The Klopp effect, the Gen-Gen Pressing machine, the German Maestro’s organised mayhem. Hyperbole had been thrown around for a week in preparation for the enigmatic German’s arrival, and much had been made of Klopp’s tactics in the lead-up to the away trip to White Hart Lane.
“A wild one” was the phrase that stirred already excitable fans to the extreme levels of animation. After years of limbo; of being directed to unexciting, stagnant football curtailed by a lack of direction and philosophy, Liverpool had something to believe in, something to aspire to.
And for 25 minutes, it was a joy to behold.
*Liverpool’s defensive shape: pressing in a 4-3-2-1
The Gen-Gen Effect
*The overload in action: Origi takes the ball down where he’s supported by three players, in turn creating space for Can and Coutinho for an out pass.
There seems to be an apparent misconception in the theme of gengenpressing. While it pressing in itself demands the opposition to have the ball, it’s not simply something that’s going to work away from home against teams that are pushed up against Liverpool: it works as a tactic to pin the opposition into their own half and capitalise on mistakes.
Overloading space – or filling one side of the pitch with a bulk of players as to draw in opposition players – is a tactic Klopp likes to utilise to create space, and one that Robert Lewandowski is extremely potent at. Above, you can see Origi come deep to collect the ball, supported by James Milner, Adam Lallana and Lucas. The numbers around Origi mean Tottenham’s midfield is dragged to the ball to compensate, and Phillipe Coutinho and Emre Can are able to exploit the space created. As soon as Origi brings the ball down and one of Milner or Lallana gets a touch, the ability to open up the pitch is a very real opportunity.
Origi presses a compact, rather narrow Spurs defence who are drawn into the growing numbers. Coutinho is the option in the middle and Can occupies a wealth of space on the far side. This is counter-pressing done in a Klopp system.
Now comes the infamous counter-press. With numbers forward, a speedy transition is possibly nulled by Moussa Dembele’s challenge, but Origi does extremely well to win the ball back. But he’s not alone; as soon as the ball is won back there are bodies around it, forcing Spurs back into a pressure zone. Lallana closes down the space, Milner acts as a third body and wide option and Nathaniel Clyne has pressed forward to ensure Spurs can’t get out where Liverpool got in. Coutinho occupies the middle to occupy Jan Vertonghen, and as soon as Spurs try to get out (see below) Lallana is on them, hounding and harassing them. This is the effective gengenpressing, which results in Spurs having to kick the ball long to escape the pressure.
Lallana then presses the centre back on the ball, who realises the only option is to go long and give the ball away. Emre Can’s presence on the far side and Phillipe Coutinho hugging close to Lallana means Liverpool have the dominance of space even before Spurs can launch an attack.
The Transition and the Pressing
Another key element to Klopp’s style is moving the ball quickly in order to create high quality, near-chaotic chances on the counter attack. Should that movement of the ball break up, the idea is that the attack doesn’t: it simply transforms into an immediate counter-press, filled with bustling energy and high octane intensity.
Mamadou Sakho feeds the ball into the central midfield. Lallana and Coutinho are ahead of asymmetrically: Origi pulls wide so that Milner can feed a ball through and Coutinho becomes the central figure in the box: a role Firmino is optimally suited to. Firmino in for one of Milner or Lallana will make the attack flow more proficiently, as will the presence of Daniel Sturridge or even Christian Benteke.
*Imagine, for instance, Lazar Markovic in Coutinho’s position; dragging Walker into the box, with Coutinho in Milner’s position and Firmino chasing the ball down. All three possess more pace, guile and deftness of touch and would, with Klopp’s guidance, be able to perform a blitzkrieg of the opposition: relentlessly harrying the opposition’s back line even after losing possession on a counter attack.
The attack is broken up slightly but the essence of gengenpressing is to keep an attack going with intensity even after possession is lost: hence the immediate counter. Origi does well to fight for the ball and Lallana’s intelligent pressing of space means he can attack the ball and allow the numbers to get forward. In an optimal situation Origi would be able to make a late run into the box but that’s slightly compromised by the earlier duel. The way Klopp’s teams attack, the pace of the front line will be able to blitz into the box and overwhelm the opposition.
Tricky Touches and Triangles
Coutinho’s flick back over his head, keeping what looked like a dead ball in to find Emre Can is followed up and matched by Can’s first touch back heel pass over the defence to find the little Brazilian. Between creativity and flair, Liverpool possess players able to create something out of nothing, being able to express themselves. This is something Klopp instils in his players; confidence, panache, and sheer intensity.
The little one-two’s and passing triangles that Liverpool created are also features of the German Ulsterman’s style: The Reus-Gotze-Gundogan triangle was a common occurrence in 2012/13, when Gundogan would get the ball from deep and Reus and Gotze would hug tight to one another, exchanging one touch passes and dinked balls to bypass an opposition midfield. Though it’s not a triangle: the linkup between Can and Coutinho after Phil taps the ball over his head to Can on the touchline, who then flicks it on with a deft little backheel over the defence is emblematic of Klopp’s effect on his new team: one playing with the utmost confidence and flair.
Above: The Triangle: Emre Can’s switching ball finds Nathaniel Clyne, who surges forward and creates a triangle on the right. Clyne to Milner to Lallana mean that two Spurs midfielder are bypassed and the ball enters Liverpool’s attacking area.
Marauding Martin Skrtel
With Spurs pinned back due to the threat of the counter-press, and without much in the way of a creative centre midfield, Klopp likes his centre backs to push on and move the team upwards. Even Martin Skrtel, who was poor defensively, pushes into the Spurs midfield and initiates the attack: something Mamadou Sakho also did consistently in a Mats Hummels-esque role on Saturday.
The Danger of the Counter-Attack
Here you can clearly see the way Liverpool want to attack. Coutinho largely presses the left attacking midfield side, with Lallana marshalling the right, and Origi governing the middle. The idea being that on the attack Origi can collect and either have his two attackers stretch wide with a central midfielder through the middle, or Origi can give it off with two dynamic, pacey creative players (Gotze and Kagawa in Klopp’s Dortmund side) channelling the middle. Milner turns into a wide midfielder in transition, and the sheer numbers allowed by Liverpool’s counter-pressing mean Tottenham are instantly on the back foot. This is where the majority of Liverpool’s chances will come from, with increasing proficiency.
Reaping the Benefits
Again, a defensive mistake from relentless pressure in Liverpool’s own half leads to Origi picking up the ball and releasing to Coutinho, who feeds Lallana. Now there are three fluid, quick attackers running at the Spurs defence and the pair of Lallana and Coutinho close to each other. Lallana passes Coutinho the ball via a through ball…
And with a pass Lallana gets Coutinho in behind Spurs’ defence; only Vertonghen left to cover Coutinho should he cut inside and Origi in a wealth of space running into the box. You can see Klopp’s excitement at the chance; a better ball into the box (though Spurs defended exceptionally well in this instance) and Origi has a shot at Lloris, who is already backing off.
It’s fluid, quick, and relentless, and created a lot more half chances than first thought for the men up front. This is the Klopp way, the Klopp mentality, and judging by the first 25 minutes of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, it’s going to be one hell of a ride.