Does Klopp’s attacking outlook need tempering?

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Jurgen Klopp manager of Liverpool looks on prior to the Premier League match between AFC Bournemouth and Liverpool at Vitality Stadium on December 4, 2016 in Bournemouth, England.
All rights reserved by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images Europe

Jack Hallows explores Liverpool’s frustrating trend of throwing two-goal leads under pressure and whether Jurgen Klopp should rethink his all guns blazing approach. 

One of the major talking points this season when it comes to the Reds is their fantastic ability in the final third. Their gung-ho approach has seen them brush teams aside by scoring three, four, five and even six goals in games and they sit at the very top of the ‘goals for’ pile this season. However, a worrying theme has begun recurring in Klopp’s team and it will need to be ironed out if they are to challenge for English football’s top prize.

Levels of mentality

This is frustrating given how much praise we’ve given the lads over recent weeks when it comes to seeing out games but the Bournemouth fixture proved there are still issues here. The Reds dominated the match and were 2-0 up at half time and while Callum Wilson got the next goal with a penalty you always felt they were coasting at 3-1 up. Then the unthinkable. The Reds lost a two goal lead and the match ended 4-3. Jamie Carragher summed it up brutally after the fixture, “Liverpool have been involved in this a lot. It was no surprise.”

Sadly, this is true. The Reds have surrendered a 2 goal lead on four occasions since Jurgen Klopp joined Liverpool with three of those being games they should’ve won from the start and the other another Jekyll and Hyde display of dominance and direness.

  • Liverpool 2 – 2 Sunderland – 2015/16
  • Southampton 3 – 2 Liverpool – 2015/16
  • Liverpool 2 – 2 Newcastle United – 2015/16
  • Bournemouth 4 – 3 Liverpool – 2016/17

Thankfully Klopp is obviously aware of the issue and also pointed out after the match that his team need to rectify this, pointing out there had been occasions where they’d dodged bullets in these situations. The 5-4 win at Norwich was incredible but the Reds got very lucky in reality while the 4-3 win over Arsenal saw the Reds coasting at 4-1 only to make it hard for themselves by switching off for 20 minutes. The Reds have improved majorly under Jurgen Klopp in more ways than one and mentality is certainly an area their game has gotten better in but Klopp will know further improvements are needed. However, the German must take some responsibility himself.

In-game Management

Make no mistake here, I’m not about to just rag on Klopp. Personally, I think he’s one of the best managers in Europe and tactically is on another level to most. That being said, his in-game management on these occasions can be questionable. Jamie Carragher pointed out that against Bournemouth, despite being 3-1 up away from home, James Milner and Nathaniel Clyne were both still effectively playing as wingers and were caught far too high up the pitch for the second goal in particular.

It’s not fun to admit but any of Chelsea, Arsenal, City or Spurs would at 3-1 have killed the game off and cut off any opportunities for the home side to get back into it. They’d have sent on a defensive-minded substitution, looked to calm things down and control the game. Klopp, however, made only the one substitution on Sunday – Lallana in a straight swap on for Mane. How about Klavan on and Lucas pushed into the midfield alongside Henderson for some control? How about even changing the formation to a 4-2-3-1 with Can and Henderson instructed just to sit in front of the back four? It’s not the prettiest way to win sure but it’s effective.

Of course, hindsight is a wonderful thing. The Reds had chances to score a fourth goal but didn’t take them. If they had we would likely have been lauding Klopp’s entirely attacking approach and saying how wonderful it is that we kept true to our style of play. However, you can’t help but feel a little frustrated when you read that Klopp has given his non-starters the least amount of time on the field in the Premier League, revealing his unwillingness to make substitutions. An area he has been criticised in before. Still, in fairness, his attacking mindset and style of play has paid off more often than not this season so far and the Reds have scored a lot of late goals. It just didn’t happen for them against the Cherries.

Don’t overreact

I’m stressing this again because I’m still seeing so many posts on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook about the match that are honestly over the top. No, it’s not time to sack Klopp. No, it’s not time to sell Henderson. No, Firmino isn’t overrated garbage. How the modern fan swings… Anyways, let’s look at the bigger picture. We’ve played 18 games this season in all competitions and had two bad results. That is not a bad return in any way shape or form. Chelsea, who lead the table have had two bad results – against us and Arsenal – and while Arsenal have only lost once this season – again, to us – they’ve also dropped points against sides they shouldn’t have.

Bournemouth smelt blood on Sunday and kudos to them, they exploited the situation. The Reds had an off-day but they remain right in the title race as it stands and should be back to winning ways against a struggling Hammers side. We’re playing good football and while I do stress that the above points need work, it’s not yet time to panic. Klopp knows a lot more than you or I do about football and I’m sure he will have recognised these flaws and have been working on strategies to iron them out as soon as he got on the team bus after the game. Stay patient and keep faith.

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