Liverpool Are Destroying Teams Mentally – But Also Harming Themselves

Liverpool Are Destroying Teams Mentally – But Also Harming Themselves
September 1, 2018 Paul Tomkins
In By Paul Tomkins, Subscribers Only

 

Four wins out of four for the Reds for the first time in the Premier League era, and but for a self-inflicted wound, Jürgen Klopp’s men should be counting another clean sheet as well. Until the half-time whistle at Leicester, Liverpool looked like they could destroy the will of their opponents by grinding them down.

Liverpool have been mentally destroying teams this season – in a new, über-balanced (and not gung-ho) way – but with the pressure ramped up to almost unbearable levels (in that literally every single game feels must-win), there’s either some nerves or complacency creeping in, to the point where they appear to be mentally destroying themselves, too.

The need to win feel so great right now that the Reds are no longer bombing on to score the extra goals, and instead are getting caught in some kind of no-man’s land. The joyous freedom to the play has gone, albeit only after taking the lead and then seeking to keep things tighter. At times it was as pretty as Iain Dowie in drag, but it was ‘job done’.

And indeed, for all Leicester’s efforts at goal, most (nine) were from distance; and Liverpool didn’t look deeply troubled until Alisson tried a Cruyff turn where he was shifting the ball towards his own open goal – a quite stupid idea, as losing it presented a gaping net if the trick didn’t come off. His playing out from the back (and calm goalkeeping) has helped Liverpool this season, but such suicidal ‘skills’ are not necessary, and this should be the lesson learned after last week’s warning.

In the first half, the pattern of Virgil van Dijk winning yet another header, Joe Gomez’s pace and anticipation soul-destroying the forwards who thought they were in behind Liverpool, and Klopp’s men creating clear-cut chances, suggested three more points were in the bag as Leicester were worn down; and, as against West Ham and Crystal Palace, a killer goal just before the half ended looked to seal the result. 

The Reds were keeping possession for long periods, but pressing like dervishes when it was lost. There was energy and movement everywhere, sucking the life out of the opposition. And at that point, the goalkeeper and van Dijk were looking as nervous and ruffled as 007 after a few smooth Martinis sipped on the balcony of a hotel on the Côte d’Azur as some beauty finishes him off. 

But then the second half kicked off, and Liverpool were not at the races; caught between two stools, and almost aware of the impending international break and the hellish fixture list upon their return, and the “terror” of letting a good lead slip. Liverpool dug deep, dogged it own, but almost shat on their own doorstep.

The majority of this article is for subscribers only.