The midfield role in this Klopp side is such a disciplined, tactical role. The personnel in the system seem to provide endless talking points amongst Liverpool fans, even as we sit top of the league.
Gini’s goal was a rare treat – a goal from a Liverpool midfielder from open play.
Look at Henderson in these clips. It seems plausible that, when out of possession, his instruction includes covering Enda Stevens, their left wingback.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not exactly a vintage Henderson performance. His use of the ball was far from his best, wasting several crossing positions from those right-half spaces (as De Bruyne & Trent seem to thrive in)
But take away from these moments for a second. In the heat of the battle it’s so easy to overlook the fact that Klopp asks for a very specific role. Players should be judged on carrying out what’s asked of them, right? Klopp’s preference for his ‘model professionals’ who stick to task should come as no surprise.
Look at the average positions of Wijnaldum and Henderson from Saturday:
The midfield ‘shuttlers’, moving side to side, covering their fullbacks and moving the direction of play. Henderson and Wijnaldum, if asked to only do that, to be disciplined positionally and to keep the ball, are good at it. Ask them to carry the ball past men and shoot from range, less so.
It’s very often in these games that we hear people describing the midfielders as looking lost, or not getting involved in the game (@RedDebateChris and myself included on Saturday). Had he been on the bench, I’d have been begging for Keita as the game started to open up and opponents tired.
Opponents tiring being a key point here. Robert Huth was on Radio 5 Live yesterday talking about how Liverpool are the best pressing side he’s faced and that he can recall being desperate for the game to end after 25 minutes last time out because we were pressing them relentlessly. This takes scrutinous work on the overall shape on training ground, as well as individual athletic capability.
It’s for this very reason that we can afford more patience to Keita and Oxlade-Chamberlain as they grow into their roles. They’ve got the technical and physical attributes (should they both remain injury-free for a period, at least). Learning the tactical roles takes will take time. It was interesting to hear Pepijn Lijnders talk with such excitement about Naby Keita changing our midfield approach play.It’ll be really interesting to see whether he ends up becoming a permanent fixture in that midfield, as Fabinho has done.
Interestingly, Lijnders talked about Fabinho having to learn his role. We’ve talked about it on this page and on our podcast a lot, but Klopp’s midfield roles are so specific. As things stand, we’re certainly fortunate to have such a range of skillsets amongst our midfielders & equally fortunate to have this group of coaching staff working with them.