Focus: How the game will pan out as Liverpool look to impress at Tottenham
The giddy hysteria that has greeted Jurgen Klopp’s arrival at Anfield will no doubt have seeped into the minds of his Liverpool players. So we should see a team who will press with real zeal, clambering to become a favourite of their new manager.
Unfortunately for the Reds a trip to high-flying Spurs is arguably the worst place to attempt this new system; we could be in for a fantastic end-to-end encounter.
Klopp’s tactics involve an extremely intense pressing system and swift, clinical counter-attacks; it is an ultra-attacking strategy that, though becoming more cautious as the years passed at Dortmund, will probably be attempted in this fixture by players desperate to impress.
A 2-0 victory over Real Madrid in the Champions League highlights their aggressive pressing (left) and the 3-0 win over Bayern Munich highlighted the constancy of the gegenpress (right)
The current Liverpool squad is well suited to the manager’s tactics. James Milner, Emre Can, and Jordan Henderson are all tireless pressers and quick-tempo passers, while Roberto Firminho and Jordon Ibe possess the pace and delicacy of typical Klopp wingers. Brendan Rodgers’ preference for signing intelligent and tactically astute footballers works in the new manager’s favour.
The left image shows Ibe at his best against Spurs, and the right shows Milner’s work rate against Man United last month.
In many respects Tottenham represent the tactical vision Klopp will hope to implement at Liverpool. Spurs press high up the pitch and with great collective endeavour (22.6 tackles and 14.8 fouls per match, second most in the league), and this season have begun to play with greater attacking speed.
Spurs have averaged 460 passes per game in 2015/16, down from 508 last season. This statistic reflects the upturn in their transitional speed, with greater focus on direct offensives led by the centrally swarming trio of Erik Lamela, Christian Eriksen, and Son Heung-min (Mauricio Pochettino utilises inverted wingers in order to create multiple short-passing options in central areas, much like Klopp’s Dortmund).
Spurs are passing the ball less (as against Everton, left) and are utilising more direct passing to Son (right)
As such, the midfield battle will be particularly intriguing, albeit largely unpredictable at such an early stage in Klopp’s tenure, especially as several key personnel are missing from both teams. Spurs’ 4-1 victory over Manchester City was orchestrated by counter-attacking in the central pockets vacated by Fernando and Fernandinho’s high press; a similar strategy from Liverpool and Tottenham will likely punish them.
With both teams using a high line and attempting to regain possession deep in their opponent’s half, this should be a fascinating match with plenty of open spaces for the creative players to flourish.