When many think of Jurgen Klopp they think of counter attacking football. They think of a team in yellow buzzing around the final third of the pitch in the hunt for the ball. They think of a 4231 formation. It’s what he was famed for as he took a mid-table Dortmund side and transformed them into league winners. However, what some people may not know, during his early years at Dortmund Jurgen Klopp used to set them up in a 442 diamond formation. He’s not a one trick pony.
Liverpool have hit the jackpot with Jurgen Klopp, the same as players do at Pokies Palace!
People may assume it’s easy to find footage from the Bundesliga in 2009 but it’s not. I did manage to find highlights though and I was able to watch how Dortmund set their two strikers up within in the diamond. The two strikers in question were Lucas Barrios and Nelson Valdez, two Paraguayans who aren’t the most prolific but they seemed to work when used together.
Valdez, before his move to Dortmund, scored 21 times in 80 appearances for Bundesliga rivals Werder Bremen. Whilst at Dortmund he managed 15 goals in 113 appearances. Since leaving Dortmund 5 years ago he’s scored less than 30 goals despite playing over 100 games. That gives you the idea of the type of striker he was.
On the other hand, Lucas Barrios was the striker that kept a young Robert Lewandowski out of the side. Before moving to Dortmund he played for Colo-Colo and scored an impressive 53 times in 58 appearances. He had two full seasons at Dortmund and scored 43 times. A targetman who was good in the air, could use both feet and had a bit of pace about him.
Neither of these strikers were like Robert Lewandowski. Barrios was all about movement in the area whereas Valdez was very much the workhorse. The type of striker that did everything else that meant Barrios was able to put the ball in the back of the net. So how did Klopp get the best out of them? The main man was Lucas Barrios so the attack was built to get the best out of him. He may have changed his tactics since but from the very beginning he was always eager to get the ball into the box as quickly as possible so the opposition weren’t in position to defend.
Barrios and Valdez
In the above still you see the ball being crossed into a dangerous area. The opposition in this instance aren’t set up for such a cross and Barrios isn’t marked, allowing him a near enough free run into the area. Before this was taken the left centre-back had tracked Valdez (highlighted in red) who at the time had dropped off to the right hand side. This meant the right centre-back, who was supposed to be marking Barrios, had moved centrally to fill the space was then out of position for when the cross came in.
Another instance of Nelson Valdez dropping deeper and the left centre-back following his run. This allowed Barrios to peel off the right centre-back and make use of the space in behind. The player circled in black was the one chipping the ball over the top. He could’ve played it safe and went backwards but the ball to Barrios was on early so he played it early. Once again though it was the movement of Valdez that created the space for Barrios.
In this screenshot it’s taken just after Valdez, highlighted in red, had won the ball and released the Dortmund player down the left. The player closest to Valdez in white is their right centre-back and the defender closest to Barrios is the left centre-back. Barrios receives the ball and drives into the box before placing the ball past the goalkeeper. It all stemmed from a turnover in possession as the right centre-back loses the ball to Valdez.
Do Liverpool have players capable of playing this?
In a word, yes. Liverpool possess a diverse group of strikers in Daniel Sturridge, Danny Ings, Christian Benteke, Divock Origi and Roberto Firmino. Klopp could set Liverpool up to get early crosses into the box and make the most of Christian Benteke’s aerial strength. Benteke would thrive off the early crosses into the area. Alternatively, he could set the Reds up to get the most out of Daniel Sturridge’s knack of squaring up defenders and isolating the last man. Sturridge would thrive off the early balls over the top.
Both of these tactics would need their striker partner to be full of energy, so that could be Origi, Ings or Firmino. You need a striker to do the leg work and create the space for the main man, it’s something Danny Ings has been doing in the last few days when he’s partnered Daniel Sturridge.
Liverpool have the players for Klopp’s famed 4231 but both Klopp and the squad is versatile and the diamond could be used. You’ve also got to consider the fact the diamond can easily turn into a 4231 if the right personnel are used and visa versa. When Klopp played the 4231 it often turned into a 442 when Lewadowski went wide and one of the attacking midfielders shifted into the central strikers position. I’ve seen people say Klopp is very one dimensional and when he’s found out his tactics are useless. That couldn’t be further from the truth as his 2009 squad show.