Focus: How clash between Milner and Ayew could decide Swansea's visit to Liverpool
Jurgen Klopp’s system is beginning to take shape at Liverpool. Their high pressing and quick bursts towards goal against Manchester City were closely reminiscent of the German’s famous Borussia Dortmund side, and probably left this week’s opponents, Swansea, fearful of their trip to Anfield.
Liverpool's high pressing and quick-bursts towards goal against Manchester City were closely reminiscent of the Klopp's famous Dortmund side
On a run of one win in eight and with popular manager Garry Monk’s job on the line, it is unsurprising that the Swans are looking nervy and low on morale. This should make them acutely vulnerable to the frantic high press of Liverpool, who aim to unsettle their opponents into giving the ball away unnecessarily in under-stocked areas of the pitch. Liverpool’s front three completed six tackles between them at the Etihad, and will expect to reach similar figures on Saturday – if Swansea’s passing and decision-making are too tentative.
The performances of Ashley Williams and Leon Britton (likely to replace the suspended Jonjo Shelvey) will thus be crucial if Monk’s team are to avoid an early submission. Williams and Britton have a 90% and 95% pass accuracy respectively; their ability to remain composed under pressure and distribute the ball calmly out of their own half will be vital.
The key battle at the other end will be between Andre Ayew – who excelled on the left flank against Bournemouth last weekend – and James Milner. In Klopp’s system Adam Lallana is given creative freedom on the right side of attacking midfield which should, in theory, leave a large pocket of space for Ayew to occupy. But with Milner in the team, these vulnerable spots hardly exist at all.
The Yorkshireman, tireless and tactically intelligent, swings over from central midfield to plug the gaps behind Lallana, and in doing so allows Liverpool’s attackers to lurk in dangerous positions; he made an incredible eight tackles against Manchester City.
His direct opponent this weekend will be Ayew who, drifting off the left wing to become a second attacking midfielder, will be moving in precisely the same patterns (from left to centre) as Milner. Ayew received plenty of incisive passes to feet against Bournemouth and hauled his side back into the game thanks to his aerial ability (three headers won) and creative spark. He is their best chance of snatching an unlikely point at Anfield.