Monday 22 January 2018

Klopp warns of long race ahead as Tigers take a mauling in latest Anfield massacre

Liverpool 5 Hull City1

Ahmed Elmohamady clears the ball while under pressure from Adam Lallana. Photo: Getty
Ahmed Elmohamady clears the ball while under pressure from Adam Lallana. Photo: Getty

Chris Bascombe

Liverpool won't just outplay teams this season, they will smother them into submission. "They didn't give us a chance to breathe," reflected Hull's captain, Curtis Davies, eulogising the most 'ruthless' and 'fluent' attack he'd faced this season.

A trip to Anfield is the closest defenders will get to understand how a fox feels when a pack of bloodhounds is on its trail.

Daniel Sturridge is fouled by Andrew Robertson. Photo: Getty
Daniel Sturridge is fouled by Andrew Robertson. Photo: Getty

Adam Lallana, Philippe Coutinho, James Milner and the chief stalker Roberto Firmino generate a red swarm. Hull succumbed to the relentlessness of a Liverpool defensive line effectively positioning itself on the edge of the opponent's penalty area.

So high was the starting position of Liverpool's centre-backs, any messages delivered by new goalkeeper Loris Karius to his team-mates needed to be dispatched by carrier pigeon.

Granted, Hull were reduced to ten men for an hour, but that was also the case against Arsenal a week ago. Davies said Klopp's side pose different problems to Arsene Wenger's.

"Arsenal are a very good passing team, but a lot of their stuff is on front of you," he said.

James Milner scores Liverpool's fifth. Photo: Getty
James Milner scores Liverpool's fifth. Photo: Getty

"Nice little passes. Liverpool have that mix of nice little passes and then people who run at you and beat you as well like Mane and Coutinho. They weren't satisfied with 3-0. They wanted 6,7, 8. That is the difference.

"It is hard to lay a glove on anyone. When there is so much inter-changing you cannot put your mark on one person. It is tough to make a tackle. One second Mane will be in that hole, then Lallana and then Coutinho. There is a lot of inter-change, quick football and with the full-backs playing like wingers it becomes very difficult because you end up with backs against the wall.

"They play with Henderson and the two centre-halves at the back and the rest can go wherever they want. That is not an ill-disciplined thing, that is organised." Klopp's video analysis for the rest of the season may simply involve replaying the first 45 minutes when Liverpool scored three but could have had seven.

Coutinho miskicked from six yards, Sadio Mane hit the crossbar and missed from close range, while Georginio Wijnaldum continues to be frustrated in pursuit of his first goal despite countless attempts.

Adam Lallana scored Liverpool's first. Photo: Getty
Adam Lallana scored Liverpool's first. Photo: Getty

No matter, Lallana, Mane and James Milner's penalty decided the game before the break, Ahmed Elmohamady's dismissal for handball reducing Hull to damage limitation.

To concede only twice more when defending The Kop end - to an archetypal Coutinho right-footer and a second Milner spot kick - was some relief to Hull's caretaker manager Mike Phelan. His side found consolation with their one shot on target, a goal from David Meyler, after Liverpool failed to deal with a set-piece. Hull improved because in the first half they were at their most vulnerable when in possession. Astutely, they opted to let Liverpool have it more often in the second half.

They've now scored 24 goals in eight competitive fixtures, the club's best tally at this stage for 121 years. Significantly, the goals are spread between ten players. Liverpool's last title bid was built upon tweaking a formula to get the most from Luis Suarez and his partnership with Daniel Sturridge. Under Klopp, there is a team unit that gives the distinct impression of longer term sustainability.

Klopp began the season trying to convince supporters a vast rebuilding of the team was unnecessary. He looks vindicated, but now his problem is ensuring expectations do not inflate wildly.

"It's an early moment," said Klopp. "We are far away from Christmas now and then there's January, February, March, April, May and then it stops, so it's a long, long, long race and I never saw in any race that if you have to run 20km that after 5km you are like this (hands in the air celebrating). There's a lot of work to do still.

"The big difference between us and the rest of the people in the Liverpool world was that everyone thought we should change a lot of the team. We changed a few things, most of the players who performed most of last year are still here. That's what we want to build on.

We brought a few things in, that's true. A few new skills. But it's all about the base that we already had." Klopp's only displeasure was the second half failed to match the first.

Having created a side that was initially dealing in ten-minute blitzes, he's seen that extended to 45. The Anfield scoreboard will take a pounding the day this team retains its appetite for a full 90.

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