Will Liverpool's Playing Style Change Under Jurgen Klopp?

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The recent appointment of Jürgen Klopp has excited many figures associated with Liverpool Football Club. The German’s track record is a positive one, but can his eager playing style change Anfield for the better?
For his years at Borussia Dortmund, Klopp inserted a high pressing style that gave little time on the ball for opposing players, something that many had never experienced before. This system proved pivotal in defeating teams of much bigger financial capabilities, securing back-to-back Bundesliga titles.

At Dortmund, Klopp had the three in a 4-2-3-1 formation of Jakub B?aszczykowski , Mario Götze and or course Marco Reus, and Klopp does have the potential the employ this system once again. Sunday’s 1-1 draw against Southampton at Anfield saw a similar formation, with James Milner, Adam Lallana and Phillipe Coutinho occupying the three positions behind the striker.

Although Klopp has yet to register a win while in charge at Anfield, he has the right players in the three to pressurise key sitting players from opposing sides. James Milner’s contribution to Manchester City was extremely underrated, rarely making mistakes at The Etihad. During Brendan Rodgers’ time at Liverpool, Milner player in a much more defensive position, a position that he has only played before under Roy Hodgson’s stewardship with England. Klopp has since put this right, which will benefit Milner for the future.

Adam Lallana is a question mark, but no doubt has the work rate and flair to fit into Klopp’s system. There is a question mark because of the recent summer acquisition of Brazilian Roberto Firmino. Similar players, but Lallana will get the nod if Klopp wants to continue with his successful system because of the work rate that the former Southampton man does possess. Brazilian international Firmino has struggled to find his way into the starting line-up and this might stay the same if Klopp stays true to this managerial style.

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Phillipe Coutinho is of course a talent to behold, bailing Liverpool out of many occasions, notably with his wonder-strike against Stoke on the opening game of the season. He is the main asset to the team, especially because of the continual absence of Daniel Sturridge. Coutinho’s game revolves around take-ons and does lack that work rate that Klopp would expect. Despite this, players around him would make up for his downfall, maintaining the balance. Team pressing is a system that can be key to a team’s success, but it can be difficult to maintain for a 90 minute match, week after week. The question is, does team pressing suit the Premier League?

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Many people would say no, due to the fact teams have become less direct and more possession-focused, partly because of the relentlessness of teams’ pressing, leaving them exhausted. Most importantly with team pressing, the side has to be compact. If there are spaces when a team presses, then it is relatively easy for the opponent to thread passes through the gaps. It is a rarity, but other outfits have been able to master it and become extremely successful as a result. At Bayern, Pep Guardiola has one of the training pitches divided into zones to help players work on their spacing. At Barcelona he operated a principle of “one and three”. This means when the ball is lost, one man goes straight to the ball and three race to try to cut out passing angles.

Teams also have to understand when to stop pressing the ball. The opposition cannot be hunted relentlessly and many have found a new playing style. Sitting back allows a side to have the majority of the ball, then leaving you in a prime position to catch them on the counter attack. Take Arsenal’s display during last week’s Champions League display against Bayern Munich for example. The Bavarian giants had the majority of possession, pinning Arsenal back to their own area. Counter attacks however, forced many chances and free kicks, one of which they scored from through Frenchman Olivier Giroud.

Jürgen Klopp will use his old system for sure to pressurise opponents, very much like Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool did to teams during the back end of the 2013-14 season. It is very likely that Dortmund’s former supremo will understand the intensity that the Premier League brings, pressing at times combined with sitting back. Klopp’s first game in charge against Tottenham saw a pressing game for the majority of the 90 minutes, which didn’t allow for many clear cut chances. If Klopp can integrate a mixture of playing styles at the right time, things could be looking up for Liverpool.


Featured Image: All rights reserved by Safraz Ali

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