Mane is exceptional
Perhaps we didn’t learn this, but it further reaffirmed a fact that we already knew. Sadio Mane was frightening in attack everything about his Liverpool forward line; pacey, ruthless, energetic and full of quality. The Hoffenheim defence tried their best to close down the former Southampton forward but Mane’s rapid feet and dribbling ability proved too much. He can go inside and outside of you and will certainly score over 20 goals in all competitions this season if he can stay fit.
Maybe Barcelona are targeting the wrong Liverpool player? He is certainly more like for like as a Neymar replacement than Philippe Coutinho.
How to break Liverpool’s press
Jurgen Klopp is famous for the gegenpressing he employs on his sides. The Liverpool players have bought into his beliefs and they are extremely aggressive when pressing the opposition, using it both as a defensive tool, and attacking weapon. It works best against sides who play a high line and like to play from the back. In theory, then, Hoffenheim were walking straight into Liverpool’s pressing trap.
In fact, it was quite the opposite and despite the scoreline, it was a mightily impressive showcase in how to beat the ball orientated press. The Germans were extremely bold playing out from the back, and ensuring they had three players in the backline at all times when trying to build from the defence. This ensured they covered the width of the pitch, using fewer men.
It meant that Liverpool struggled to compress the ball into one tight space to win it back. They also only had one man that would sit in front of the back three; a pivot. The rest of the Hoffenheim lineup were pushed high, meaning Liverpool had to drop deeper, as leaving them unmarked would be too risky, such was the German side’s ability to play through the press.
They have a very highly rated coach in Julian Nagelsmann, just 30 years old. Judging on this evidence, as well as his performances last season, it won’t be long before the big clubs come calling for his services.
Alberto Moreno is still Alberto Moreno
There was a feeling that the Spaniard had perhaps been reformed during the off-season. Liverpool had rejected a healthy bid from Napoli for the player and Jurgen Klopp has been speaking glowingly about his progression in recent times. However, judging by his performance against Watford at the weekend, and last night, Moreno is still a defensive calamity.
His decision making and loss of concentration when in defence makes him a liability and he gives up a lot of chances to the opposition due to basic errors. He may be a real threat when on the attack, however, he must drastically improve as a defender before he can be considered reformed.
Alexander-Arnold is the next mainstay from the academy.
With the departures of Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard in recent years, many Reds fans would have forgotten what it was like to not have ‘one of their own’ representing the side each week. However, youngster Trent Alexander-Arnold looks the real deal and has started the season admirably at right back. He is only 18 years old yet plays with a maturity that belies his inexperience and age.
He took some excellent corners against Watford, so clearly has a niche for a set piece, and took his free kick expertly. It was his first goal for his boyhood club and was a brilliant strike, curling it around the wall and into the bottom corner. He had 72 touches, more than any other Liverpool player on the pitch, showing how he always made himself available for the ball. He is excellent going forward.
It’s important to keep calm, however. He showed how he still needs to learn after he let Mark Uth get behind in the space he left to finish ruthlessly and keep the tie alive. However, it’s an era that is to be expected for someone so young and will no doubt improve in this area.
Liverpool still give up too many chances
Liverpool are superb in attack. They are pretty poor in defence. We have known this for a while and yet they still have the same problems. It is not as simple as buying better defenders. Of course, Dejan Lovren, Alberto Moreno and Simon Mignolet can all be improved upon. However, the system still leaves them horribly exposed at the best of times.
If their gegenpressing system is bypassed by the opposition, a lot of Liverpool players are caught upfield, behind the ball leaving a lot of space for the opposition to attack their defence. If Liverpool want to win the Premier League title and become a force in Europe, they must learn how to restrict the chances the opposition always creates against the Reds.
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