Klopp’s men struggled for fluency all afternoon against a staggering Manchester United at Old Trafford in Sunday evening’s clash. The match ended in a 1-1 draw in which Liverpool struggled for a goal against Manchester United. The result from yesterday ended Liverpool’s winning streak.
Some fans might want to attribute the poor attacking Liverpool displayed on Sunday to Mohamed Salah’s absence (missing due to an ankle injury) but it was obvious that wasn’t the problem. That was not the first time the club was playing without their star man. This leads to accepting Jose Mourinho’s claim that Klopp’s side seems to find it harder to be at their best when they are denied space in their opponents’ defense.
Klopp’s side has been incredible this year, and their greatest strength is the ability to pick up wins even when opponents try to neutralize their attack. Nine games in and Liverpool are still six points clear of champions Manchester City.
Liverpool’s game against Manchester United showed a weakness which many teams haven’t been able to exploit. The Red Devils switched to a back five for the first time this season and it was difficult for the Liverpool attack to penetrate because it denied them even more space.
Why Liverpool should learn to play against a back five
It is very important to provide space for a side that likes to play wide and that is the kind of game Liverpool plays. When playing against a back-five, it becomes an issue for the Liverpool wingers to go forward and stay a bit there because the back-five allows the opponents’ back to go wide and stay there. This in return blocks the threat of the Liverpool wing putting in a cross, which on most occasions is deadly for any defense.
It is also worthy of note that Liverpool is most threatening when they are playing wide but with Trent Alexander-Arnold’s path blocked, his crosses aren’t very accurate and that defeats the purpose of him going forward all the time.
All eight of Alexander-Arnold’s open-play crosses failed to find a Liverpool team-mate (Sky Sport). Even as much as that really affected the game, the bigger problem was where the crosses were coming from. Alexander-Arnold’s touch map from open play shows that he rarely managed to get within 20 yards of the goal line.
In almost a similar way, Henderson was passing too safe, likewise Fabinho who was struggling to pick a way through. With that, it was left to Joel Matip to attempt to thread passes through to Roberto Firminho.
It is interesting that late substitute Naby Keita’s more incisive passing played its part in the build-up to the equalizer because he was looking for the angles that others were not.
As it stands, with Trent Alexander-Arnold, the defender who plays wide the most and poses the most threat for opponents being unable to go forward and play his natural game, the Liverpool game style changes a bit.
With him grounded against a back-five, Liverpool might not be able to function so well unless they use a midfield that can distribute equally to all sides of the pitch.