Liverpool saw their pressing drop off considerably against Chelsea on Sunday, with Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Diogo Jota and Trent Alexander-Arnold struggling.
That’s two games in a row now that Liverpool just couldn’t press properly. At least, they couldn’t maintain their ussual incredibly high standards.
We pointed this out after the Leicester City game – a game they lost 1-0, of course. The Reds were unable to keep the pressure on Brendan Rodgers’ side, allowing them to get out far too easily.
Because the point of Liverpool’s pressing isn’t necessarily just to keep pressure on. It’s to press high, with all of the attacking players involved, trying to force defenders into poor passes over the top. When it goes right, the centre-backs can simply sweep up those passes, or the midfield shield can step in to press anything that moves past the forwards.
It’s the hallmark of Liverpool’s system under Jurgen Klopp. Unfortunately, it just hasn’t been clicking.
Liverpool struggle with press vs Chelsea
It’s important to note what a ‘successful press’ is here. It means that after a player applies pressure on an opponent, his team has the ball within another six seconds. The pressing player doesn’t need to win the ball back himself – just contribute to a press that forces a turnover of possession.
Diogo Jota is typically successful with 27% of his presses but that dropped to 22% against Chelsea. He was the only Liverpool forward who maintained his percentage against Leicester. Not this time, however.
Sadio Mane dropped from a 30% average to 20%. Mohamed Salah fell from 27% all the way to 9% and Trent Alexander-Arnold – usually a world-class presser – from 35% to 16%.
It’s pretty obvious why this is a major problem. Liverpool don’t control games without their press clicking and it means they also can’t attack in transition particularly often. Both of their goals came from applying pressure high up the pitch, in fact – they just didn’t do it enough.
So we’ll see what happens over the next month as Mane and Salah are at AFCON. It’s two games in a row now where Liverpool have seen their pressing drop off – a change of personnel might refresh things. Or make it worse.