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Klopp Top- A look at Liverpool's performances against the top six

Written by: Miqdad

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Khel Now looks at what's made Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool tick against the top teams this season...

Jürgen Klopp arrived at Anfield with a reputation of being a world class manager.  The enigmatic German had earned this tag over the course of seven enthralling years at Borussia Dortmund back home, a side that transformed from being an upper midtable club to one that won back to back Bundesliga titles and almost secured the Champions League under his leadership.

When Klopp made the Signal Iduna Park his home, Dortmund had been languishing in the lower reaches of the league, having gone through three managers in the season gone by. Klopp came in and made the club a top side within a couple of years, all through clever signings, hardworking tactics and the passion of the crowd.

Klopp's famed high pressing game is ideal against the big teams.

So it was little surprise that the 49-year old German’s arrival was met by euphoria amongst the English club’s supporters. Klopp, having taken up the job in October 2015 took the club to two Finals in the Capital One Cup and Europa League., yet defeat in both meant Klopp’s first season at the helm ended in a bitter sweet way, with great hope for the future. This season, Liverpool have blown hot and cold. After ending the calendar year as title hopefuls, a torrid first month of 2017 has meant the Reds shall finish the season trophyless and do well to finish in one of the highly contested top four spots.

What has been remarkable about Jürgen Klopp’s short tenure so far has been his incredible record against teams that are traditionally considered as part of the top six. Including Merseyside rivals Everton in this debate throws further light on how dominant Liverpool have been when facing the top teams of England. LFC’s record against the bottom six is less pleasing in comparison, with the side often struggling to break down teams that ‘park the bus.’ This season itself, the Reds have gone unbeaten against the top six, winning 20 points in 10 games but have lost thrice to bottom six opposition, often being hit on the break over and over.

Looking back at Klopp’s record against other top managers and teams during his Dortmund career makes for interesting reading. The German’s first taste of big game action arrived in the Ruhr Derby. What seemed like a terrible afternoon for Klopp turned on its head when Dortmund came back from three goals down to draw 3-3. 

Given below is a table showcasing Klopp’s record against the likes of Louis van Gaal, Pep Guardiola et all during his Dortmund days. 

Vs

Played

Won

Draw

Loss

Louis Van Gaal

4

2

-

2

Pep Guardiola

8

4

-

4

Jose Mourinho

4

2

1

1

Arsene Wenger

6

2

1

3

M. Pellegrini

2

1

1

-

 Klopp's big game mentality haas been evident from his time at Dortmund.

As one can see, Klopp always maintained a competitive record against all top managers, most of whom came at him with a much better side filled with superstars. Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid, Guardiola’s Munich or Manuel Pellegrini’s Manchester City all had humongous budgets in comparison to Dortmund. Against Bayern in general, Klopp was on the winning side nine times and the losing side 10 times. There were just three stalemates in the 22 games that his Dortmund played Bayern. That, against what was quite often a superior Bayern team is a a testament to the squad that Klopp put together, and the motivational tactics employed.

Borussia Dortmund under Klopp became a force to be reckoned with and were always competitive, no matter how tough the challenge was. He came in and changed the side tactically, making them press from the front, playing vertically as they looked to attack directly at goal. Much like Klopp himself, Dortmund always played with full power and energy, earning them the tag of playing ‘heavy metal football.’ 

Since October 2015, Liverpool have only lost to top six opponents twice, both of which occurred last season. The first four games of the season were an ideal indicator of LFC’s positives and negatives this season. They started the season with a bang, beating Arsenal in a thrilling 3-4 win at Emirates Stadium yet succumbed to a 2-0 defeat at Turf Moor at the hands of Burnley, despite controlling over 80% possession in the match. Their third game, away to Spurs ended in a 1-1 draw while they thrashed Leicester 4-1 at home later.

LFC's Top 6 record 2016/17Liverpool's impressive performances against the other top six sides sees them finish top of the mini table.

In the 10 games against the top six sides, Liverpool took the lead in eight, eventually winning 5 of those games. The only game they trailed in this season was the home game against Chelsea, where David Luiz’s free-kick had stunned the Anfield crowd into silence. As one can see from the table, Liverpool have been miles ahead of their direct rivals, always finding an extra gear that helps them kick on.

This Liverpool side defends from the top, with the front three of Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané ably aided by Adam Lallana and Georginio Wijnaldum pressing the opposition without a single moment's relief. After stealing possession back, that front five attacks with verve, flexibility and fluidity. All players play interchangeable roles, drifting wide or cutting in depending on the play. Liverpool catch opponents napping on the ball and take advantage of the lack of defensive shape caused by the unexpected possession change. The Reds can be irresistible in attack, their 61 goals for the season, the highest in the league is proof of that.

The German has brought the same big game mentality to Liverpool.

Where Liverpool have lacked, this season, has been their defensive frailties. The Meryseysiders have conceded 37 goals, the most by any side in the top six. A recurring issue for LFC has been consistency at the back, not only in terms of personnel but also in play. Often, they have succumbed to losses in concentration and glaring blunders at the back. When facing teams placed lower than them, Liverpool have found it tough breaking their two banks of four in defence. 

Playing against a top side, on the other hand, suits Liverpool, and one might dare say plays into Klopp’s hands, considering the tactics his teams employ. LFC are best at implementing their ‘full court press’ against teams that come to play attacking football themselves. Playing sides who themselves push men forward in attack opens gaps at the back, something that the Liverpool forwards have been expert in finding for most parts of the season. Midfielders are hounded off the ball and defences lose their shape as LFC attack on all fronts. 

Examples of the above were seen in home games against Arsenal and Spurs in particular where defence turned into attack in a matter of moments, with Liverpool finding their men with clever passes and precise movements. Liverpool’s opener against Spurs is an epitome of the same. Spurs’ long ball forward was thwarted by James Milner yet it was Wijnaldum who raced to win possession back for his side and with a magician’s second touch, found Sadio Mané who had blazed past a helpless Ben Davies. Once Mané was through on goal, there was only ever going to be one result.

If there is one thing Liverpool are consistent at, then it’s turning up during those crunch games and that is a testament to the way Klopp can motivate his teams on the big days.

 

Published: Mon Apr 03, 2017 12:09 PM IST

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