Ahead of Liverpool vs Spurs we take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of Jurgen Klopp’s team.
Liverpool have blown hot and cold this season. Obliterating opponents with spells of scintillating football at times, they’ve also got one of the most fragile defences in the Premier League. We examine their strengths and weaknesses ahead of Liverpool vs Spurs on Saturday night.
Strength: pressing and gang tackling
Liverpool’s press is a vicious weapon. Their style of winning the ball back is the most aggressive in the Premier League. The aim is to hem the opponent in, encircle and overpower with sheer numbers.
It is effective as any moment of indecision from the ball carrier means that he will have his pocket picked. Liverpool then have numbers in attacking positions, much closer to the opposition goal.
We can see from our match with Liverpool at White Hart Lane how Victor Wanyama is caught with his back turned. The Reds have cut off his short passing options and have their men between ours and the ball.
As Wanyama ponders to figure his way out, Liverpool have the numbers to close and take the ball off him. They then have six men high up the field in attacking positions 30 yards from our goal to create opportunities to score.
This style of swarming and using numbers to gang tackle opponents is nothing new, but it caused us problems in the match at White Hart Lane. It also caused us issues when Bournemouth adopted a similar practice in our 0-0 draw at the Vitality Stadium.
The way out is often by using the longer passing and not by playing from the back through the middle of the pitch. From the graphic above, Kyle Walker is free and available for the switch of play had it come earlier rather than going out centrally through Wanyama.
Liverpool’s opponents have had success by playing the long ball forward over their press. This may be a bit agricultural, but gets straight on their error prone defence.
Weakness: Direct balls forward
Due to Liverpool committing heavily to press and attack, their opponents have caught them with sucker punches via the long ball. This sees the Liverpool pressing navigated and gets the opposition straight on their haphazard centre backs where anything can happen.
Hull were the most recent exponent of this. They created chances, most notably a 1v1 for Abel Hernandez. They also added the security of a second goal as centre back Andrea Ranocchia sent a long downfield heave for Oumar Niasse to run on to and score.
The nature of Liverpool’s commitment to aggressive pressing leaves them open to this. Until Liverpool get a set of secure centre backs, their opponents can continue to go long and prey on the errors.
Strength: Rapid attacks
Liverpool’s ability to win the ball back is complimented by their speed to transition from defence to attack. Having numbers high up the field means that they have options once the ball is regained.
Experts at running the channels in Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane compliment creative players Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana.
The rapid Sadio Mane is their biggest threat, simply because his speed can stretch defences. No other Liverpool player has the pace to trouble defences by running in-behind them like he does. His absence at AFCON was a major reason why Liverpool have gone winless in their last five Premier League matches.
Weakness: left back zone
Its maybe a bit unfair to call left back James Milner a weakness. His attacking play really fuels many Liverpool forays forward and he delivers an excellent cross. However, due to just how aggressive Jurgen Klopp asks his full backs to be, Milner’s defensive positioning and awareness can be exposed.
A converted midfielder, Milner doesn’t have the same defensive instincts as many full backs. He can be found out of position, such as he was on our equaliser in Spurs 1-1 Liverpool at White Hart Lane.
Milner was caught trying to follow the press in by Alderweireld’s ball over the top. Eric Dier got in-behind him and crossed for Danny Rose to level. Another example of how one long pass from the back can get the Liverpool defence in to trouble.
Weakness: defending corners
Liverpool’s zonal system for defending corners has seen them concede twice in their last three matches. The issue has been two fold. Firstly, the Reds don’t have enough aerially strong players to be operating a zonal system, especially when bigger opponents can get a run on them. The second has been keeper and tracking errors.
Simon Mignolet dropped the ball at the feet of Alfred N’Diaye last week. It came after three more sizeable Hull players could run past Jordan Henderson and get a jump on Liverpool’s four standing zonal defenders.
Against Swansea, Fernando Llorente was afforded the freedom of the six-yard box as he lost his marker. Again the initial ball in saw Swansea’s bigger team get a run on the four men defending zonally in a line.
Jurgen Klopp’s team have struggled to defend corners all season. Taking advantage of our size and power at set pieces is a must for the Tottenham tactics for Liverpool vs Spurs this weekend.
Weakness: defensive errors
Liverpool’s defence has come in for a lot of criticism this season. Regular rotation of their centre backs, including using midfielder Lucas Leiva, has caused them issues. They’ve also failed to find a consistent goalkeeper. Neither Simon Mignolet nor Loris Karius have exuded any kind of confidence and have been prone to handling errors.
It’s once more seen the Reds committing a high number of defensive errors. Unsurprisingly, only West Ham have conceded more goals than Liverpool from defensive mishaps according to OPTA.
Getting at the Liverpool defence, especially from turnovers and corners, should be imperative to the Tottenham tactics.
Key match-up: Sadio Mane vs our defensive left side
Sadio Mane is key for Liverpool for what he offers running in-behind. In the game at White Hart Lane he aligned himself with Jan Vertonghen and looked to run off him knowing he had the speed edge. The reason for this was that the much quicker Danny Rose was over at left back. Therefore Rose had to cover more ground to get over and help Vertonghen.
Without Danny Rose, Mauricio Pochettino has a real headache of how to deal with Sadio Mane. The faster Toby Alderweireld will probably again start at left-sided centre back as part of the solution. However, Pochettino has to decide whether he will continue with the pedestrian Ben Davies at left back or switch to a back three?
Liverpool vs Spurs outlook
In spite of Liverpool’s recent struggles, they remain a highly dangerous opponent on their own turf. What’s more, Mauricio Pochettino is still yet to beat Jurgen Klopp with three of our four matches ending in draws.
Pochettino will have to vary the way we play for success here. More direct and longer passing is needed to beat Liverpool’s pressing and force errors from their haphazard defence.
Liverpool vs Spurs prediction: Liverpool 1-1 Spurs.
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