When I get the chance to watch Liverpool play, whether it’s under Brendan Rodgers or Jurgen Klopp, I get a similar feeling during most of their games. Liverpool looks like they could be the better team and they look like they’re more likely to win throughout most of the game. Their issue is that more often than not, they don’t win.
Case in point, in this weekend’s Liverpool/Manchester United game, Liverpool attacked and pressed more. They really looked like the better team. Manchester United hardly pressed, they always wanted to pass back to David de Gea to reset the play and went in with an incredibly cautious and boring approach to the game. The result, Manchester United won 1-0 with one shot on goal because they converted their only serious chance, a Marouane Fellaini header that went off the post right to an open Wayne Rooney. Fair or not, this happens a lot. The team with the more attractive play doesn’t necessarily win. Maybe it’s time for Liverpool to adjust and make sure they get the points rather than have to have the most beautiful play all the time.
Much of Liverpool’s struggles is more than whether or not their playing style is beautiful. For one thing, they need better and less injury prone goalscoring finishers. Klopp has resorted to placing Roberto Firmino, a midfielder, as their striker because Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi are injured and Christian Benteke is borderline useless in Klopp’s system to make any sort of contribution so that’s one issue.
Another issue is that many of the players just aren’t good enough to mount a top four push and where a big team like Liverpool feel like they should be. Jurgen Klopp probably won’t be able to get many players in this winter window so his first realistic window will be in the summer where he can get his players that fit his system. Otherwise, he’s playing with Brendan Rodgers’ players and let’s be honest, one of the reasons Rodgers is out of a job was because he was wildly inconsistent in finding and signing talent.
But anyway, while Klopp’s gengenpressing looks nice and has been used to great success at Borussia Dortmund, he enters a league where certain teams could give a crap about style and what’s beautiful and just worry about getting the three points by whatever means necessary. While this method is painful to watch as a neutral fan, you at least have to respect that based on their limitations, they have to do what they can to ensure they get maximum points.
This isn’t an appeal for Jurgen Klopp to completely give up gengenpressing and park the bus every week, but Klopp needs to realize some of the players he has just isn’t up to the billing. For instance, Liverpool’s back line during the Arsenal game was getting beaten every which way when Liverpool’s defenders even tried to press. Against a talented attack like the EPL leaders, that back line just wasn’t up to the task and to put them in front of a goalkeeper who seems to be giving up preventable goals every game at this point, results in Liverpool with a desperate need to score goals and make up for that. And given their injured front line, that’s easier said than done.
This Liverpool team is in such a way that something needs to give. Don’t force an attacking style if it’s not going to happen that day. If a game warrants it, hold back and play ugly if you need to. Be more defensive, create as many stoppages of play as possible to interrupt your opponent and pick better moments to score rather than just blindly shoot at anywhere other than the goal like they did in the Man United game. The final score is the only stat that matters. You can have much more possession than your opponent, you can have many passes than your opponent and you can have many more shots than your opponent. But when it comes down to it, style points do not directly translate to points on the Premier League table. Goals and wins are what put points on the table and if that means winning ugly sometimes, so be it. Because at the end of the day, Liverpool, like their rivals, top four is the goal at the end of the season and Liverpool is struggling to keep up even though they always seem to look like they are the better team.