Sunday 24 June 2018

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Jurgen Klopp left in a spin defending Liverpool's failings at the back

Klopp feels constant criticism of his defence has created a selffulfilling prophecy. Photo credit: Martin Rickett/PA Wire.
Klopp feels constant criticism of his defence has created a selffulfilling prophecy. Photo credit: Martin Rickett/PA Wire.

Chris Bascombe

Increasingly, the most impressive defensive performances at Anfield are in the media room, long after the final whistle.

Whether it is Jurgen Klopp arguing that his side were denied a win through ill-luck, or Burnley manager Sean Dyche backing tactics already validated with a 1-1 draw, self-justification was everywhere.

It seems football is less about the visual and emotional experience and more about the spinning of numbers, so Liverpool's 35 shots offer evidence of dominance, which was not reflected in clear chances.

Meanwhile, the less fashionable manager trots out lines about contrasting wage bills and transfer values, as if it is miraculous a club of Burnley's size has already taken five points from Stamford Bridge, Wembley and Anfield.

It was not surprising a much-changed Liverpool side lacked the fluency that destroyed Arsenal here, or that a well-organised Burnley team, targeting the chronic anxiety on and off the pitch on Merseyside, took advantage.

Dyche's formula is effective and a manager is entitled to do what he likes to get results, just as any viewer is entitled to state a preference for one style over another.

Burnley's manager evidently feels snobbery has drifted too far, in this case sensing a combination of churlish and patronising remarks applauding the success of his plan to hit long, diagonal balls to Chris Wood - the strategy that created Scott Arfield's first-half goal.

"Glenn Hoddle would never have played in modern football because people would say, 'Glenn, you can only pass it 10 yards mate, you are not allowed to play long balls'," said Dyche. "It's true. I grew up marvelling at Glenn Hoddle. Marvelling at him landing that ball with either foot all over the pitch. Short, long.

"He was more renowned for his long passes. I don't mean he would never have played, but you would never have seen the best of him in the current game because we can only play the little passes.

"What I am saying is don't be afraid to play a long pass."

Dyche indicated it would have been foolish not to order his defenders to direct long balls at Liverpool's defence.

Given that each aerial ball is viewed with the trepidation of a South Korean general monitoring satellite images from the north, he has a point.

"We deliberately got the ball and got it as far down their throat as we could because we felt it would be effective," said Dyche.

"The general feeling around here is that they haven't found a way of dealing with set-pieces. We have to look at that - that's our job."

Klopp feels constant criticism of his defence has created a self-fulfilling prophecy. Aside from the loss of that Arfield goal - swiftly cancelled out by Mohamed Salah - the back four was not the real problem. We are now at the stage of Klopp's reign - as occurred with Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez - where domestic and European duty means weekly changes.

As expectations rise, and the ache for a title challenge becomes ever more excruciating, any lost point is perceived to be catastrophic.

Everyone knew this would be a year of rotation, but it is not just the players caught in a loop. It seems the cycle of despondency after every Liverpool setback turns quicker and earlier each year. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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