That was another fantastic game of football between undeniably two of the best teams the Premier League has ever seen. Despite a relatively strong record against Guardiola (compared to the majority) in his career thus far, the games against Pep’s City have an air of Benitez vs Chelsea’s Mourinho in an era gone by – questions asked of one another, both tactically and mentally. A footballing clash of the Titans.
This was the best example so far of Klopp answering those questions. The Champions League smash & grab was great & as Gundogan said: “You can kindle a fire at Anfield, & before you know it you have conceded 3 goals”. This one though, felt different. It felt more calculated. It felt more sure.
Klopp has tried a few different things against them in recent fixtures; some curveball approaches. He played Wijnaldum front left for 20 minutes last season, he’s often played Oxlade-Chamberlain when he can, to run into the spaces vacated by Silva & De Bruyne. He’s often fancied Lovren, his more aggressive option in the back line, van Dijk aside. He’s even used Gomez at right back from the start in attempts to nullify a Sané whom they really missed on Sunday.
But on this occasion it felt more like us asking the questions.
Play against this Klopp side with a compact midfield & back 4, allowing the fullbacks space to move into, is asking for trouble.
Look at our second goal. It’s trademark 19/20 Klopp Liverpool & we’re only 12 games in. Think of Emre Can’s goal against Hoffenheim in August 2017, a previously credited archetypal Klopp goal – midfield interchange finds Mané wide left in created space with acres to run into. He carries it and backheels it to Firmino who has run outside from inside & clips it to the back stick where Can arrives into the space created. It’s a classic. But our second on Sunday was pure fullback artillery. A few years back I remember hearing somewhere that Guus Hiddink had been asked about the evolution of the game. I don’t recall the exact quote but he spoke of fullbacks become crucial in offensive buildup play as the game evolves. Sure, Guardiola’s Barcelona had flying fullbacks, as have many recently successful sides including Klopp’s Dortmund, but what we’re seeing with Trent and Robertson feels fresh; something new. It’s like we’re playing with your classic 442 wingers in offensive transition situations, but this time they’ve got a front 3 ahead of them and often at least one midfield runner for them to find.
When Roma came to Anfield in April 2018 & played with a back 3 of Fazio, Manolas & Fazio people started to talk about a back 3 against Liverpool being a poor option & in truth, we’ve not seen it too many times since (Solskjaer at Old Trafford a relative ‘success’ anomaly).
With the progression of Liverpool’s attacking approach play through delivery from wide we’ve seen this Liverpool side answer so many questions posed of them about build-up play.
This side scores all kinds of goals now.
Guardiola often tucks a fullback in against us, largely to attempt to stifle Mané or Salah. He started doing it a few years ago, but it didn’t work for him on Sunday. Angelino looked bewildered until Henderson went off, unsure when to come out of his line defensively.
But back to our fullbacks, you can close all the passing lanes inside if you like, but if you’re leaving Robertson in space then Trent will find him.
Fernandinho had the audacity to call us a long ball team in 17/18. How about that for long ball football then mate? Two 40yard passes, one from either fullback, and it’s in the back of your net. Tiki-taka eat your heart out.
Klopp said afterwards that you don’t want to try playing City at their own game as they’re the best in the world at it. They are, they’re a sensational football team and they showed that on Sunday despite missing some key men, none more so than Laporte.
But on Sunday we played them at our game there and we did them. Bloody well love it.