By Robert Peters (@RobPeters_14)
So, it’s official, the Klopp era has begun. The question is what have we learned in such a short space of time?
The week leading up to the Spurs game was a total whirlwind for most Liverpool fans, everyone was happy we’d hired a manager who carried a big name and big reputation. The press were happy they had someone who could give them an exciting interview and force his personality on the screen and the pundits were intrigued, like most of us, to see what he would do to a Liverpool team who seems to have been stuck in a rut over the last few games. The real test however was to see what he could make the team produce on the pitch.
Pressing – Of course, Jurgen Klopp is known from his time at Borussia Dortmund where his team would relentlessly press their opponents for 90 minutes. Aiming to win the ball back at any given opportunity and ideally far up the pitch so that there was a chance for an instant attack. We saw this in the Spurs game, in the first half hour, Liverpool were pressing quick and making life difficult for the Spurs players, they would be forced to kick it long which usually resulted in the ball going out of play or instantly giving Liverpool possession again.
Distance travelled & sprints – Of course, at the start of every new managers’ tenure at a club, many teams will try harder to impress the new boss in order to cement their place into his plans. This means we can’t take too much into consideration with the distance travelled from the Spurs game. In the first 8 Premier League games, Liverpool as a team covered 108km on average (13th overall in the league), in the Spurs game they travelled 116km (1st overall within the league). This is common with new managers and first games but we will hope of course that it becomes a regular occurrence under Klopp. The one thing that did stand out however was the sprints committed by players. In the first 8 games, Liverpool had an average of 474 sprints over 90 minutes. In the first game under Klopp however, Liverpool had 614 sprints over 90 minutes, which is not common with a managers first game in charge. Liverpool fans will of course hope that this continues on a regular basis as we all prefer to see better work rate from our players.
Attacking set pieces – Watching the game against Spurs, I felt personally that Liverpool had more joy in attacking corners than we have in games under Rodgers. Origi hit the woodwork from a corner and a couple other players won the ball first ahead of their opponent, which if the technique had been better it could have been much better. This could be Klopp related or it could simply be that Spurs aren’t the best at defending set pieces and Liverpool had a bit more luck than usual, time will tell.
No more playing round the back – Under Rodgers, it was a possession based game. I can’t count how many times Skrtel would get the ball and instead of looking forward he would instantly give it sideways to his defensive partner and then they would give it back to him, Skrtel would then knock it backwards to Mignolet and if he didn’t kick it long and aimlessly to no one, he’d pass it back to whoever was in the centre back position. The midfielders always seemed reserved to run forward with the ball and instead just aimed to keep possession and ‘start again’ as the term is. This is all well and good when you’re 3-0 ahead in a game but when it’s 0-0 it can become increasingly frustrating. Under Klopp it felt like whenever one of the full backs got the ball they would instantly aim to run forward and give it to a centre midfielder who would then also aim to run forward. Of course there were still times when Skrtel and Sakho decided to just knock it between each other but it was a lot less common than any game I watched under Rodgers, which emphasises Klopps preference to attack at any given chance.
Defensive display – From open play, Liverpool seemed solid throughout the game. Sakho has his critics for the way he is on the ball (I am not one of them) but I believe he gave a complete performance, he won possession more in defence than ANY player this season in the Premier League and he just cleared everything in his path as well as making a vital block to help Mignolet. Martin Skrtel’s job seemed to be to make life difficult for Harry Kane, he was right next to him every time Kane got the ball and 9 times out of 10 he would just assert his authority and win the ball. Kane had his moments where he used his strength to keep Skrtel at bay but it was not an enjoyable day for the striker, which was all down to Skrtel relentlessly closing down at any given opportunity.
Ball retention – Liverpool seemed to be really poor in possession on Saturday, of course if you’re attacking and aiming to get balls behind the defence then you expect to lose possession once every so often but this wasn’t the case. We would be giving sloppy passes away between the midfield or even in defence at times. At one time, Lallana aimed to give a pass to Skrtel and it just wasn’t a strong enough pass and it let Spurs through on goal. There is much to be done on the training field with the quality of passing but hopefully it will be much better on Sunday against Southampton.
Defending set pieces – I said before that Liverpool were superb from open play against Spurs but there were a couple set pieces that left us a bit shaky. One stand out moment was a ball whipped in from Eriksen, it bounced just on the edge of the six-yard box and if any Spurs player had been alert and reached the ball, Liverpool would have been in trouble. Luckily enough Spurs didn’t produce many good corners so we weren’t tested as much in that department but a time will come when we’ll need to be assertive and produce better positioning, of course we can’t be too critical just yet.
Communication – This was something that did stand out, it’s became clear over the years that maybe since we’ve lost Carragher we don’t have a true leader in defence and this showed at times. When Liverpool did choose to play the ball across the back, there was one stand out moment when Skrtel and Clyne both attempted to go to the ball, hesitated and nobody ended up getting it, this was a communication error and needs to be cleared up before the next game cause there’s only so many times Mignolet can produce a great save to spare the defenders blushes.
Overall, it was a positive first game under Klopp, the right ideas were there and it seems like the players have instantly bought into his outlook on the game which will only help us when he gets more time to install his own ideas on our game. There will be great wins and also some sour defeats but I believe that Klopp will make us a stronger team that will produce a lot of energy and make life very difficult for every single Premier League team. The interviews and press conferences won’t be too bad either!