Liverpool Evolving From Snarling Terriers To Upright Aesthetes

Liverpool Evolving From Snarling Terriers To Upright Aesthetes
November 22, 2017 Paul Tomkins
In By Paul Tomkins, Free, Part Subscriber


The best thing about a draw that feels like a defeat is the reminder that it was still, after all, a draw. Unlike a defeat, you get to take something from it. It’s a bit like thinking you’ve won £10m on the lottery, only to find out you instead won £1m. Life sucks, eh?

And to come away with a point from Spain, against a team who were 25 games unbeaten at home, is still a good result, even if it sucks the biggest suckable fucking eggs to go from 3-0 to 3-3 in one half of football; 60 seconds from winning a Champions League group to having to go again on the final day. A bummer, but not the end of the world. Or the group. Or the season. Or, anything.

Equally, although it’s not the toughest of groups, to get through for the first time since 2009 – as a draw at home to Spartak Moscow would ensure – would represent progress. That’s firmly in Liverpool’s hands going into the final match, at Anfield, against beatable opposition.

The hardest half-time team-talk is probably when the game feels won, but even at 3-0, no game between two good teams can be said to be over. (And as much as I loved Roberto Firmino’s no-look goal, it now feels like needless showboating; next time, save it for the seventh goal!)

It just takes one goal to make it interesting. Good Liverpool sides have squandered 3-0 leads against teams like Newcastle*, Southampton and Crystal Palace over the past 20 years, and we all know the feeling when 3-1 becomes 3-2; was saw it in the eyes of AC Milan’s players (a team that had recently won the Champions League and would soon after win the Champions League). We’ve seen Liverpool need three second half goals against Olympiakos, and grab that vital third late in the day. (* In that case, a last-minute equaliser was overturned by an even later Robbie Fowler header.)

And of course, it’s now clear that the Sevilla manager told his players at half-time that he has cancer. You saw their superhuman reaction to it. They had nothing left to lose, and everything to gain – for themselves, and for him.

I also think it fair to point out that Jürgen Klopp, labelled naive by the knee-jerkers, replaced three players with more defensive-minded substitutes, which helped the Reds regain more of a foothold in the game, and almost saw the lead stretched to 4-2 when Emre Can failed to find Sadio Mané with an open goal, and James Milner also rolled the ball across an empty goal-line.

Maybe Klopp could have done this at 3-1, or even at half-time, but that was the XI that had been making Sevilla suffer. And as soon as you go more defensive, you invite on pressure. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I often point out the hypocrisy of the post hoc analysis, as sometimes attacking remains the best form of defence. Sometimes it doesn’t. Every game is a unique set of circumstances, that can never be repeated. If it goes wrong, you should always have done the opposite thing, even if the opposite thing cost you last time.

However, the nerves of a 93rd-minute corner can plague a lot of teams, especially when a lot is riding on it. Just as Liverpool gained from Sevilla’s bad set-piece defending in the first half, the Spaniards saw the ball fall to them in the box. Liverpool were set up nicely in a zone, but no one reacted quickly enough when the ball ran loose.

I’ve seen it said in a few places that Liverpool need to re-learn how to play in Europe. But this season it’s four wins and three draws in Europe, no defeats. (Maribor are substandard, but Hoffenheim aren’t.) Liverpool have already played 20 European games under Klopp, won 10 and lost just two. (And two more games have been played away from Anfield than at Anfield.)

These 20 games include six games against German sides, five against Spanish sides and two against Manchester United (where the opposition was English but the two-leg situation European). The only defeat outside of the Europa League final was a last-minute goal away at Villarreal, but the second-leg was won 3-0. And Borussia Dortmund were hardly “naive” in Europe when they ran into the second-half thunderstorm of the Kop after taking an early 2-0 lead, and the same thing happened to Liverpool last night – Dortmund weren’t necessarily weak, just blown over in a gale.

Also, Klopp’s games have come in the latter stages of the Europa League (often Champions League quality opposition: Dortmund, Man United, Villarreal, Sevilla), and in the Champions League itself.

Winning 10 and losing just two is hardly the substandard fare we saw under Brendan Rodgers in Europe, where, from 22 games – most in the Europa League – just nine were won, and seven were lost, including against Anzhi Makhachkala, Zenit Saint Petersburg, Besiktas and Basel. The only two teams to beat Klopp’s Liverpool are Villarreal and Sevilla, and the Reds’ European win rate under Klopp is not that far away from Rafa Benítez’s, the continental era people are now pining for.

Sevilla’s technical skills were impressive, although their inability to stand up when a Liverpool player went near them was comical. They milked every situation to a ludicrous degree, and the ref helped them too; but Liverpool’s left-back also helped them along, with a daft push and clumsy trip.

After a Spanish recall, a new baby and a return to his old club all in a week, Alberto Moreno picked a bad day to resume sniffing glue – or just appear that he was, perhaps due to the emotional roller-coaster he’s been on. He’s allowed a bad game now and then, if he otherwise plays as well as he has been; but the worry obviously becomes the psychological impact on him and the team. You can’t ignore ten good games from a player as soon as he has one bad one, and saying he can’t defend when he actually mis-crontolled the ball is a misnomer. Any defender who is asked to play out from the back rather than just lump it upfield will have such moments. The same applies to the player who played him the ball in the first place.

The defending at Anfield has been near-perfect in the league and Champions League (bar Sevilla’s visit), but the away form across all competitions has seen too many goals conceded. That’s a worry. But this is also often not, obviously, Liverpool’s first-choice defence. And Liverpool still created more, away at Sevilla, than Sevilla could manage when throwing the kitchen sink at Liverpool. The Reds “won” by a clear goal on xG, but Mo Salah had a rare off-night, which, again, he’s entitled to. You can’t moan at a new signing because he’s now got just 14 goals in 19 games.

However, to me, this is all part of the evolution from a snarling, biting (but not dirty) team that gets in the opponent’s faces to a more cultured one. It seems to be making Liverpool a bit easier to play against, in certain ways, which the better teams are taking advantage of, especially when the Reds are away.

Equally, it has its benefits – seen in the first half in Seville and the home demolition of Arsenal – and in time, the maturation of a young team should reap dividends, with more points against the minnows and mid-table sides in the meantime (in part due to the less-snarling Salah, Coutinho and Mané cutting them open with skill and/or pace).

The second half of this article is for subscribers only.


When Jürgen Klopp inherited a very unbalanced squad just over two years ago, the first thing he clearly changed was the energy, with the hard-pressing style. However, while that hasn’t been abandoned, the aim always had to be to ally that aggression and unity to a more expansive style. Teams were going to sit back, low-block. They were going to put eleven men behind it.

You want to see your team evolve, but progress isn’t always a linear upwards projection. Indeed, Manchester City’s ruthless brilliance this season came after a season of underachievement with a mega-squad and a mega-manager last season, but where lessons were learned. City have the advantage of deeper pockets, which can obviously help speed things up. But they were ahead to start with, too – full of experience and quality. Right now, they are the only Premier League team significantly ahead of the Reds. The rest, right now, are all tightly clustered in the top six.

It’s perhaps wrong to judge Liverpool too definitively when barnstorming the living shit out of games, just as it can be wrong when mired in a poor spell. (Obviously I wrote this sentence in a Notes app at half-time, but it remains true.)

Overall it still feels like this is a team heading places; as we expected in the summer, but which was initially held up by injuries, suspensions, transfer unrest and unusual fixture difficulty, and which was – to me, at least – a set of circumstances that distorted the true quality.

Liverpool aren’t the best team in England, but the way they’ve assembled a front four comparable with rivals for a fraction of the price is one of the joys in the side’s progress. People are already bored with how good that is, and moan “but what about the defence?”. When Klopp took over, the team could not score goals.

Klopp’s team doesn’t appear to press as much as in the past, but Philippe Coutinho, Mo Salah and Sadio Mané are not lazy forwards. And one key presser, Adam Lallana, still hasn’t kicked a ball this season (although he’s also one of the aesthetes, but generally not prolific enough – although he was improving in that sense last season).

Roberto Firmino, of course, presses like the lovechild of Speedy Gonzalez and The Road Runner jacked up on crystal meth.

Of course, in some ways he’s now flanked by Speedy Gonzalez and The Road Runner, given the fleet of foot of the Reds’ two wide-men. They are part of the evolution into something more aggressively offensive, rather than any hard-running defensiveness. They have the skills that, to be honest, you don’t normally get for £30m or £40m. Pace and goals, good attitudes and only in their mid-20s, for that money?

The much-maligned transfer process has been far more successful since the talented coach – but poor purchaser – Brendan Rodgers has been ousted, and the club also has a more tangible identity.

The first team is scintillating, the U23s are scintillating, the U18s are scintillating. The average ages of these teams is young, too. There’s wonderful joined-up thinking between the senior setup and the junior ones. Klopp knows how to lead a massive club, that’s clear. He can carry the weight, but a few things here and there aren’t quite right. That can be worked on, and as such, this needs to be seen as a blip in a run of good form, at least until further results tell us whether that’s true or, alas, not the case.

And aspects of the defending have improved. Joe Gomez looks set to be an imperious defender, but for now obviously has the odd lapse still in him. The Reds are looking great against the minnows and stubborn teams who come to Anfield to defend, but that wasn’t always the case. Tweaks here and there can throw the balance out of whack. But this still feels like a damn good side, but also a fairly young one, that is still gaining experience; a similar age, but a year or two behind Spurs in that sense.

The increased quota of aesthetes perhaps make it harder to dog the life out of the better sides in the way Klopp’s sides did in 2015/16 and 2016/17, but the Reds are now turning over the minnows. Crucially, Liverpool are now trying to be upright, walk on two legs, and be more than just terriers. I think we have to grant some leeway, and see where these exciting upright strides take us.


Comments (45)

  1. Author

    Okay, so my half-time notes were turned on their heads, in a perfect example of emotions and football, from Moreno, and from Sevilla’s players. I still stand by my belief that we’re moving in the right direction overall.

    Also, we need to respect the European record we have under Klopp.


    • Anthony Stanley 5 years ago

      Wonderful article Paul. I deliberately avoided Twitter and waited to get my fix this evening as I had an idea you might have something cooking.

      Super stuff. So balanced, fair, accurate and full of great writing as ever.

  2. Duke Silver 5 years ago

    Damn you PT and your reasoned, well researched, calming articles!!


    I can’t deny this team doesn’t still infuriate me with its seemingly endless ability to self-sabotage but we’ll hopefully learn from these non-fatal results

  3. cooney 5 years ago

    I have actually just removed myself from my friend’s WhatsApp group of Liverpool supporters because it was too negative and miserable in there.

    We are a young exciting team (in fact, that applies to the football club) with loads of potential. There will be bumps in the road but hopefully, those bumps become fewer and farther between as the team grows and the players improve.

    What is disappointing and becoming more apparent is that people (those particularly in the aforementioned WhatsApp group) seem very capable of winning together but they struggle to lose together. Oh wait… we didn’t lose last night!

    • humdul1 5 years ago

      Snap – I did that last night just after the final whistle. I was obviously disappointed, but the last thing I wanted to hear was negativity from the group!

  4. halonkarrison 5 years ago

    Thanks for this Paul.

    I’ve decided that this will be my only source for LFC, as even the decent fan based footy pages/accounts have become too bonkers for me to handle and replying to that many divvies is starting to annoy me.

  5. I was listening to the Anfield Wrap’s post match show this morning, and one of the points made was ‘Rafa’s team would have shut that game down second half’, and of course it’s hard to argue with that.

    But Rafa’s team (for the majority of his tenure) rarely created so many good chances as Liverpool did in the first half either. Same for Houllier. I don’t remember them being 3-0 up away from home too often, either at home or abroad. There’s many ways to skin a cat, and we’ve seen quite a few of them in the last 20 years or so at Liverpool. No one way is inherently right or wrong, but as fans you have to accept the way your manager wants to play, else drive yourself insane each and every week.

    I love all three of the managers I’ve mentioned here, but with each one you have to take the rough with the smooth. People who booed Rafa going top of the league with a 0-0 draw will have booed last night. In some eyes, they can rarely win; I prefer to enjoy the ride. And last night was certainly that!

    • Author

      Yeah, I like to make the same argument. We were like an HGV back then, and we bludgeoned teams with our might and power. Now we are like a Ferrari, and we’re great in different ways to back then – more exciting, but less solid.

      As I note in the piece, Klopp’s Euro win % with LFC is 50%, and Rafa’s in Europe was 57% I think. Rodgers’ was just 41%. But also, Rafa inherited a team that had gained great Euro experience between 2000 and 2003. He took that and made them better, but he didn’t take a team who were European outcasts in the way Klopp has had to do.

      As brilliant as Rafa was, he had a slight advantage in terms of European experience of the side; plus, I’d imagine a fair few of the European qualifiers he had were impossible to lose, such as against TNS. He obviously faced more Champions League games than Klopp has so far, but as I note in the piece, the Europa League two seasons ago, from the knockouts onwards, was basically CL-quality opposition. What we haven’t done under Klopp is face teams like Barcelona and Real Madrid, or Chelsea and AC Milan as they were then. But Klopp has faced consistently good opposition, bar Maribor.

      But with all the swings and roundabouts in the comparison, I think Klopp’s Euro record stands up well against Rafa’s. Two excellent managers. But they do things in their own way. And while we had a Question of the Day on it, you can’t just take the best bits from one team and the best bits from another, and eradicate all weaknesses in the process.

      • Andrew Beasley 5 years ago

        Yeah, I like to make the same argument.

        As I read all of your stuff, Paul, it probably is your argument 😉

      • Author
        Paul Tomkins 5 years ago

        As I read all of your stuff, Paul, it probably is your argument

        It’s all circular, mate! I get most of my inspiration from others on here 🙂

  6. Chris Rowland 5 years ago

    Roberto Firmino, of course, presses like the lovechild of Speedy Gonzalez and The Road Runner jacked up on crystal meth.

    Of course, in some ways he’s now flanked by Speedy Gonzalez and The Road Runner, given the fleet of foot of the Reds’ two wide-men.

    Delicious segue!

  7. watyeonaboot 5 years ago

    Really good article Paul. Obviously most of us were frustrated immediately after that result, but given 10 or 15 minutes after the final whistle, we could all clearly see this was not a major setback, in fact one that viewed in full context, we can take many positives from.

    I sometimes wish articles like these would appear in national (or even regional) match reports. These journalists who are so knowledgeable and right about everything should be writing these sort of articles and not fanning the flames for permanently angry fans. It’s not much to expect football ‘experts’ to give reasonable for and against arguments and viewing mistakes in games against many other matches where that player has played consistently well. Like in life nothing is as black and white, right and wrong that so many of the instant kneejerk fans and media would have you believe. Moreno completely switched off after half-time like a lot of our other players, but it’s important we remember that for the most part this season he’s been a 7.5/10 player who has been consistent enough to be rewarded with a call-up to the Spain squad. I just shake my head when I read things like this from the Echo: “he needs a good performance against Chelsea or else his Liverpool future is in serious doubt” – it’s as if for the last three months he’s done nothing but commit loads of mistakes, this was his first poor game this season.

    Also, Lovren, Karius and Gomez were very good at times during the match. It’s utterly infuriating to be honest when the confirmation bias of Liverpool fans is so blinding that they can’t recognise when scapegoats within the squad play well, only ever mentioning them when they make a mistake (“not good enough! end of! end of! Klopp has 90 minutes to save his job! This two-time Bundesliga winning, Champions League and Europa League finalist clown, what does he know about football?!”).

    I think it was Madchen who made a great point that Sevilla were able to change the tempo so quickly in the game, from 0 to 100 in no time. This is a feature of a lot of the Spanish sides, who might play at a tempo like that for just 20 minutes in a game. It’s impossible to attack like maniacs for 90 minutes. The Saints game suggested we’re learning to conserve our energy and do enough. Sevilla were clearly better opposition, but we can and will learn how to manage games against quality sides in a similar fashion.

    I’ve not even mentioned the attack. They have been absolutely superb, and on their day are as good as any of the superpowers across Europe. It’s important that everyone doesn’t forget the slow and steady progress since the one genuine stinker of a performance this season (Spurs, obviously) – after all, we’ve already beaten some of our bogey sides like Saints and Palace, and are beating low block teams for the most part – but I think outside of these TTT walls, that might fall on deaf ears in our “one game is everything” world of modern football.

    • garythespud 5 years ago

      A Chelsea supporter called Klopp a clown last night at work. A clown! It’s almost as if they are… fucking stupid! To be fair, there are stupid people everywhere.

    • Author

      Cheers, watye!

      This is a better article than my last one, I feel, but the last one soon brought in four new subscribers (after the fallow international break), and this, so far, has brought in none. It drives me nuts that results affect “sales”, just as they did with my books, but at least TTT has a largely consistent monthly income.

      I’ll just continue to try and be consistent in my thinking, win, lose or draw. And hope that people with a similar outlook continue to write for the site.

      I was just thinking that Lovren was very impressive last night, and how he’d come back from being hauled off early last month. Moreno can do the same. But if Klopp decides Saturday is too soon, fair play. If he believes in Moreno, fair play.

      Karius also made two outstanding saves last night, although I felt he did virtually nothing stuck on his goalline for their late equaliser – but as the defenders didn’t push out, I guess his view was blocked. Maybe Mignolet would have come and punched that, but maybe he would have tried and missed.

      • cestrianus 5 years ago

        I wouldn’t have minded Mignolet in goal for the penalty.

    • Chris Rowland 5 years ago

       It’s not much to expect football ‘experts’ to give reasonable for and against arguments and viewing mistakes in games against many other matches where that player has played consistently well.

      It is too much to expect, because that’s not the game they’re in anymore. Their job is now to adopt a preset position, proceed from that stance and create noise (and hits). The goals are not as they were. It is now about fanning flames and inflaming fans.

  8. Robin Alexander (aka bdbl2405) 5 years ago

    Not least because I had to start work at 0530 this morning with all that means for the alarm clock I went straight to bed at the final whistle. That also meant that I didn’t pour out my frustration in a stream of negativity last night. We are still in a good position, after Maribor we played rubbish, perhaps after yesterday’s second we’ll get the reaction we need to beat Chelsea. Haven’t looked at all the posts but last night it struck me that the way we fell apart is why  Klopp wants VVD.

  9. Jeff 5 years ago

    Football teams do not improve in a straight line manner but improve improve with some bumps along the road but hopefully the trajectory is upward. This season one can see signs of improve and some bumps along the road which as I just wrote should be expected. Today, after 12 matches in the Premier League Liverpool have a realistic chance to finish in the top 4 and maybe a good way up into the top 4 and today Liverpool almost certainly will make it into the next round of the Champions League. The simple truth is that this should satisfy every Liverpool supporter and I hope that it does.

  10. brian.davis 5 years ago

    Two of the goals came from not winning the near post ball at set pieces. That is a weakness we need to address as soon as possible. Moreno always looks clumsy in the tackle, which is something he needs to look at. Most disturbing for me was the number of times they were able to play through our midfield in the second half.
    every side that has had a go at us this season has reaped the benefits of it and our lack of a true defensive midfielder to shield the back 3

  11. Allen Baynes 5 years ago

    Thanks Paul, perspective!!!

    I actually really enjoyed the game last night. Two halves , two very good attacking sides.

    Pace, skill and passion. That’s why I go to the game.

  12. Ding 5 years ago

    As Brian said above, a common thread linking the teams that we’ve had real problems with this season – Leicester in the league, Sevilla, Spurs to some extent – is their aggression and pressing of our players. While we’ve evolved to deal much better with the low block and with highly defensive setups, we don’t seem to cope well with teams that harry and take the game to us. (Spurs’ setup against us was somewhat different, more counter-attacking than their usual approach, though their first goal came about through good pressing.)

    This is not exactly a new problem – it was also a factor in some of our capitulations last season, such as against Bournemouth away – but I’m not sure exactly as to how to address it. However, as has been mentioned numerous times, it may come down to both tactics and personnel. Our default mode is to play it forward which results in more turnovers against us. This calls for better game management. (Ironically, Hendo is often criticised for being too backwards looking!) Moreover, it seems that the midfield in particular – Hendo, Wijnaldum, Can – doesn’t seem comfortable in possession when under pressure. Partly this is because they don’t have much outlets for passing (too big a gap with offensive players, for example, or not enough support for the other midfielders), but the overall impression is that they don’t seem as well-drilled in passing out the ball in close quarters passing as they should.

    This is potentially a concern because, compared with the preceding period, in the crunch Nov-Dec window we’re probably going to face more teams that are likely to have a go at us than before. Chelsea, Bournemouth, Spartak (who have nothing to lose in the final fixture), Everton (another with nothing to lose), possibly Stoke or Arsenal (the version that beat Spurs). Not to mention Leicester again before New Year’s.

    In the longer term, hopefully this is an issue that can be addressed when we get Keïta in, and perhaps in the January or summer windows sign a couple more midfielders and defenders.

  13. Chris Rowland 5 years ago

    We did actually beat Leicester though, remember?

    But yes, I thought Sevilla’s pressure on the man on the ball last night was relentless. Oh for a Xabi Alonso to calmly mastermind the ball retention process …

    • Stevenson1988 5 years ago

      I think the way to beat the high press is a combination of balls over the top and quick movement of the ball between players to get behind the press. The problem with the ball over the top is that we didn’t have anyone to hold the ball up so unless it fell right, it was promptly recycled back at us. One of the reasons that Rafa bought Crouch was to have the ability to hold the ball up at the opponents end of the pitch, so there was maybe an argument for using Solanke or even Sturridge. Part of the problem, of course, is that they got their 2 goals fairly early in the half and certainly much earlier than Klopp usually makes changes – although he was forced to react last night. It’s not easy and we should know as we use it to great effect ourselves!

    • Ding 5 years ago

      Yes we did beat Leicester, but it could easily have ended 3-3 as well. They missed a penalty!

      The point was that it was one of those games where we didn’t have as much control over the game as we would have liked, such as against low block teams.

    • acsgp 5 years ago

      Read an article somewhere on Henderson’s atrocious pass completion rate in the 2nd half. Can anyone validate that?

  14. Author

    Well, Chelsea are having a tough test. 20 minutes in: “Rashad Sadygov has been sent off there for what referee Manuel de Sousa has judged to be a push I think. Harsh though.“

    Penalty and red card in one.

  15. gagez79 5 years ago

    Hopefully the game last night was the one crazy game Liverpool seem to have every season. Last season was Bournemouth away, the season before that was Southampton away. You can pick the bones out of the conceding of the goals, but at game 6, Liverpool sit top with a very beatable Spartak up at Anfield next. Would anyone not have took that after the first game draw with Sevilla?

    • Ding 5 years ago

      True, but have to be cautious about Spartak. They literally have nothing to lose in their final game and will go for it. Whereas at the back of our players’ minds will be that they need to avoid defeat. If things don’t go our way early on, our team’s could be increasingly psychologically vulnerable, which could open up more avenues for Spartak.

      • Lennart 5 years ago

        This team has already dealt with supreme pressure, people forget fast. Our run in last season with the top 4 finish with Sadio out injured saw us string together good results when it really mattered. The same against Middlesbrough on final day last season or the qualifiers against Hoffenheim. Don’t make the team weaker than they are.

    • Ding 5 years ago

      Hi Lennart, I don’t think I’m talking down the team, just being realistic that they’re prone to breaking down against teams that really come at them.

      It was a good run towards the end of last season but it should be kept in mind most of those teams had nothing much to play for and don’t really have the pedigree of being reigning Russian champions.

      • Lennart 5 years ago

        Hi Ding, I just read my text again and realised it might appear a bit aggressive. It wasn’t meant that way, sorry!

        I agree Spartak might come at us with a relatively easy psychological mindset as they have to win. And that the pressure will be on us.

        But I think our “collapses” have come in occasions where we had a comfortable lead (Bournemouth, Leicester, Sevilla) and maybe lost some tension because we were at least two goals up.  I wouldn’t count Tottenham as a collapse by the way, they overran us in the first 20 minutes but after that barely had chances to score more, just obviously did.

        And in almost the games where we had real pressure and therefore held our level of intensity, we conceded little and held our nerve. Hopefully it will be the same against Spartak!

    • TarmoTruu 5 years ago

      Of course I would. Its very good position to be right now. Its not easy to be Liverpool supporter but I love it all. Somehow I think that 6.12 game against Spartak will be drama at the  highest level as always with Liverpool. Liverpool don’t make things comfortable. There are always some turning point in important games like that Spartak game. For me I’ll wait 0-1 at half time and then to be witness Anfield power opening. I believe all of us remember that Olympiakos game. 3-3 against Sevilla that was what a fantastic football game, game that a lot of people want to see and  live through. Exciting.

      Only one idea for Jürgen is not to play Moreno against Sevilla again in the future. It was “Europa League final again”. I like Moreno very much. He is fighter, he fighted for his place, he didn’t give up after mistakes, all of us make mistakes, he stayed. Thats enough for me how to respect that man. But against Sevilla he have some psychological problems, maybe that thing is he are from Sevilla, blood is thicker than water… Maybe. Against Sevilla his game crumble unexpectedly, its strange. But overall this season he has been very good!

  16. Chris Rowland 5 years ago

    I think it’s Spartak who should be apprehensive, not us! They have to win, a draw’s no good. If that translates into a gung-ho, nothing to lose approach, they could easily get spanked.

  17. Grover 5 years ago

    Thanks for some perspective again Paul.

    I am quite pleased we have another big game immediately. It is a bit of a shame the second half was so tough though. We may struggle for legs on Saturday.

    As others have said, I will be heading to Anfield full of hope as there is no point in supporting this team otherwise. I am sick of the negativity.

    • Allen Baynes 5 years ago

      Our legs should recover for Saturday.

      Lets hope Chelsea ‘s plane develops a technical fault causing a 6 hour delay.

      They return to their hotel to find a wedding party in full swing, very lively band and the place is rocking.

      Hazard and Fabregas go on the ale, Luis taps up the bride, a massive brawl starts, Morata and Conte are arrested and detained in custody for 24 hours.

      Chelsea arrive back in the early hours of Friday morning and have no time to train.

      It could happen 🙂

      • tattva 5 years ago

        Maybe if John Terry was still playing for them.

  18. madchenKliop 5 years ago

    Particularly apt title Paul.  It really sums up where we’re at just now.  We’ve discovered this delightful skillful teamplay and it is indeed beautiful to watch.  I think the players themselves are quite taken with it.  I was rewatching the match and noticing how Coutinho’s movement and style of play in the second half up until he was subbed was still in that silky one touch  frame of mind from the first half.  In some ways you could say he was trying to play, like Klopp suggested they should have in his post match presser. The trouble was that for that to work the whole team have to be on the same page.  It’s not easy to try and perform a hybrid of gritty defensive and upright aethete.

  19. echykr 5 years ago

    As with LFC tradition, if we are to enter the CL Knockout Stages for the first time in 9 years, we are going to have to work hard to earn it, at Anfield, where epic encounters are made.

    Though I’d rather be spared the Olympiakos-levels of heart-attacking inducing nervousness.

  20. markcohen 5 years ago

    Another excellent article.

    I remember an interesting rugby match from around 15 years ago at Loftus Versveld in Pretoria. The Springboks lost to the All Blacks 57-15 in what was then, our biggest hiding ever received. When asked, our captain Corne Krige, said that it was the combination of alot of small things going wrong and could be corrected quickly. He was right, seven days later we beat them by a point.

    Similarly, I was scarcely disappointed on Tuesday night as the second half had contrived against us in many small ways.

    What was vital to me though, and very different to the knock-outs we received at the hands of Southampton and Bournemouth when we were two up under Klopp, was that at no time were we on the rack, even though Sevilla were at 100mph and were looking to run us off our feet. They made very few actual chances and the XG charts back this up. Indeed, two set-pieces and a really unusual penalty later, and they had their deserved three goals, but few could argue that on balance Liverpool didn’t earn the three points.

    If we are talking about small things, I felt that we started the second half slowly. This, in of itself was fine, as I felt we’d soon be four up on the break and it made sense to sit deep and pick them off, but what they did effectively, was separate our front three from our midfield suffocating our out-ball and resulting in the ball coming back at us time and again.

    To this end, Wijnaldum and Hendo, who were obviously tasked with sitting deeper and, like the rest of the team, were content to start the second half looking to slow the game down, became bogged down and caught in possession. The small issue here was that we may have needed, as Dave suggested above, a Solanke on with Firmino to make sure that the out-ball could be held up in time for support to get there. Equally, Hendo, whilst a good, solid cog, is probably not of the match-winning standard that a Klopp system might require from its deepest midfielder, and you might see Keita occupying this space next season. When things started to go wrong, he couldn’t find the extra gear to stamp his authority on the midfield battle, and it was only when Klopp made the changes that Sevilla started to run out of steam.

    Further, although Moreno made two errors, they were both explainable and a part of football. The first, him failing to move towards the ball, happens at virtually every headed goal, as the striker runs in to get ahead of the defender, and Yedder’s contact was perfect. In fact, it really was an expert goal that we might take for granted, but owed far more to the striker then the defender.

    The penalty was pure bad luck… The ball has come at him in an unusual manner and he has miscontrolled it… This happens.

    Finally, as Paul has said above, the corner at the death went against us, and here is the only area where better personnel might have stopped a goal. If we had central defenders (like our Hyypia’s and Carraghers’ ) of old, there is a chance that their combination of aggression and intuition would have allowed them to get there first or throw the body in front to block the shot. It is no secret we remain vulnerable from these areas, and few could attest that our defence is of the required quality in personnel to do much better.

    But, again, we are not far off. Missing Matip, Gomez looking a future star and the fact that we missed VVD in the summer, means that plans were afoot to correct this ongoing problem and I don’t think it will plague us for more than another window at most.

    Thus, to come back to Paul’s piece, I wholeheartedly agree. Slack needs to be given for the way the team is developing – it’s not as if the coaching staff don’t see the problems and have already made steps to correct.

    One can improve two ways – correct weak areas and/or strengthen strong areas. We are doing the second part very effectively this season, and I am excited to see where it all leads.


    • Pushka 5 years ago

      How do you know Hendo and Wijnaldum were tasked with sitting deeper?  We all are frustrated that our team seems to have no alternative to playing on the front foot.  Klopp himself said in the post-match Interview that we stopped playing football.

      When Klopp first started at LFC , if the team failed to score there was a lot of moaning about “no plan B”.  Now I rarely hear that, probably because our plan “A” is a fucking juggernaut.  Instead I hear (and I say it myself if I’m honest), “poor game management “.

      To me the latter criticism  is simply a restatement of the former, but aimed at the midfield rather than the attack.  If we take Klopp at his word, it is hard for me to believe that he instructed our midfield to sit deeper.  Did he tell them to hoof it upfield to no-one as well?

      it’s easy to single out Hendo or Moreno,but  it’s a team endeavor, and as Paul points out, success in groups is rarely linear.  I love this team and I love this site – it’s where I come to put my head right.

      • markcohen 5 years ago

        Hi Pushka, I don’t ‘know’ in the sense that I was in the change room of course, but certainly, from the shape of the team and the speed at which we started the second half it seemed evident that we’d drop deeper and try and pick them off…

  21. Leifur Geir 5 years ago

    Great writing Paul. I’ve got a couple of observations/perceptions:

    1. As soon as the second half started Moreno made a mistake – right in the first or second minute if I recall correctly. I immediately got emotional flashbacks to the Europa League final, got all defensive and anxious. We got away that time but right there, I believe the collective confidence of the team vanished and everyone on the team bar a couple of players went mentally back to that final, fear of failure crept in and all our boldness and flair dissapeared. Poor Moreno probably felt like he was on the tee of the golf hole with everything on the line, a narrow fairway to aim at, 230 yards of water to clear, with OB on the right and an alligator/snake/spider pit on the left – and the whole world watching your tee shot. His head went just like that and never came back. 10 minutes later it was 2-3. I felt sorry for him.

    2. What I felt was interesting was that the only Liverpool player on the pitch that I had faith in during that horrible period was Karius. One I don’t usually rely on. But the cocky, arrogant German was someone I believed in in these extreme circumstances to keep his head raised and withstand the pressure. His body language and demeanor never wavered. I seriously doubt that I would have found comfort in Mignolet in the same circumstances (although I have up until now strongly preferred him to Karius). I was very happy to see Can and Milner enter the pitch for the same reasons.

    3. I remember thinking at half-time that I found Sevilla much stronger in the first half than pundits gave them credit for. If we remove the corner kicks out of the equation they had two clear goal scoring chances against three or four of our own and they were unbelievably close to equalizing 1-1. That would have changed the  game completely. Their play in the second half was simply exceptional. How they won the ball, recycled it, found pockets of space between the lines, kept it flowing and moving was an absolute nightmare for us, but very impressive from a footballing point of view. Their relentlessness in exploiting every possible avenue for advantage was annoying, but simultaneously a little inspiring. They were not giving in. They were not going to loose this game. Impressive.

    • Author

      Cheers mate. I think I noted after the first goal that we weren’t playing that well. The first half scoreline flattered us, but by the end of the game we edged it in chances.

      Karius made two outstanding saves, although one was offside but he didn’t know that. I do feel he was lost behind the defence on the final goal, where Migs might have come for it. But who knows?

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