Champions League Final: Liverpool versus Tottenham Hotspur – In-Depth Tactical Preview

Champions League Final: Liverpool versus Tottenham Hotspur – In-Depth Tactical Preview
May 30, 2019 Benjamin Magnusson

From a tactical point of view, the most interesting question is without a doubt the following: what shape will Tottenham set-up? Will Pochettino stick to his 3-5-2, which he tends to do in big games – or will he utilise the 4-2-3-1 system, which proved so successful against Liverpool back in March?

Both of these systems were used by Tottenham in their most recent match against Liverpool and, as such, it is imperative to understand what these systems each have to offer – and try to find solutions against them.

Because of this, this article will look at both options, and give some insight into how Liverpool can and should cope with both of them.

Understanding Liverpool’s press against Tottenham’s 3-5-2

When looking back at Liverpool’s recent 2-1 win against Tottenham, it was impressive just how dominant Liverpool were in the first half.

The main reason for this was Liverpool’s perfectly executed pressing system, which allowed them to manipulate which areas Tottenham used in their attacking phases – and once Liverpool controlled these areas, they were able to control the game. So, when discussing this pressing system, one must understand that smartest way to press is not necessarily to hunt every ball (like Liverpool occasionally did last season – most famously against Manchester City and Roma). Because, while it can lead to great success, it is not possible to maintain for long periods of time, and it will leave you open if bypassed.

Instead, you should aim to control the spaces through your pressing. Not only do you save energy, but you can thereby create situations that favor you, as you are – in a way – manipulating the opponent to play in certain areas of the pitch. As such, this type of pressing will indirectly win the ball back.

And remember; when you control which spaces the game is played in, you control the game.

Each line’s pressing role

Liverpool’s pressing system. The 1st line is focused on closing down passing lanes, while the 2nd line is option-orientated

The main focus of Liverpool’s pressing system is to keep the ball in the central zones. The main idea being, that if you can avoid the opponent’s circulating the ball in the wide areas, you will not be stretched horizontally and vertically – thus remaining compact. In addition, this compactness makes it easier to initiate counter-pressing situations, as the players are positioned close to each other.

To achieve this, Liverpool do not use one rigid system (such as strict man-marking), but instead employ a mixture of these systems, depending on each line and the situation. In general, the system can be characterised as both passing-lane and option-orientated. 

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