Can Liverpool's new-look attack spearhead them to success?
Jurgen Klopp begins his first full season in English football with competition fiercer than ever. However, after a summer of spending and a full pre-season of integrating his methods, fortunes may start to change at Liverpool. The Reds could be ready to make the leap back into the mix for the Champions League places and beyond.
Sadio Mane, Georginio Wijnaldum and Joel Matip are the stand-out purchases this summer. Their squad is starting to look in great depth again after a couple of seasons of transition following Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard’s exits. Put the new boys alongside Phillipe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Divock Origi and it all looks very promising. This came into light after they came away from the Emirates with a stunning 4-3 win, with a double from Coutinho along with an Adam Lallana striker and a wonder debut goal from Sadio Mane leaving Arsenal in tatters. It showed off the dynamic and fleet-footed attack in Liverpool’s side, which make them a feared force.
There were glimpses last year of Klopp’s high pressing game, or ‘gegenpressing’ as he refers to it. Their sublime double over Manchester City in the league and home games against Arsenal and Everton were prime examples. At the Emirates yesterday, it came to the floor again and they were clinical at the end. A quiet first half for the Reds was saved by a world class free-kick from Coutinho. Then they seized the opportunity to get at Arsenal and it was ferocious. Three goals in a blistering 20 minute start to the half was arguably the best Klopp’s Liverpool have played since he came to England.
The third and fourth goals typify this slick, interchangeable frontline. Lallana and Wijnaldum combined on the right to feed the overlapping Nathaniel Clyne. A fizzed cross found the on fire, and furthest forward, Coutinho to volley home. Then it was Mane dashing down the wing from Lallana’s ball. He cut inside past two and unleashed a brilliant hit into the top corner. The second goal found Firmino deep and Wijnaldum forward crossing for Lallana.
The way Liverpool’s attack could chop and change roles frequently was too much for Arsenal. They’ve shown they don’t need an out and out centre forward with Firmino operating as the central frontman. Normally an attacking midfielder, Klopp has utilised him up front, but giving him freedom to roam, allowing team-mates to run past him. This came into full effect yesterday as they made an emphatic statement on game-week one.
The Brazilian took time to establish himself in English football but now is a key man in Klopp’s system, with the Bundesliga connection seemingly working wonders. Daniel Sturridge is still able to utilised, as well as Origi who came off the bench, so the wealth of talent and formation changes available to Klopp are vast. The Reds put four past Barcelona in pre-season and now have hit Arsenal for the same on the opening weekend of the campaign. What can they really achieve this term?
No European football is a plus, just as it proved in their previous title push. This will allow Klopp to focus his attention on domestic football and getting Liverpool back towards the top end of the Premier League. The German has changed the level of belief, optimism and hope around the club already, in under a year, and with the style of football they are playing you can see why. Fans of this English giant are starting to feel revitalised under the self-professed ‘Normal One’.
Manchester United may have just spent a world record fee to bring Paul Pogba back. City may have the almighty Pep Guardiola and Chelsea do have the animated Antonio Conte. Yet, when it comes to passion, drive, determination and excitement, there may be no better than Liverpool this season. The club from Merseyside look in good stead to bring back glory days to Anfield sooner rather than later.
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