Liverpool: Jurgen Klopp MUST add another string to his bow

The Reds have made an indifferent start to the season and crashed out to Leicester in the Carabao Cup last night.


When the German was hired as Liverpool boss in 2015 to replace Brendan Rodgers, it was met with widespread jubilation from most of the Anfield faithful. A manager who played exciting, attacking football who has won the Bundesliga with a side possessing far fewer resources than Germany’s biggest side, Bayern Munich.

He also reached a Champions League final with Borussia Dortmund, an extraordinary achievement considering the wealth and size of some of the other clubs in Europe.

Immediately, we saw a change in style from Klopp in his first game in charge against Tottenham Hotspur. It may have only been a 0-0 draw, but the Reds largely dominated the side who would challenge for the title that season.

Liverpool kept Spurs penned in their own half, forcing mistakes and errors with Klopp’s infamous gegenpressing structure. It was an exciting start to his reign at the club.

However, Liverpool’s league form dipped during the season and the Reds eventually finished a disappointing eighth place. However, Klopp got Liverpool to two cup finals, both of which they lost.

Over the summer, Klopp strengthened his side with various acquisitions such as Sadio Mane and Gini Wijnaldum to get his blueprint to function. It resulted in a great start to the season, with the Reds looking like they could win their first ever Premier League title.

Dips during the season, though, in particular towards the end, saw the Reds just pip Arsenal into that fourth-placed Champions League spot. It was still seen as an excellent season for Liverpool, with undoubted progress being made.

However, it has been a worrying start for Liverpool in 2017/18. They sit eighth in the table, despite a 4-0 hammering of Arsenal.  Whilst they are still only five points form the top and it is early days, worrying trends are continuing.

Better than Brendan Rodgers?

A disappointing 2-2 draw at home to Sevilla in the opening Champions League match followed by last night’s 2-0 defeat to Leicester City have resulted in questions being asked about Klopp’s job security.

Harsh and premature perhaps, but that’s the nature of the football world.

Klopp’s job security is largely based on his fantastic reputation, which he has built, but that means nothing for Liverpool. In fact, Klopp has a worse record for Liverpool than Brendan Rodgers did, of whom most were pleased to see the back of.

Rodgers’ Liverpool win ratio stood at 51.2% whilst Klopp’s is currently 50.5%.

Even worse reading for Liverpool fans is that David Moyes had a 52.9% win ratio at Manchester United, and was, by all means, an abject failure at the club.

It makes for troubled reading, especially when it appears to be the same issues holding the side back.

The myth of their attack

That Liverpool’s creativity and scoring exploits are supreme is a myth. Certain high-scoring games where they rip their opponent apart overshadow their struggle for creativity and goals throughout the season.

In the past six seasons, Liverpool have never finished as the Premier League’s top goal-scorers. They finished second in the list in the 2013/14 season under Rodgers, but their only other finish inside the top four in this sense was last season.

This trend has continued under Klopp.

The issue is not their frightening new-look front three of Sadio Mane, Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino; they’re the exception, as showed by their efforts in the 4-0 hammering of Arsenal.

The issue is the build-up to this.

No playmaker better than gegenpressing

Jurgen Klopp has previously stated there’s no better playmaker than his gegenpressing system. That’s fine, against sides who fall into the gegenpressing trap and leave space for Liverpool to exploit.

However, most sides who play Liverpool now deny them space in behind and play a low block defence and compact counter-attacking football.

It saw Liverpool struggle to get results and create against sides such as Crystal Palace, Burnley, Swansea and Hull last season and once again against the likes of Burnley this campaign.

Struggling to break those sides down was due to a lack of having an alternative way of playing, and also the players able to find the gaps in defence.

Struggling to break the lines

Philippe Coutinho can do this, but he is one man. Adam Lallana may also offer such ability, but he is injured for a few more months. In the trio of central midfielders Klopp likes to use, Liverpool lack a player who can find those gaps and pick those passes.

Jordan Henderson is a frequent passer who likes to break the lines, but he doesn’t look the same since his injury. His 69% pass completion rate in the 2-2 draw against Watford showed how he struggled to find his man and the attacking line.

One of his partners, Gini Wijnaldum, is neither a midfielder who looks for the ball nor a creative fulcrum. Against Crystal Palace, Wijnaldum made only 28 passes with an 82% success rate in his 70 minutes. That is an extraordinarily low number for a central midfielder playing in a side that made over 700 passes.

Emre Can is a good player, though he isn’t a player in this mould either.

Plan B, C, D & E

If Klopp’s Plan A fails, what next for Liverpool? More often than not, frustration.

Having other ways to progress the ball and create chances is crucial if Liverpool wish to push on, or even maintain their Champions League status.

You can point to the creative talents of Coutinho and Lallana, but relying on players rather than systems and tactical structures can often leave you wanting.

What if Coutinho has an off day? As good as he is, he’s no Lionel Messi or even a David Silva. What if the other sides work out how to restrict Lallana’s influence?

The lack of an alternative to plan A is costing Klopp and Liverpool.

There are defensive issues that are, again, down to structure and player ability. The simple signing of a Virgil van Dijk won’t be a quick fix to that problem either. Liverpool’s defence is too often left exposed due to the tactical system Klopp uses. This, too, must be eradicated to ensure a more sturdy defence.

So whilst it is far too early to be questioning Klopp’s position in charge, he must find more ways to play.

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Harry Brooks

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Harry graduated from UAL in Elephant and Castle with a 2:1 BA Hons degree in sports journalism.

He has an NCTJ diploma and also coaches football and teaches PE in schools.

Harry loves to talk football tactics!

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