Monday 16 September 2019

Klopp’s touchline choreography and City’s lack of Kompany – Five things we learned from Liverpool victory

Liverpool's Dejan Lovren (left) celebrates victory with manager Jurgen Klopp after the Barclays Premier League match
Liverpool's Dejan Lovren (left) celebrates victory with manager Jurgen Klopp after the Barclays Premier League match

Chris Bascombe

Who needs a striker when you have Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho, City need Kompany back and more

Who needs a centre-forward if Firmino and Coutinho play like this?

It’s been the popular soundtrack at Anfield for the last 18 months, Liverpool unable to create and score enough since Luis Suarez was sold and Daniel Sturridge’s absences were prolonged.

“Sometimes five minutes is enough for a striker,” Jurgen Klopp suggested when welcoming Sturridge back to training this week. The plan was to have Sturridge train for at least ten days before he’d be considered for a recall, but evidently talent conquers all. Sturridge is so good Klopp could not resist naming the lesser spotted centre-forward on the bench. As the midfielders – especially the marvellous Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho - carved City open in an exhilarating performance, the temptation to keep Sturridge for the Europa League was understandable.

City need their Kompany man to cure his injury woes to regain the title

Take Vincent Kompany out of the Manchester City back four and the description ‘defence’ can only be applied loosely. Credit Liverpool for their harrying tactics, but it was alarming how frequently Eliaquim Mangala and Martin Demichelis wilted under the slightest pressure.

The scurrying Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana took advantage of the City captain’s injury absence with brutal efficiency. Moreover, a video of the opening stages will be studied in depth by future visitors to The Etihad. The blueprint is there for City’s next opponents. They will all have Klopp to thank.

The impact the German coach has had on this group of players in such a short space of time is extraordinary.

There are hands-on managers and there is Jurgen Klopp

You here plenty of managers who want to be hands-on with their players and kick every ball, but Klopp is in a place of his own with his touchline choreography. No sooner had Roberto Firmino tapped in Liverpool’s third, Klopp was screaming at his midfielders for losing their shape in an earlier move. He was similarly irate when Lucas failed to switch play quickly enough and when James Milner chose to shoot from 18 yards rather than pass to an overlapping midfielder.

The look on Klopp’s face when Simon Mignolet started to the little he had to do in the first half – namely kick the ball long and straight – proved beyond him. Mignolet would make amends, but Klopp gave his players no let up as he urged them forward and chastised every misplaced ball or ill-timed tackle.

Sterling has never been so popular… before the game kicked off

When the teams were read out 15 minutes before kick-off, the City fans made a point of cheering Raheem Sterling’s name a few decibels higher. It’s a peculiarity of the modern game that there no transfer more satisfying for a football fan than luring a player against the will of the selling club – and inevitably no transfer more hurtful for the bruised party.

So the City fans had an extra roar in their throats to drown out any abuse until the game panned out as it did. The smugness was all in the away end as Liverpool raced to a three goal lead, but Sterling’s enduring presence long after he should have been subbed ensured there would be no premature revelling. The former winger had no joy against Nathaniel Clyne, and it was the same when switched to face Alberto Moreno.

One can only presume Manuel Pellegrini kept him on to prevent the indignity of being jeered off by the away end. The round of interviews about how the move to City has served him well will no doubt return, but they’ve been spiked for a few months, at least.

Dejan Lovren can be revived

There were fears the absence of Mamadou Sakho would curtail Liverpool's recent defensive improvement, but Dejan Lovren was up to the task. Somewhere within the Croatian may be an excellent centre-half, and like those around him he is helped when the whole side defends as a unit. Lovren was up to the challenge, especially as City started to threaten a comeback - which proved very brief.

Lovren will need to produce this kind of form consistently to silence the critics for good, but the most appropriate tribute is if Sakho played this well he'd have earned rave reviews. It is a further example of Klopp's powers of rejuvenation as he continues to get more out of these players than many believed possible.

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