Thursday 8 December 2016

Hull defender explains why Liverpool's 'ruthless' attack makes them the toughest team to play

Chris Bascombe

Published 26/09/2016 | 08:43

James Milner struck twice from the spot as Liverpool ran riot against Hull
James Milner struck twice from the spot as Liverpool ran riot against Hull

Liverpool won’t just outplay teams this season, they will smother them into submission.

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“They didn’t give us a chance to breathe,” reflected Hull's captain, Curtis Davies, eulogising 'the most 'ruthless' and 'fluent' attack he'd faced this season.

A trip to Anfield is the closest defenders will get to understand how a fox feels when a pack of bloodhounds is on its trail.

Adam Lallana, Philippe Coutinho, James Milner and the chief stalker Roberto Firmino generate a red swarm. Hull succumbed to the relentlessness and audacity of a Liverpool defensive line effectively positioning itself on the edge of the opponent’s penalty area.

So high was the starting position of Liverpool’s centre-backs, any messages delivered by new goalkeeper Loris Karius to his team mates needed to be dispatched by carrier pigeon.

Granted, Hull were reduced to ten men for an hour, but that was also the case against Arsenal a week ago. Davies said Klopp's side pose different problems to Arsene Wenger's.

“Arsenal are a very good passing team, but a lot of their stuff is in front of you,” he said.

“Nice little passes. Liverpool have that mix of nice little passes and then people who will run and run at you and beat you as well like Mane and Coutinho.

“They weren’t satisfied with 3-0. They wanted 6, 7, 8. That is the difference.

“It is hard to lay a glove on anyone. When there is so much inter-changing you cannot put your mark on one person. It is tough to make a tackle. One second Mane will be in that hole, then Lallana and then Coutinho. There is a lot of interchange, quick football and with the full backs playing like wingers it becomes very difficult because you end up with backs against the wall.

“They play with Henderson and the two centre-halves at the back and the rest can go where-ever they want. That is not an ill-disciplined thing, that is organised.”

Klopp’s video analysis for the rest of the season will be an exercise in replaying the first 45 minutes here. Liverpool scored three before the interval but could have had seven.

Coutinho miskicked from six yards, Sadio Mane hit the crossbar and missed from close range, while Georginio Wijnaldum continues to be frustrated in pursuit of his first goal despite countless attempts.

No matter, Lallana, Mane and James Milner’s penalty decided the game before the break, the dismissal of Ahmed Elohamady for handball reducing Hull to damage limitation.

To concede only twice more when defending The Kop end – to the archetypal Coutinho right footer and a second Milner penalty - was some relief to Hull’s caretaker manager Mike Phelan. His side found consolation with their one shot on target, a goal from David Meyler, after Liverpool failed to deal with a set-piece. Hull improved because in the first half they were at their most vulnerable when in possession. Rather astutely, they opted to let Liverpool have it more often in the second half and the tracking was less visible or necessary.

By the end, the pre-match concerns that Liverpool’s players only rouse themselves for VIP guests were dispelled.

They’ve now scored 24 goals in eight competitive fixtures, the club's best tally at this stage for 121 years. Most significantly, the goals are spread between ten players. Liverpool’s last title bid three years ago was built upon tweaking a formula to get the most from the individual brilliance of Luis Suarez and his partnership with Daniel Sturridge. Under Klopp, there is a team unit and fixed system of play that gives the impression of longer term sustainability.

Klopp began the season trying to convince his own supporters a vast rebuilding of the team was unnecessary. He already looks vindicated, but now his biggest problem is ensuring expectations do not inflate too much.

“It’s an early moment,” said Klopp.

“We are far away from Christmas now and after Christmas there’s January, February, March, April, May and then it stops, so it’s a long, long, long race and I never saw in any race that if you have to run 20km that after 5km you are like this (hands in the air celebrating). I know there’s a lot of work to do still.

“The big difference between us and the rest of the people in the Liverpool world was that everyone thought we should change a lot of the team.

"We changed a few things but not a lot. Most of the players who performed most of the time last year are still here. That's what we want to build on. We brought a few things in, that's true. A few new skills. But it's all about the base that we already had.”

Klopp’s only displeasure was the second half failed to match the first. Having created a side that was initially dealing in ten-minute blitzes, he’s seen that extended to 45. The Anfield scoreboard will take a pounding the day this team retains its bloodthirsty appetite for a full ninety.

Telegraph.co.uk

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