Saturday 17 November 2018

Jurgen Klopp uses dog analogy to explain Liverpool's change in tactics

Clincher: Liverpool striker Mohamed Salah shoots past Huddersfield defender Christopher Schindler and goalkeeper Jonas Lossl to score the only goal of Saturday’s Premier League clash. Photo: Getty Images
Clincher: Liverpool striker Mohamed Salah shoots past Huddersfield defender Christopher Schindler and goalkeeper Jonas Lossl to score the only goal of Saturday’s Premier League clash. Photo: Getty Images

Mike Whalley

Jurgen Klopp knew exactly how to respond after a fortunate victory over his closest friend. "He said sorry," reported David Wagner, Huddersfield's head coach.

Liverpool's manager was not apologising just out of sympathy. His team had played poorly and won only thanks to defensive sturdiness and breaks of luck.

The one positive for Klopp, thanks to Mohamed Salah's well-taken 24th-minute winner, was that his team eked out the win against lowly opponents despite misfiring, something that probably would not have happened last season, when they repeatedly dropped points against the strugglers.

This was a dog of a display from Liverpool, with 111 failed passes, their highest this season. It was also an indication of how their approach is shifting; the high pressing style associated with Klopp is being used more sparingly. His team are not afraid to sit on a lead.

Thwarted

Klopp is thinking more pragmatically after aggressive attacking ways were thwarted by defensive opponents last season. Perhaps the light-bulb moment was a 1-0 defeat last January to Swansea, who nullified Liverpool to the extent that Carlos Carvalhal, their then head coach, compared it with stranding a Formula One car in heavy traffic.

Weaning Liverpool off the pressing game, though, has not been straightforward. Klopp said: "Last year, our big strength was high pressing, and then when the opponents didn't play football, it was like, 'Sorry'.

"It's like a dog. If you don't give him his favourite toy and throw something else, he thinks, 'No, I don't want that. I want the other one. I want to play high press'.

"So that's how you develop, step by step, doing different things. Now we have to be better in the midfield press. Our midfield press wasn't our problem against Huddersfield, though. Our problem was only that when we had the ball, we could have done better."

Liverpool got one pass right when it mattered; Xherdan Shaqiri's sublime through-ball allowed Salah to steer in his 50th goal in English club football, and his first in five games.

Otherwise, it was a tough night for a rejigged forward line; Sadio Mane was injured and Roberto Firmino restricted to a late substitute appearance, and so Adam Lallana made his first league start since New Year's Day and Daniel Sturridge his first since February, when he was on loan at West Brom. Both got minutes under their belt and little else.

"Top teams have to win games like this," Shaqiri said. "You cannot always play good football. Sometimes you just have to win games and here was a day like this."

Not that Klopp was happy with the performance; his frequent animated gestures on the touchline were proof of that.

"Of course, he is very emotional," Shaqiri added. "He wants the best and demands always that you give 100 per cent. If he sees something that is not 100 per cent normal, then he will shout - and he did."

Huddersfield, goalless at home since April and next to bottom of the table, deserved better.

Jonathan Hogg hit the post, James Milner was lucky to avoid conceding a penalty for handball, Alex Pritchard had a goal ruled out correctly for offside and Steve Mounie fired a great chance into the West Yorkshire sky.

"I congratulated him on his win," Wagner said of Klopp. "He knows that maybe this win wasn't deserved and that the performance wasn't one he expected from his team, but he's happy with the win and he deserves lucky wins as well.

"This is what you need as a team if you want to win the title. If they do it, then first of all, I will be happy for him."

Telegraph.co.uk

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