UEFA’s technical report shows how Jurgen Klopp made a big change to Liverpool’s Champions League-winning tactic last season.
UEFA released their technical report for the 2019/20 Champions League on Monday. They cover the ins and outs of the tactical and technical side of the campaign and it’s pretty revealing.
Especially for Liverpool, as it turns out. The Reds went into that campaign as champions, of course, but crashed out of the first knockout-round to Atletico Madrid.
And in the report, it shows how Liverpool were not the same side as the previous campaign – for better or worse.
Jurgen Klopp clearly altered his team’s primary tactic. Liverpool, known as a counter-pressing, high-energy team, came out as the team with the highest average-possession in the entire competition.
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They enjoyed 67% of the ball over their games, a figure second-place Bayern Munich fell 3% short of. The biggest takeaway, however, is the jump from the previous year.
As the report says, Liverpool had averaged 50% possession per match in the 2018/19 season. That dropped as low as 31% for the final against Tottenham Hotspur.
Clearly, then, this was a different Liverpool last season. They had a lot more of the ball and couldn’t possibly play in a purely counter-attacking style.
In fact, they had to play more of a possession game than anyone. The question, then, is why?
One reason is that Liverpool were seen as a much bigger and more threatening side. In that case, teams will sit back and attack less, allowing the Reds more of the ball. That was certainly the case against Atletico.
And that would mean Klopp was forced to change his tactic, rather than wanting to. If the other team doesn’t want the ball, you can’t force them to have it very easily.
But there is another possibility. Klopp may have wanted a more patient, low-energy approach in the Champions League as Liverpool assaulted the Premier League. Keeping fresh for a title challenge may have been highest on the agenda, which would explain the approach.
In short, we don’t know the exact answer. But Liverpool were clearly a different beat last season. It’ll be interesting, then, to see how Klopp approaches this campaign and whether Liverpool may look to change what failed last season.