Klopp, Liverpool, and the Dangers of a Lack of Substance
Brought to you by our guest sports writer – Jason Coulter
There is an almost constant stream of positivity coming out of Anfield since Jurgen Klopp took charge of Liverpool. Motivation, passion, dedication, these are what The Kop faithful expected from the new boss.
On the pitch, fans were desperate to see his energetic brand of football, the high-pressing, the fluid, flowing attacks. He was going to give the club the boost it needed after a disappointing 2014-15 season under Brendan Rogers. Liverpool had laboured to a 6th place finish and when they started the new season poorly, it was time to bring in the ex-Dortmund boss.
The stage was set, the fans were happy – but two years on, how are the club looking now?
The match against Manchester United was always going to be a tough one. Jose Mourinho has never been one to promote attacking football away from home, and his side have only picked up three points in their last 6 away games against last season’s top 6 – all of them scoreless draws.
They have also only scored once in those 6 games, in a 2-1 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur. But Klopp needed to be wary of this obvious park-the-bus theme. Mourinho was banking on that one elusive goal from a counter attack, a situation which would have made Klopp look very amateurish indeed. But nevertheless, Liverpool tried and tried again but could not break the United wall down.
This, in a way, shows what is wrong with Klopp’s Liverpool side. It is a starting 11 packed full of players good on the ball, with decent pace, and hard work. It is a starting 11 full of midfielders and not-quite-midfielders. Up front Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino have plenty of trickery and determination, but neither of them are natural finishers. Both offer Liverpool excitement and quick one-twos, but they just do not lead to enough goals. What they need most up front is an Alan Shearer – or to placate the Pool fans, a Robbie Fowler. They had one a few years ago of course, a Uruguayan lad who plies his trade in Barcelona now.
This is not a problem unique to the strikers of course. In defence, Joel Matip seems happiest when the ball is at his feet, a contrast to Manchester United’s Phil Jones or Chris Smalling who are happiest when tackling and heading – basically doing all the things you want your defenders to do. Alberto Moreno has good technique and can strike a dead-ball well, but how often is he found wanting when the opposition attack? These two in particular emphasise Liverpool’s defensive frailty. There are no clear leaders in the backline, with too many players shunning the dirty, relentless defensive work.
This is a recurring trait in the side. Too many good all-rounders and not enough outstanding one-job-players. It is why they can trounce Arsenal 4-0, but be held to draws against Burnley and Watford.
Liverpool are a complete side in the classic Dutch ‘Total Football’ sense. But the reason there are no ‘Total Football’ sides outside of Barcelona is because it is a system which takes specific players to work. Liverpool have created more chances than any other team this season, but are only fifth in terms of goals scored. At the back they have conceded more than Spurs, Manchester United and Manchester City combined.
In short, Jurgen Klopp has created a side that is easy on the eye and full of flair, but with precious little substance. He has improved everything at the club except the results. More ruthlessness in front of goal, a defender who lives for the art of defending, and perhaps a new goalkeeper and hey presto, the world is at their feet.
As fate would have it shortly after writing this piece, Liverpool seemingly found their Mojo. On Tuesday night they created a piece of history and walloped Maribor 7 – 0 in the Champions League. The biggest away win ever in the European Cup by a Liverpool side. Ironically, both Firmino & Salah scored a brace each.
Now the question is, can they hold on to their Mojo? We will soon find out against an in-form Spurs team this Sunday.
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