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article imageJurgen Klopp's dynamic philosophy suits current Liverpool side

By Tyrrell Meertins     Nov 27, 2015 in Sports
It was over before it really began. Manchester City were left bewildered, simply wondering what went wrong in what was a truly remarkable performance from Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.
They were quick, organized, efficient and ruthless both in and out of possession. It finally felt like Liverpool finally overcame a transitional period that’s witnessed Luis Suarez, Steven Gerrard, Raheem Sterling, and former manager Brendan Rodgers depart. The Reds were up 3-0 by the half-hour mark, and the score-line could’ve been doubled by half-time if it weren’t for Joe Hart’s heroics.
Liverpool’s improved cohesive pressing has been evident since Klopp’s arrival, but last weekend’s win at the Etihad represents a nearly perfect performance that combined intense pressing and several created chances. On paper, Liverpool’s XI may have been peculiar, but Klopp's decision to start Roberto Firmino ahead of his first choice strikers, Christian Benteke and Daniel Sturridge proved successful.
Coincidentally, Liverpool’s XI was nearly identical to the side that drew Arsenal at the Emirates — the Reds’ best performance of the season prior to the victory. That night, the defensive concept was fairly similar, as Milner and Can pressed the Arsenal midfield, whereas Philippe Coutinho and Firmino sprung quick transitional attacks when Liverpool won possession.
At the Etihad, however, the intensity was staggeringly high, as Adam Lallana and Coutinho pressed the full-backs, but also aided Firmino in closing down the City centre-backs, ultimately preventing the hosts from building plays out the back. City’s wide players also struggled to get on the ball: Alberto Moreno remained tight on compatriot Jesus Navas, and Raheem Sterling tucked into central areas to find space.
Essentially, Liverpool’s pressing flustered City. Coutinho dispossessed Bacary Sagna in the buildup to Firmino’s opener, whereas a combination of Lucas beating Fernando to a loose ball and Martin Demichelis’ poor header in his own third led to Liverpool’s second goal. Likewise, loose passes from Fernando and Jesus Navas ignited breaks for the away side, thus highlighting the issues City encountered throughout.
Though pressing was pivotal, the overall cohesion and understanding of Klopp’s approach was interesting.
Lallana and Coutinho — two players that prefer to drift centrally between the lines — played within close proximity of Firmino, and the two Brazilians, in particular, combined superbly with Firmino making intelligent diagonal runs across the City defence, and locating his compatriot in the box for the opening three goals. Yet, with the front three adopting central positions, Liverpool maintained width with Can and Milner charging down the flanks when the Reds broke forward.
Nevertheless, Liverpool’s performance was nearly perfect — apart from Kevin De Bruyne’s exceptional movement, and several Aleksandar Kolarov crosses cleared by the imperious Martin Skrtel, City rarely threatened.
For the first time this season, the Reds were exceptional on both ends, which undoubtedly highlights the identity of the current squad. Liverpool have recorded their best results at some of the league’s toughest grounds this season (Etihad, Emirates and Stamford Bridge) yet have struggled to produce quality performances at Anfield.
It’s unlikely that Klopp will witness his side to replicate the display at the Etihad on a weekly basis, but the contrast between the Reds’ home and away performances is down to the personnel. Put simply, Liverpool encounter issues getting behind sides that sit deep in a low-block. Prior to the international break, a home loss to Crystal Palace saw the Reds rely on crosses into Benteke, audacious shots from outside the box, and the trickery of Jordon Ibe from the right flank.
The victory at Stamford Bridge followed a similar pattern due to Chelsea’s persistence to drop into their base shape following an early goal. Yet, a superb Coutinho strike served as an equalizer, whilst a hopeful punt to Benteke saw the Brazilian gain a yard on Gary Cahill, and push Liverpool into the led with a deflected effort that trickled past Asmir Begovic.
The issue within the squad is the lack of a creative outlet in midfield. While Coutinho appears to be the ideal player for this role, the Brazilian is merely an excellent dribbler capable of scoring sensational goals. Coutinho’s spell at Anfield has witnessed the Brazilian demonstrate his inability to consistently play decisive passes in the final third, while his positioning between the lines needs improvement.
Equally, Klopp’s midfield options offer boundless energy, but minimal creativity. Can is a physical jack-of-all trades, Jordan Henderson excels at making late runs into the final third, whereas Milner’s dynamism remains his key attribute in a central role. With Lucas Leiva providing cover ahead of the defence, Liverpool displayed that their midfield is suited to partake in a midfield scrap — negating the opposition's threat and breaking swiftly in transition — opposed to dictating a match with endless possession.
Stylistically, Klopp’s counterattacking philosophy that relies heavily on counter-pressing, efficient transitions, and high-intensity work-rate is ideal for Liverpool’s midfield and youthful star players. Although Klopp’s methods have been successful away from Anfield, the club’s home form could define their season.
"We have beaten Chelsea and Manchester City at their home grounds and now the big challenge for us, as a group, is to produce the same here,” stated Klopp in Liverpool’s pre-match programme prior to the clubs Europa League fixture against Bordeaux.
"Anfield is a special place and we need to make sure it is a place where we play our best football and get our best results.
Sturridge’s willingness to run the channels, sprint behind the defence, and reliable finishing combined with Benteke’s all-round game can make the difference, but Liverpool are currently deprived of natural creativity and reliable finishing in attacking zones, and seek a solution to their Anfield woes. Nonetheless, Liverpool’s triumph at the Etihad can serve as a reference point for the future.
In nearly a month, Klopp has adapted to the Premier League, and quickly translated his methods to a young vibrant side that’s eager to succeed. Perhaps Liverpool will require improved quality to meet the club’s aspirations, but the scrappy, yet dynamic side at Klopp’s disposal personifies the German’s ethos.
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