Klopp’s Tactical Ineptitude Costs Liverpool

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Liverpool were presented with the opportunity to consolidate their stranglehold on top 4 when Southampton came to Anfield – a win would’ve taken the Reds ahead of Manchester City in 3rd, but instead Liverpool produced a dire performance which saw a blow in their hopes for Champions League football next term.

Before kick off, a lot of supporters were saying how a win here would be a huge statement of intent as it would be a mental and tactical block cleared by Jurgen Klopp’s side. Some pundits were tipping us to win comfortably – but I don’t think they saw the bigger picture when it came to tactics and personnel.

Liverpool made a slow start – there were no clear cut opportunities in what was a poor, sleep-inducing first 45 minutes at Anfield. The second half did at least see a bit more urgency and attacking impetus from the home side. And when Jack Stephens was adjudged to have hand-balled inside the box, James Milner missed the chance to put the Reds ahead from the spot, as Fraser Forster pushed his low drive wide.

The Anfield crowd became increasingly restless – Marko Grujic tested Forster late on with a header, but in truth, Liverpool did nowhere near enough to get the points. The curse this year against Southampton continues.

I do feel that Klopp should not be immune to criticism. He is a very likeable manager, with his fervid personality. That said, it’s time for him to start taking responsibility for his team’s failings. Whether you like it or not, you have to admit that Jurgen Klopp got it wrong on several fronts today – whichever way you dress it up.

Disappointing Personnel

To be fair, it is, to a degree, understandable to see why Klopp wouldn’t want to change a winning side from the week before. However, I believe that ruthlessness is a trait that the German must acquire in the near future with his side. There have been several occasions where he has treated his under-performing squad players with too much respect. Take Emre Can in January, or Divock Origi right now as examples.

It is very easy to forget who underperforms or fails to impress when you win a game, but I believe there were certain players who shouldn’t have made it on the teamsheet.

The decision to start Divock Origi up top was a very questionable decision, especially considering the Belgian has failed to find his shooting boots of late. Despite some decent hold up play, he hasn’t really been able to engineer any clear cut opportunities or get behind defences. Hasn’t found the back of the net since last month – I was disappointed not to see fellow striker Daniel Sturridge given a start.

Roberto Firmino started on the right-wing, as he has done since Sadio Mane’s injury in the Merseyside Derby last month. However, this proved to be a waste of his ability – as he was unable to impact the game as much as he would’ve liked. He’s a player who thrives on excellent central runs and drifting infield, but was nullified out wide. It’s been the case for the past few games. Moving him central in a front two may have been the solution.

Georigino Wijnaldum has steadily improved since the turn of the year; especially impressing when called upon in big games. However, his performances against smaller outfits still leaves quite a lot to be desired.

He is simply far too conservative in possession, and doesn’t seem to be willing to impact the game going forward or make runs off the ball. I feel that Adam Lallana’s energetic work rate is what was needed to break Southampton down.

James Milner was another who I feel hasn’t done enough to justify his inclusions of late. Given the task ahead of him to fill the void at left-back, he’s done relatively well. However, he has dropped significantly since the turn of the year – his pace and end product has exposed the frailties in Klopp’s 4-3-3 system.

Klopp needs to be more bold with his team selection. We have seen glimpses of this (Stoke away, example), but I feel he needs to be more like Rafa Benitez in the same vein that he needs to be ruthless with his personnel week in, week out.

Wrong Choice of Formation

Southampton have been renowned for being Liverpool’s bogey team this campaign – they have met on four occasions this season; winning twice and drawing twice. On each of these encounters, the Reds have failed to score.

I spoke about how the 4-3-3 system could bring back the same problems we’ve encountered against the Saints before the game; unfortunately I was proven right.

Whilst the 4-3-3 has proved effective against a number of sides with quick, physical outlets of late, it was fruitless on Sunday,

It became apparent how well-drilled Southampton were – they didn’t allow any of Liverpool’s key players a moment’s peace on the ball, and set up with a low block system.

Shane Long – the goalscorer of the Saints’ win at Liverpool in January in the League Cup, spoke how their defence restricted Liverpool’s customary preferred central game – by forcing them out wide regularly.

“Keeping a clean sheet against Liverpool is no mean feat. I think it came from the whole team trying to force them out wide and not letting them make passes through the middle to get one-on-ones with the keeper.”, he said.

This comes as no surprise and speaks volumes as to how poor the likes of James Milner and Nathaniel Clyne are offensively. That’s one massive flaw with the 4-3-3 and our personnel.

The 3-5-2 formation would’ve suited our mix of interchanging attacking players against Southampton more than the 4-3-3 did. It offers the much-coveted width, gives Coutinho and Adam Lallana the license to wreak havoc plus pace and balance out wide. Whilst I don’t advocate how poor Alberto Moreno is defensively, he could be the missing puzzle in the jigsaw here. In the 3-5-2 formation, he would’ve have to track back 24/7 and could consequently show the pace, balance and much coveted width that was non-existent in Liverpool’s play.

I feel Klopp has been far too stubborn when it comes to tactics – and until he swallows his pride and realises this isn’t the answer to our problems against the Saints, the Reds will continue to suffer from the same problems.

Reactive Substitutions

This has been mentioned time, and time again. Do we see any change in this? No.

This has been Klopp’s achilles’ heel in management, even recognisable in his tenure at Borussia Dortmund. On too many occasions this season, he has been too conservative/reactive with substitutions.

Everyone could see how the Reds were lacking any kind of desire or urgency in the middle of the park or the final third. In need of a goal at half-time, Klopp bizarrely chose to wait until the 69th minute to bring on Adam Lallana and Daniel Sturridge. They both offered more than their counterparts Wijnaldum and Origi did all game respectively. Marko Grujic was introduced to the fray in the 87th minute.

The German must be more proactive with substitutions. It’s simple as that. Had they been given 45 minutes to prove themselves, it may have well been different.


The draw isn’t a disaster for Liverpool’s Champions League hopes, but it has to be seen as a missed opportunity to pull further clear from the rest of the pack. Given that results did go the Reds’ way today (with Arsenal beating Man United 2-0), it makes it even more frustrating, as Liverpool could’e pulled 7 points clear of the latter. However, they do head into the final two games of the season with the upper hand.

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  1. While you are not wrong when you say that Klopp needs to have a more astute tatical mind, you are forgetting that Lallana is in no position to start having just returned from a long injury spell and as soon as he did played a near 90 minute game last time out. Daniel Sturridge too has to be managed because he just had a flare up of his hip injury two weeks ago. To go on a limp and say that Klopp was foolish to have introduced these 2 in the 69th minute and not earlier is a tad bit ridiculous considering these facts. Furthermore, Marko Grujic has spent nearly the entire season out injured, to expect a lad short of match fitness to come on and play for 20 odd minutes even is a big ask – especially given that he is not someone who would displace anyone in our starting XI straight away. The problem lies and has always lied with our lack of sqaud depth. Until that is addressed, I fear that even Jurgen’s hands are tied in making tatical switches. Mind you, these 3 (Jurgen and his 2 assistants) were well known during their time in Bundesliga for their tatical nous.

  2. would tend to agree with the writer,,, not you Raj! 🙂

    Lalla was fit enough last week, and 20-30 minutes is no big test of young Marko,

    Klopp has often left changes far too late, its a big difference winning in the Bundesliga , where having any alternative ideas is unusual, to the premiere where even the bottom sides are so well prepared tactically …
    btw i dotn thinkl Klopps touchline theatrics help the team. he needs to be issuing advice not spending have the game arguing with 4th official like some german fergie…
    IMO Lalla shd have started the game…
    he was excellent at watford and his midfield energy creativity , & pressing was absent as Phil was too deep, Coutinho s tricky footworkl could have opened up sotons 11 man defence (not one shot on target from them, says it all…) if he was further forward…
    echo described him as being part of the “front 3” ??? Origi was up front , Firmino as usual in a “2nd striker” role and Phil in midfield!
    Lucas had another fine game, but ok, I can understand Klopp removing a DM, chasing 3 points, but I would have put on Grujic too as well as Lalla, & Studge, taking off the innefective Origi and Wijn. at 30 mins to go…. take a chance and give subs a chance to make an impact…!!
    I said when appointed that Juergen is the “german Brent” and after 65 games he has exactly the same league results… BUT ..dont dare mention it… or you too will be branded .. by Lfcs “thought police” ….
    Marko unlucky not to score late on, and I was surprised that Milly got “psyched” by Forster, but was an excellent

  3. Raj.

    Maybe it may have been too premmature to introduce Lallana into the side after a long cameo last time out – but I feel that he could have added some much needed energy, desire and pressing to the fore that the side lacked vs Southampton.

    I do feel Sturridge should’ve started, as he offered more v Watford in his brief cameo than Origi did all game. Klopp should’ve rotated to a unconvential, but effective 352 setup with Sturridge up top with Firmino in a front two. He isn’t as effective in a 433 formation, but still was relatively impressive when he came on. Fashioned more chances (three) than any other of our players/strikers combined. He also completed 100 percent of his attempted passes, as well as firing two shots on goal.

    It is inevitable IMO that he will be leaving the summer – but it would be a shame as he has shown some promising spells this term despite some poor form. He appeared to be quite sharp vs Watford.

    As for Grujic, I don’t think it would’ve been a massive ask if he came on at around the 59th minute mark. Would’ve added much needed guile to the midfield. He returned to training in late Feb, and was available a month ago for selection.

  4. Seems a bit churlish to point out that Sturridge and Lallana have both had two cracks at Southampton this season and both of them were decidedly average each time. Hand wringing over the descision to start them is pointless. There’s little evidence they would have thrived in the game in the way Southampton set up. Maybe one of them comes up with a bit of magic to unlock the door, its certainly not a given. For me each game against Southampton has been epitomized by our inability to pull them out of shape. The mediocrity of our play in wide areas is what’s failed us in these games. They knew Clyne and Milner couldn’t/wouldn’t hurt them in wide areas and were happy to simply crowd the middle knowing that that’s were they would take the play eventually. It was all very predictable. So much so that I had a tenner on 0-0. I do agree Moreno could have made a difference, but I’d have to temper that with the fact that he could have also committed a colossal fuck up, in which case the manager fucked it by selecting him.

  5. Garry.

    I do feel that them struggling v Southampton was down to more the system. Sturridge doesn’t suit the 4-3-3, doesn’t play to his strengths. I feel he thrives off a front two.

    Lallana would’ve thrived if he started in the midfield three where he is usually effective.

  6. I understand, But like i said Lallana’s had two go’s against Southampton while they used these tactics. He didn’t have an impact in either game. Take a look at the heat map for each game against Southampton this season, each time they are almost identical. My guess is that Lallana would have encountered the same problems that Gini and Can did. With nothing coming from the wide area’s Southampton just waited us out in the middle and dealt with whatever we came at them with. It was easy for them. It didn’t get any less easy when Lallana came on either. Out of all the teams we’ve played this season they’re the one’s who’ve exploited the mediocrity of Milner and Clyne the best. This will always be our ceiling with them as starters at full back.

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