Jurgen Klopp will be looking to avoid situations like that which happened in the opening 20 minutes against Everton and Max Morland is on hand to discuss how this can be done.
Sadio Mane’s dramatic late winner on Monday night ensured Liverpool will remain in second place at Christmas, although, in a game of few chances, it wasn’t always plain sailing for the Reds. For a large portion of the first half, Everton were in full control of the game – they looked more competitive, more physical, and perhaps, the more likely side to open the scoring. Throughout the opening 20 minutes, Liverpool were constantly pressed into errors by the Toffees and at times, even found themselves unable to string more than a couple of passes together.
Surely, though, as the away side in a big local derby, Liverpool should have expected an early onslaught from Everton? So why couldn’t the Reds have formulated a plan to prepare, and find a way to combat the high-intensity start? In his post-match press conference, Klopp did emphasise that his team had worked on being able to withstand the early pressure, and there were signs that- in spite of all of Everton’s pressure, they failed to muster a single shot on target before the interval.
If Liverpool are to fight for the title this season, Klopp needs to find a way to counter the high-intensity start that Everton produced against a more clinical team such as Manchester City who visit Anfield on New Year’s Eve. The Reds can, and will, be punished.
Another issue Liverpool may find is that, now Everton have demonstrated the potential successes of using these tactics against the Reds, other sides could follow suit, perhaps with greater success. So how can Liverpool counteract the high intensity, physical tactics that the Toffees employed in the first 20 minutes on Monday night?
Part of the solution may lie in Jurgen Klopp’s team selection. Against Everton, Emre Can was left on the bench (partly due to an injury), although in the future, I think that he would be perfectly suited to these types of matches. The German is strong both on and off the ball, and should therefore help in terms of the physicality needed. Furthermore, Can is a fantastic carrier of the ball, and would help in driving the team forward in times of pressure from the opposition.
The only dilemma that Klopp could face would be who to sacrifice in the starting line-up to make space for Can. Georginio Wijnaldum would be an obvious choice, but, aside from some recent, unfair criticism, the Dutchman has been an unsung hero in the team and is a huge asset in keeping things ticking over in the centre of the pitch.
Another potential method for Liverpool to ease the effects of high-intensity tactics could be for them to take control over the pace of the game, perhaps by interrupting the flow and slowing down the speed in which the ball is moved. Although it can often be seen as a negative tactic, this drop in tempo would reduce the energy levels of the crowd, which may, in turn, lead to a downturn in the performance of the opposition. As has been shown on numerous occasions throughout the history of the game, the crowd can play a huge part in proceedings, giving teams the edge.
On Monday night, the Everton fans were energetic and boisterous right from kick-off, and their excitement only grew as their team dominated the opening exchanges, however, as Liverpool grew into the match, the home support dwindled, allowing the Reds to gain even greater control. I strongly believe that Liverpool can use this to their advantage in future matches, where the opposition supporters never reached the levels of performance they had started with.
The final way in which I believe that Liverpool can combat the energy and high tempo of opposing teams is to simply keep possession of the ball. Too often on Monday night were the Reds found guilty of trying to move the ball forward too quickly, attempting that ‘killer ball’ when a far simpler pass would have been more effective, and getting caught out in dangerous areas of the pitch. While it is clear that Liverpool pose a huge threat on the counter attack, Jurgen Klopp’s side need to choose their moments, instead of constantly giving the ball away cheaply.