Joseph Kavaloski outlines why Liverpool’s 3 o’clock kickoff against Hull City is an opportunity to generate consistency.
This afternoon, Liverpool faces Hull City in the type of match that has plagued the Reds over the past year. The Redmen currently sit sixth in the table entering Saturday’s match, but the only difference between them and fourth-placed Arsenal is a two goal differential advantage for the Gunners.
Beating Hull City would be an excellent way to continue building on the momentum of the Reds’ excellent start to the season that has been filled with thrilling victories over top four challenging sides. However, as last season and the second match of the season against Burnley showed, Liverpool has had all sorts of problems against lower placed sides.
Teams that tend to sit deep and defend have been able to stymie the Reds’ attack with an organized defense. Then, once the Reds flood numbers forward and ultimately lose possession, the teams that “park the bus” are able to hit back on the counter. Burnley executed this strategy to perfection by allowing the Reds to have a whopping 81% of possession but no goals to show for it.
Early season victories against Arsenal, Leicester City, and Chelsea have given the Reds plenty of confidence, but consistently getting results against bottom table sides will determine how high Liverpool finishes at the end of the season. Hull City, a promoted club that will likely be battling relegation, is the typical side that has plagued the Reds since Klopp took the helm.
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In the 2015/16 season, impressive victories against Manchester City, Chelsea, Southampton in the League Cup, Manchester United in the Europa League, and Everton were shortly followed by losses to sides such as Newcastle and Crystal Palace. The result of this infuriating inconsistency was an eighth-placed finish despite playing a brand of football that was often top four quality.
Although last season ended on a sour note and left the Reds without any European football for 2016-17, this disappointment has also given Liverpool an excellent opportunity. Far fewer midweek matches should allow the Reds to avoid a significant injury crisis and fatigue in key players.
Despite the lighter fixture schedule, the Reds have already dropped points to a bottom table side. As the season wears on and teams such as Spurs, Arsenal, and City begin to grow fatigued with a busy schedule, the Reds need to take advantage and secure a Champions League place.
However, if Liverpool can cement a solid place in the table before the fatigue begins to set in for other competing sides, the Reds will have a distinct advantage heading into the busy festive season.
Coming off a 4-1 defeat to Arsenal, Hull will likely come to Anfield planning to sit deep and play a defensive brand of football. Similar to Burnley, the Tigers will hope to frustrate the Reds by preventing the attack from earning any clear cut chances before hopefully poaching a goal.
As is the case with many lower table sides, Hull’s strategy will be to go for a draw rather than a victory against a dynamic attacking team such as Liverpool. Unfortunately for the Reds, Hull already has a perfect example for the Tigers to study with Liverpool’s match against Burnley.
The one difference between last season’s results and the Burnley match with tomorrow’s fixture against Hull is Sadio Mane. The Senegalese winger was a Southampton player in 2015-16 and he missed the match against the Clarets with a shoulder injury.
Mane adds a totally different dimension to Liverpool’s attack, and his searing pace could be devastating for Hull City’s defense. Mane can stretch the Tigers with clever movement and runs in behind, generating space for Liverpool’s other attacking players to exploit. The Reds sorely missed Mane against Burnley but all indications point to a starting place tomorrow at Anfield.
Without Europe to take away the Reds’ focus, Liverpool needs to consistently earn results especially against sides that should be blown off the pitch. Hull certainly qualifies as a team that the Reds should be easily beating and a victory tomorrow would be an excellent way to sustain the momentum generated from the team’s mini three-game winning streak.
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