Jack Hallows analyses Liverpool’s style of play and why it has been so effective this season.
We’ve seen it time and again this season. Red jerseys – also black ones and those horrible green highlighter ones – swarming opponents time and again for 90 minutes. No let up. No respite. It’s quite honestly incredible. Jurgen Klopp employed triple training sessions a day while the Reds were in the States and it seems to be paying dividends. You can even start to see the benefits outside being able to press the life out of teams consistently in games.
Take the Swansea match first. The Welsh outfit came out and looked to hit Liverpool with their own tactic. They came at us, surprised us and got 1-0 up early on. It wasn’t sustainable for them, however. They don’t train like us. They don’t play like us. They certainly aren’t anywhere near as fit as us and tiredness causes errors. They were knackered and allowed Roberto Firmino to drift away from a large number of defenders and practically nod the ball into a waiting net.
Then, in roughly the 89th minute, Firmino receives the ball in the box. A defender who isn’t already sucking in the big ones stays on his feet, gets round the Brazilian and makes an effort to block any shot. Rangel was shot and in a tired last effort he lashed his foot out at Firmino, tripping him and earning the Reds a penalty which was ultimately converted by James ‘Penalty King’ Milner.
Another great example is Emre Can’s goal against Watford in the recent 6-1 demolition at Anfield. (You can watch the goals here if you need reminding). Holebas is left isolated up against Adam Lallana and backs off the Englishman which allows him more than enough room to simply pick his spot and cross the ball. Emre Can is then able to steal in at the back post with his marker Amrabat seemingly just giving up. You could simply say – ‘well the defending was just rubbish. They don’t have good players.” Although. this is a team that hadn’t conceded for three straight games previously. The goal came just before half-time – the 43rd minute to be exact – and to put it simply, Watford were exhausted.
The Hornets had been trying to play Liverpool at their own game, looking to pressure them as much as they could in the opening 20 minutes but they didn’t have the energy levels. Pair that with the flat feeling of already having conceded two goals and it’s a recipe for a defensive nightmare. There was further evidence of the Reds superior fitness involved in both Firmino’s goal and Sadio Mane’s second as both were just allowed to stroll past all three centre backs and tap the ball into the back of the net.
Watford were just spent by the time the second half started. They didn’t have the energy – and having conceded three in the first 45 they probably lacked motivation by this point too – to keep up with the Reds rampant attack.
Tiredness brings mistakes and mistakes bring goals. We know this. Tired players don’t react as quickly as fresh ones, they don’t move as fast and they generally don’t think as much about what they’re doing. This is why there are always goals aplenty scored in the final minutes of halves. It often comes down to who has the freshest legs. For Liverpool, this is a blessing due to the fitness and impressive energy about the squad.
The Reds are also lucky in that their style of play features more than one way in which opponents will be run down. Not only do we press high and fast, forcing errors but we’re able to wear teams down with “attritional” football. We generally have higher possession stats than opponents and more often than not, when we have the ball, our opponents are chasing shadows. The movement from the likes of Firmino, Coutinho, Mane and Lallana sees opponents spread out, having to cover more ground than they’d like and wears their legs down quicker.
Liverpool can now score goals in more ways than most sides in the league. Fast counter attacks, individual brilliance, set pieces, team passing moves and you can bet your bottom dollar that a large percentage of our goals this season – no matter how we score them – will come from opposition tiredness due to our energetic style of play being too hard to physically handle. Relentless.