acknowledgement from the coaching staff about what can and can’t be done in the Premier League. The energy and effort is beginning to show nicely, though, and the squad is taking shape nicely. It’s becoming part of our identity.
In previous seasons — taking Brendan Rodgers’s last full season as an example — we’ve not seen effort and purpose to our play, something that eventually brought an end to Rodgers’s tenure. Effort is something Klopp demands from his players and it’s something he’s demanding from supporters too.
Energy, though, is tough to manifest when there’s no rhythm. As time is passing under Klopp, we’re starting to see a rhythm developing. It’s true that there’s a swagger to our play at times, and some of the interchanging and link-up play we have displayed is frightening. It is becoming increasingly clear to see that the manager values the players who put a shift in.
James Milner is clearly valued as a leader through his actions on the pitch. You never see Milner go missing in games. Adam Lallana, too, never stops running. He never has and, even when people were discussing his future at the club last year, Klopp has clearly taken to the former Southampton man. He’s a leader, too. Just not one in the sense we all expect.
Another player we’re seeing develop into ‘first name on the teamsheet’ status is Roberto Firmino. Sometimes it doesn’t click for him with the ball, but he never lets his body rest. It’s clear why Klopp likes these players. Effort, but also trust. Whilst you’re embedding your ideas into a team you need players you can trust on the pitch.
This may explain Mamadou Sakho’s predicament. If the manager is trying to get us all singing from the same hymn sheet, and if Sakho is fucking about, how can you trust him? A player can’t be viewed merely on what they do on the pitch, because in reality they only spend, at most, 180 minutes there a week.
As Liverpool fans, it’s rhythm that we should all be excited about. It’s not just something that happens when you’re attacking, but something that you see all over the pitch. The team moves together, it feeds off one-another and that induces a team ethic that is very important. It’s the reason he doesn’t believe in ‘marquee’ signings. Your main attribute isn’t your fee, it’s what you can contribute to the team. That’s his main concern.
Take Sadio Mane, for example. His game thrives on energy. He’s always chasing down a man, or the ball, at break-neck speed. He’s not a flash in the pan, he’s an injection of lightning. He’s got the ability to harry a player, or use pace to beat players and score wonder goals on his own. Just look at his effort against Arsenal.
He’s full of running and, when he gets into his stride, he gives defenders a lot to think about — try and win the ball, or try and close the angles? That’s a tough decision to make in a split second. That type of energy hasn’t been seen at the club since Michael Owen. Ability is one thing, blistering speed is another but to weave both into one package is truly something — Theo Walcott is a prime example of the need for consistency. We’re looking to play with swagger, and to establish a rhythm. Mane is central to this.
With that being said, Daniel Sturridge is a player that oozes swagger on the pitch. He is often accused of being lazy, but he isn’t. He plays for the team, as displayed against Leicester. He was selfless in terms of his runs, movement and passing. Dropping deep to receive the ball, or to win it back, before giving it to a teammate. It’s refreshing. We’ve never really seen the best of Sturridge as the main man in the team. He’s at his best when he can be one point of attack in an array of talent. Hopefully this season, with the players around him, he can use his energy in ways we haven’t seen since his early days at the club.
As a Liverpool fan, there’s a lot to be excited about right now. The stadium looks awesome. It’s a real sight to see, and it will take a long time to sink it that it’s ours and it’s there to stay. We have the most engaging manager in the league and options all over the pitch. But, most importantly we’re developing a rhythm and with that comes bags of goals, bags of points and, hopefully, bags of trophies.
Is right, Redmen.
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