Louis van Gaal believes Jurgen Klopp has ‘seen the light’ in regards to pressing and attacking.
“[Mohamed] Salah, [Roberto] Firmino and [Sadio] Mané work very hard in defence because Klopp wants to press,” he told El Pais. “A few months ago he saw the light: he understood that pressing is not always the right thing to do. Depends on the conditions.
“His Dortmund was more offensive than his Liverpool, where he learned that sometimes you have to fold a little bit, collect your lines and counterattack.
“That is good for Salah, Mané and Firmino because they are very quick to take advantage of the spaces behind the rival defence.”
Nothing really sums up the tactical evolution of Liverpool than this. The Reds progressed from a lightning-quick, in your face, chaotic side into a calm, composed, ruthless one.
A change in style and fortunes
The 17/18 season featured games like the 5-0 loss to Manchester City and the near-collapse against to AS Roma. Then there’s, of course, the bizarre Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid. All three games showcased a lack of composure and Liverpool’s very thin nerve.
But Liverpool conceded 16 fewer goals in the Premier League this season, scoring just five more – it’s solidity that pushed their title challenge. They kept a clean sheet against Barcelona when they couldn’t afford to concede once, while still attacking ruthlessly. They also kept out Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League final, despite a poor performance, grinding out the goals they needed.
Klopp certainly has calmed things down, making them more confident and composed. It means they aren’t quite as ‘fun’ as they were, admittedly, when you felt as though absolutely anything could happen.
But they are reliable. They’re ruthless. Van Gaal is absolutely right that Klopp has changed his approach slightly but effectively, and it’s got the team on the right track.
The scary part is that this was only year one. The team will only be more composed and more in tune after their success. It certainly bodes well for next year.