Graham Cummins: Jurgen Klopp must swallow pride and realise his tactics are not working

Liverpool face Chelsea on Saturday badly struggling for consistency
Graham Cummins: Jurgen Klopp must swallow pride and realise his tactics are not working

Liverpool's manager Jurgen Klopp greets supporters. Picture: AP Photo/Frank Augstein

FOOTBALL often goes around in circles. In the past, 4-4-2 formations were common, and in most cases, the defenders’ job was to defend and attackers were required to score goals.

In modern times, we have seen a total revamp to these notions. It’s rare that teams would opt for a 4-4-2 formation, and it’s even more scarce that the priority for defenders would be to defend.

Managers are always trying to change the wheel. They want to be the one regarded as the person that reinvented football, and even when things go wrong, they seem stubborn to revert to a more structured style because it is not as enjoyable on the eye.

However, there are times when managers have to swallow their pride and accept they can no longer play the free-flowing attacking football they wish to see from their side. Jurgen Klopp is one that needs to realise he must change his philosophy if he wants to turn around Liverpool’s fortunes.

The Reds find themselves struggling at ninth in the table, and for a side on the brink of creating history seven months ago, they are unrecognisable from the team that came within two matches of winning a quadruple.

In the past teams feared the attacking threat from both Liverpool fullbacks — Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson — but now, the opposition welcomes Trent and Robertson bursting forward at every opportunity, as it is the Reds' major weakness.

Liverpool are a side that try to play out from the back. Klopp asks both full-backs to play high when his two centre-backs are in possession.

Before, teams would drop off Liverpool and were reluctant to press high, but now sides are pressing Liverpool and their first thought when winning ball is to pass into the full-back areas because they know there is a massive gap there due to Robertson and Trent being high.

The problem is Liverpool are no longer good enough to play through opposing teams’ press. Yes, they get through it on occasion, but they often get caught and punished for the arrogance of having their full-backs so high.

I’m not advocating for Liverpool hoofing the ball up the pitch, but they need to change their plan of having fullbacks high and getting Thiago to drop in on top of the defenders when trying to play out from the back.

Robertson and Trent have to be deeper at least until Liverpool are close to the opposition’s third. Klopp has to instruct his fullbacks to be more disciplined.

However, there is also the argument that Trent and Robertson are weak when it comes to actual defending.

After watching Liverpool’s shameful defensive display against Brighton, I wondered how players like Trent and Robertson are playing with a club that is supposedly one of the best in the world. The latter seems to lack communication skills. Too often he was willing to pass on Solly March when the Brighton player was making inside runs.

I can understand Roberton was passing on March as the player was hoping Ibrahima Konate would mark the Seagull’s attacker. The problem was on most occasions Konate was unaware of March’s run, and Robertson failed to communicate to his teammate March’s movement.

ATTITUDE

Trent is a player that really frustrates me as a defender. Although the game was over as a contest before Danny Welbeck added Brighton’s third goal, the Liverpool players’ attitude and positional awareness was embarrassing.

Brighton's Danny Welbeck celebrates after scoring against Liverpool. Picture: AP Photo/Frank Augstein
Brighton's Danny Welbeck celebrates after scoring against Liverpool. Picture: AP Photo/Frank Augstein

He stood at the edge of the box from when Brighton took a throw-in in the build up to the goal, and not once looked interested in defending. Although Kaoru Mitoma didn’t score, Trent just let the player run off him, and the Brighton attacker would have had a simple tap-in had Welbeck opted to pass the ball.

Of course, not all the blame lies with Liverpool’s fullbacks, and there are a number of players underperforming. It’s difficult to stake a claim for anyone performing adequately for the team apart from maybe Allison. They hope to keep their Champions League hopes alive this weekend againdt Chelsea.

Victory will only paper over the cracks. A revamp is needed in tactics and personnel. Klopp must realise change is needed, or Liverpool will only fall further adrift of the teams at the top.

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