The Kop

Liverpool has won their last two games in the premier league. But let us not be deceived. Liverpool is slowly peeling down from other top English sides. The downfall can be attributed to a couple of things. To understand it we will have to go to the beginning.

The Beginning of the Resurgence of Liverpool.

Just a few years ago Liverpool was at the pinnacle of European football. It was written in the stars. The messiah Jürgen Klopp had converted the reds into a counter-pressing team with a never die attitude. Everyone remembers that thrilling comeback against Barcelona in the Champions League semifinal and then going ahead to beat Tottenham in the final. A year later they would clinch the premier league title convincingly. Their 30-year trophy drought was over! All this can be attributed to Jurgen Klopp, the German tactician.

Jürgen Klopp-The savior.

Klopp had obviously attracted the eyes of The FSG group with his exploits at Dortmund where he won the German Bundesliga and reached the Champions League Final after convincing wins over real Madrid. Dortmund was beaten by German rival Bayern Munich but Klopp had cemented his place as the elite of European coaches. In Klopp’s first press conference he highlighted his vision. The fans had to be patient with the rebuild. We all know he was true to his word.

The focus on squad replenishment was on a system that has been described as “incisive and statistically focused”. The system was headed by the former head of recruitment Mike Edwards who left at the end of last season. In that approach, they managed to nab Egyptian forward Mo Salah from Roma who became a revelation. It is said that Klopp preferred Mario Götze but the statistics said otherwise.

The first real signing of the Klopp era was Sadio Mane. That time a tricky winger at Southampton who had the habit of scoring against top-six sides. Virgil Van Djik is arguably the most important of the Klopp signings and is considered one of the best Centre Backs of the PL era. The team would be filled with budget bargains Andy Robertson and Wijnaldum, Academy graduate Trent Alexander Arnold and former Monaco midfielder Fabinho.

Tactical analysis of a “successful” Liverpool.

Jürgen Klopp has always implemented a counter-pressing system dubbed gegen pressing. The tactic is to recover the ball within the shortest time possible and to attack immediately when the opponent is most vulnerable

To implement that he plays with a high defensive line and the fullbacks Arnold and Robertson aggressively high up the pitch. That freed up the wingers Mo Salah and Sadio Mande to tuck inside. But his false nine tactic was the most important. The pressing machine Roberto Firmino drops in between the lines to free up Mo Salah and Sadio Mane to attack the channels. The midfield trio of Fabinho, Henderson, and Winjnaldum had the role of protecting the defense and recycling possession when it was deemed fit.

Due to the high line, there was space for the opponents to attack behind the defense. That’s why Klopp signed sweeper Keeper Allison Becker from Roma. The Brazilian international is good with his feet and can come out of his line to stop high balls behind the defense. Klopp’s tactical masterclass would be the result of his downfall.

The downfall.

Klopp’s team has characteristically sloughed off notably at Mainz and Borussia Dortmund. In simple terms, the high-pressing system cannot work for a long time. Over time players will be plagued by injuries and fitness levels will be low. The players that were once in their prime are getting old. Salah is 31 and so is Van Dijk. The counter-pressing is no longer sustainable

The tactical reason is associated very much with the technical reason. The Liverpool midfield always protected the defense. But with the trio in their wrong ages, the defense is always exposed. We are seeing a different side of Trent Alexander Arnold that we have never known.

The pressing machine Roberto Firmino can no longer counter press like he used to. That has a ripple effect of reducing Mo Salah’s effectiveness.

The effect of the departure of Sadio Mane is there to be seen. But the effect of the departure of Winjnaldum is not talked about enough. The Dutch international was an integral part of the midfield that protected the defense and recycled possession.

The departure of Michael Edwards has returned The Reds into the era of panic buys. They have splashed a whopping 100 Million Euros on Darwin Nunez. The Uruguayan striker may or may not be good. But we all know he doesn’t fit into Klopp’s style of play. Brazilian Arthur Melo is injured for the better chunk of the first leg and his buy option will most probably not be exercised.

Another Resurgence?

No. It took Jürgen Klopp four years to get the team into the shape he wanted. This current team has exceeded the limit. Replacing the whole team is not financially viable and the net effect of some players such as Mo Salah and Van Dijk cannot be underestimated.  It may have to take a lot of time, maybe another four years to do that.

Are the fans patient to wait for that long again? I doubt. Even though Klopp is a hero at the Merseyside Club the fans become restless especially when they’ve been used to winning. They will soon demand changes. The Fenway Sports Group will also react in the same way. They will need results.

Klopp is still one of the best managers of our time. Frankly, there may be only one or two managers who are better than Klopp and they are occupied at other clubs. In my honest opinion, he should be allowed a sabbatical by FSG for maybe two years. At that time they should hire an interim manager. The essence is to spare him the pressure of another rebuild by participating while not participating. Then he should return with fresh ideas.

To read our article about Arsenal

By Ansias

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