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Pool press home early advantage


Jota hugs his new boss Jurgen Klopp after Monday night’s win over Arsenal. Photo: Reuters

Jota hugs his new boss Jurgen Klopp after Monday night’s win over Arsenal. Photo: Reuters

Jota hugs his new boss Jurgen Klopp after Monday night’s win over Arsenal. Photo: Reuters

It's only three games in, but there are already signs, good ones for Liverpool but ominous for the rest of the league, that the champions could walk away with the title once more.

That's down to a couple of factors: how well Liverpool have started, how far off the pace Manchester United look and Chelsea not being settled. A massive part of it is due to how well Liverpool do their business off the field when it comes to signing players.

But it's also the way they play. Because, as a defender I think I'd hate to play against this Liverpool side, with their high press and how they set up.

They don't just have a high press that is a plan the manager has, but the players are so well-drilled in it that they can put it into effect really well.

They can still make mistakes, and Arsenal on Monday showed that Liverpool can be got at, but Jurgen Klopp seems to have a 'risk and reward' attitude ... and he gets the rewards.

Arsenal played into Liverpool's hands. The intensity that Liverpool play with makes it very difficult, and it never dropped over the course of 90 minutes. They are quite happy to take the risk of pushing forward for a goal, knowing that if they only got past that first line, there was still half of the pitch to recover the ball.

It's similar to what Bayern Munich did in the Champions League. You need pace in your defensive areas but you need faith in your defenders as well, and it all makes for such a quick game.

I'm interested to see how teams cope with that from Liverpool as the season goes on. I know Alexander Lacazette was offside for his first opportunity on Monday, but he should have scored from his second chance.

So Liverpool do have work to do. They can't hold that high line after a goal kick. When the ball comes into open play they need to drop off.

As a defender, it's very, very hard to play against.

I picture what it would be like to play against Liverpool now. If you get the ball from your goalkeeper, you're looking at the ball, you're looking at the keeper, you're looking for your best passing option, but you also have to look at the attacking player, who is coming at you at what seems like 100 miles an hour.

That makes you rush your decision. Your first touch is going to be edgy and you are unnerved.

Maybe as the season goes on you'll see more teams inviting Liverpool to play it long behind them, trying to simplify it for their defenders.

On Monday night you had a situation where David Luiz was trying to play it through to Ainsley Maitland-Niles, but there were two Liverpool players pressing him.

It's good that Mikel Arteta wants Arsenal to play football, but you have to be able to play in the right areas.

Manchester City do that. They pass the ball well, but they're not afraid to go long if they have to and they have the speed up front to threaten the likes of Liverpool.

Teams will have to try something to get Liverpool to drop back, even five yards, and then get the space to play it out.

The top teams want to play against Liverpool like Chelsea did in the second game of the season, but they over-play to try and commit attackers. Yet Liverpool's pressing is so good, so uniform across the team, it's hard to combat.

And it's such a strong start overall from Liverpool that you'd have to worry about the title race.

The games against Chelsea and Arsenal have already laid down a marker for the other teams, and the big fear for everyone else is that they will walk away with the league. Again.

Who is going to stop Liverpool? Chelsea don't have a settled team, Arsenal are a work in progress and Manchester United already look like a shambles because of their transfer strategy. They are relying on players who haven't been good enough to put up a title challenge over the last few years and they are still not good enough.

Manchester City badly need Ruben Dias to settle in right away, but you'd be concerned about City from last week and how Leicester set up against them and scored five times.

Leeds tomorrow could be a real test for City. You'd have to assume they've learned from the mistakes of last week, the penalties. But the City defenders need to give each other space, they can't be in a flat back four on the half-way line and you'd expect that Dias can come in and organise that back line.

But Liverpool look unstoppable already. They have more energy, more power, it's down to a few years of hard work by the manager and the big difference is they have retained their hunger.

If City don't get a settled side soon, get back their injured players, the season could be slipping away in Liverpool's direction.

I have spoken before about Liverpool not strengthening their squad, but in the space of a week they brought in two players, Diego Jota and Thiago, who have brought them to a new level.

I saw Jota on his debut and he looked like he had been there for two years, he was so comfortable.

There was no real talk about Liverpool buying Jota: they just went out and got the deal done. They had a fee in mind for Thiago and paid it, but they are also willing to walk away from deals.

City went and got the Dias deal done. That's what top clubs do.

United are linked with all sorts of wingers but they all look like panic buys, instead of getting their business done like Liverpool did.

If United think Jadon Sancho is that good, then just pay the fee: does the €18m gap between their valuation and the fee make a difference over five years?