Jurgen Klopp has certainly built up a reputation over the past few years and rightly so has many admirers throughout Europe. He managed to take Dortmund to great heights and implemented a style of play that the great Pep Guardiola has taken on at Bayern in certain games. Imitation is the greatest form of flattery, and having the master that is Pep copy your tactics must be the pinnacle.
Having endured a tough spell this season at Dortmund it’s been rumoured he is looking to leave at the end of the season and amongst some fans his reputation has been dented due to the failings this season. The summer signings have failed, injuries to the majority of key players have had a significant impact and they might not qualify for Europe. Despite this, Klopp could be the hottest property available come summer.
Rodgers on the other hand has seen his stock fall this season. The highs of last season, 2nd place finish and dreams of winning the title, seemed a long time ago when in December Liverpool were 12th and out of the Champions League. The loss of Luis Suarez and then Daniel Sturridge seemed to knock Liverpool and a lack of a contingency plan was evident. It’s seemingly been a stop start season and Liverpool seem to change formation more times than a clock changes it’s minute hand. How are Liverpool to build and plan for incomings when tactics are being used so quickly it’s like they’re going out of fashion! Questions over if he should be Liverpool manager next season have been asked and with Liverpool looking unlikely to be in the Champions League next season having spent so much money it may be that the Dortmund manager is a target.
Why would he be a good fit at Liverpool?
The Dortmund Way
The Liverpool pressing style they were famed for is a lite version of what Klopp had Dortmund doing. BVB and their gegenpressing style has brought them much success in the past few years, especially in Europe. If Rodgers was the apprentice of pressing then the master would be Klopp.
What is gegenpressing?
The name may confuse people but the idea behind gegenpressing is pretty simplistic; you press the opposition right after losing possession. The complexity comes when you have to synchronize this press as an organised team. It’s very much pack mentality, you squeeze, harass and corner the opposition with the end game being either ball recovery or having the opposition have to play the ball backwards which stops them potentially counter attacking.
Many teams find it difficult to do this for a full 90 minutes because of the physical impact it has on your team. You’re effectively having your team play at full pace for 90 minutes and chasing the opposition as though you’re in the final minutes of a game and you can’t concede. However, you need a functioning team to carry out this tactic as you can’t carry any passengers. Each game is individually prepared for though and as Dortmund showed against Madrid a few years back they won’t press everybody. One of their pressing triggers was when Xabi Alonso got the ball. The main aim was to stop him dictating play and getting the ball in an area they could exploit. They ran out 4-0 winners.
Klopp fully believes the speed of play and transitions matters. With this in mind, before Mario Goetze left for Bayern, he set up Dortmund so Marco Reus and Mario Goetze played in close proximity to one another. This meant both could exploit the space in and around the oppositions midfield and defence when the ball was won. The ferocity of these counter attacks at Dortmund meant they blitzed teams. Very much so like Liverpool in the 2013/2014 season but unlike Liverpool, Dortmund carried on these onslaughts for the entire game.
No matter how simplistic this tactic is it’s still the hardest to cope against. You can figure out tactics and formations but counter attacking football is still one of the only styles of football the best teams struggle with.
This brought Liverpool so much success last season and whenever The Reds have boycotted the passing game this season and gone a little more direct they’ve looked far more dangerous. It’s when Liverpool return to the ‘Death by football’ ‘pass, pass, pass’ style that teams are able to cope and frustrate the side. It makes no sense when the majority of Liverpool players are the ones from last season who suited the direct style. With the styles so dramatically different it’s no shock the side has looked a little lost at times this season. The Liverpool team may not be as effective or as talented as the Dortmund team but the Premier League couldn’t handle a team that pressed like a Klopp team would.
The potential line up with what’s at the club
This was selected with the sorts of players Klopp uses in mind. Obviously a defensive midfielder would be a dead cert in a Klopp side like he uses Sebastian Kehl and Sven Bender. Both of these players don’t just sit deep though, they press like the rest of the attacking players so you’d need legs in the middle hence no Lucas.
Another factor lacking here is the goal scoring threat. However, the function of these 4 attacking players would be very reminiscent of Klopp’s Dortmund. Jordan Henderson excelled in a pressing team last season. If you’re going to be on the front foot when pressing you’d want him as high up as possible with the directive to win the ball and give it to Coutinho, Markovic and Sterling. The electric pace Sterling and Lazar have with Coutinho orchestrating it would cause chaos to many opponents. Especially those that have been pressed into mistakes so may be out of position. As mentioned earlier Klopp liked Reus and Goetze near each other and may believe Sterling and Coutinho could have that same kind of partnership. An avenue I’m sure would be exploited if he were to join.
When looking at the Chelsea players don’t imagine the players just imagine the positions taken up on the pitch.
Markovic has tried slipping Sterling in and given the ball to the RCB. The objective, as shown in the image, would be for the Liverpool players to press the player but also press the space so in theory they’re directing where the RCB in the picture can pass. It’s either to the right back or to go long. A pass to the right back stems any counter attack and a long ball will more than likely be handled. The emphasis is to clog up the middle of the pitch so no passes can be made through it. So as you can see the team would squeeze the play into a section of the pitch they’d feel happy with if they aren’t going to win the ball. Sterling is able to cut a pass out to the LCB but if he isn’t the on rushing Coutinho is closing in.
As was shown against Madrid, Klopp details whom to press and what the pressing triggers would be. So If Liverpool were playing Chelsea one of the triggers would be when Fabregas gets on the ball deep, or if they were against United it’d be when Carrick picks the ball. You plan and organise for what benefits your team the most. As good as those players are on the ball in a quick transition when they’re robbed of the ball they’re on the back foot and not good defensively.
Another trigger could be if one of the fullbacks has pushed on and lost the ball, the team would press in such a way the opposition can’t exploit that gap so you’re never on the back foot or in trouble of being caught out.
This sort of tenacity should be able to beat 13/14 of the Premier League sides, even if they have better standard of squads. Dortmund showed this when winning the Bundlesliga as an inferior side and managing to get to the Champions League final with a team they’d built on a budget. The tools are there for Klopp if he wishes to pick them up and put them to good use. There is only a few improvements needed such as a bulked up midfield and a striker that fits his pressing ethos whilst still managing to score, as opposed to mass overhauls at Man City if he wanted to replicate his Dortmund style of play there.
Brendan Rodgers gave them an identity last season before having to change it this season due to sales. To progress as a cub you need a directive and an identity everyone can work towards and the appointment of Jurgen Klopp could give them that, he’s kept the same ideology despite the sales of his star players. Rodgers is undoubtedly talented and will be a good manager, but he lacks the household name reputation that makes big name players take note. Klopp brings that reputation along with a style of play that players enjoy being part of and buy into.
I for one want to see a rampant Liverpool. If the system clicked it’d be Liverpool of 2014 but ‘Hulked out’. You won’t like them when they’re angry.