Tuesday 24 October 2017

Lallana transformation, striker woes and Can the midfielder - Five things we learned from Reds draw

Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp celebrates after Emre Can scores
Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp celebrates after Emre Can scores

Chris Bascombe

Jurgen Klopp clearly intends to take the Europa League seriously, but he badly needs a striker. Here are five things we learned from the 1-1 draw with Ruben Kazan.

Jurgen takes Europe seriously

For Brendan Rodgers, the group stage of the Europa League was a chance for the Academy graduates or fringe players to get a workout. Klopp’s teamsheet underlined his alternative approach. Joe Allen for Lucas was the only change from the side that started at Tottenham Hotspur last weekend.

Picking a team to win the game rather than worrying about the one in a few days’ time? It’s a novel approach, but will it ever catch on? Klopp rejected the idea his players would be overworked by the physical demands on them.

“You don’t have to run like crazy if you have the ball,” he said. The new manager ditched the trademark tracksuit, watching his charges warm-up from the centre-circle in his club attire. A fixture that looked like a routine encounter was elevated into an event by the German’s presence, The Kop gathering all its best banners for the occasion.

Emre Can slides in to level the score for Liverpool
Emre Can slides in to level the score for Liverpool

Jurgen takes goals even more seriously

When Emre Can equalised on 37 minutes there was a momentarily pause as The Kop determined if a linesman’s flag would end the celebrations. When the referee gave the goal, Klopp gave the kind of fist pump to the Main Stand you might expect with a last minute winner.

The German has called for ‘emotional football’ and he’d have quickly realised how the adrenalin needs pumping into this side. The supporters tried their best to get it going, and the resident DJ even played ‘I’m a Believer’ in an effort to transmit the manager’s message, but it’s going to take a while longer to get the unity between this team and the fans that gets Anfield at its most formidable.

Klopp’s celebrations should certainly get the supporters going than the stern face or frantic writing in a notebook that many other coaches indulge in.

No matter what the style, you’re nothing without a quality striker

Whether the philosophy if tiki-taka, gegenpressing or the Big Sam long hoof, you’re never going to achieve much without a finisher. It’s been the problem at Anfield since Luis Suarez’s sale, and when Christian Benteke was summoned with just under 30 minutes to go it was another reminder – as if more is needed – as to where the problems lie in this side.

The solution probably still rests with the absent Daniel Sturridge and whether he can ever get himself fit. Divock Origi has some talent, but he does not look like a centre-forward and it must have worried the new manager how much his side toiled considering they were playing so long against ten men.

Despite dominating possession, there were echoes of recent games against Carlisle and Sion with Liverpool unable to create clear chances.

Adam Lallana is a man possessed… and so is Alberto Moreno

There are several players who look transformed since Klopp walked into Anfield, but none more than Adam Lallana and Alberto Moreno. Lallana continued his excellence at White Hart Lane.

If North London was all about his application of the ball, here he had more licence to show his technical ability. He also continued to diligently hunt possession.

Adam Lallana

Similarly, Moreno began this season unsure if Rodgers still considered him a left back. When he did force his way into the side, it was as a left wing back. Klopp has trusted him in the position he played in Seville, and he is responding getting far closer to attackers and looking the sound acquisition he did in his early weeks at the club last season.

It bodes well longer term when those whose future appeared uncertain are already showing signs of improvement.

Emre Can might be a midfielder after all

A criticism of Rodgers was wherever he saw a round hole he’d go hunting for the nearest square peg in an attempt to fill it. Emre Can has never settled into a midfield role since his move from Bayer Leverkusen.

Emre Can celebrates scoring for Liverpool with Adam Lallana Reuters / Phil Noble

That was a source of frustration for the player, but also the club’s owners who were under the impression they were signing the next pillar of Germany’s midfield. Can has been floating around Liverpool’s defence for the last year, suffering an identity crisis. On the occasions he was given an opportunity in the middle, it seemed the pace of the game was too much for him.

So many good judges rated him – not least Joachim Low – they couldn’t all be wrong. Can’s first two appearances under Klopp and his ability to find the target suggests he has now found a position in midfield he can call home.


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