Blog, Sports

Secrets behind Liverpool being the “Robin Hood” of EPL

Liverpool has returned to relevance in the English Premier League under the tenure of manager Jürgen Klopp
Danny Molyneux/CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

After the failure of Brendon Rogers due to the simplicity in his tactics and failed to extract the full potency of the player, the head directors appointed Jürgen Klopp as an alternative. Jürgen Klopp, one of the most acclaimed football managers in the world that lead Dortmund to a great success in Bundesliga was the perfect person for the replacement. Klopp applied his flexible and efficient tactic to the team, called “Gegenpressing” along with his burning ambition and impassioned spirit for the success of the club. The changes successfully led the team to obtain a solid 4th place in the 16-17 English Premier League season.

Tactic Analysis- What is Gegenpressing?

 http://spielverlagerung.com/2014/10/07/counter-or-gegenpressing/

Jürgen Klopp’s strategy applied to the Dortmund Squad (Klopp’s space- or leewayoriented counterpress)

 – Football analysis website>

The players surrounding the ball pressure the opponent in order to regain the attacking opportunity. In the picture, the attacking players- Lewandowski, Reus and Götze are blocking the pass routes of the opponent. Thus, the defense line has come below the half line due to the fact that the deep lying midfielder, Kehl has moved up to give pressure. Furthermore, as the team is pressuring the opponent, the left and right side backs have elevated their positions in order to create empty space.

What is Gegenpressing?

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Jurgen Klopp, coach of Liverpool PAUL ROBINSON (Klopp) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Jürgen Klopp often calls Gegenpressing as the “best playmaker.” So what is exactly Gegenpressing? From its name “pressing,” the tactic is to create chances in the attacking side by pressuring the opponent. This strategy has highly praised by football experts for its huge contribution to the success in several clubs, such as Barcelona with Guardiola and BVB with Klopp. Gegenpressing means to press the opposition right after losing possession; in other words, to press as an organized unit the moment you lose the ball. The entire team hunts the ball, provokes mistakes from the opponent; in the ideal case, the team is able to immediately win the ball back from the opponent. Thus, the tactic urges the players to immediately recover after they lost the ball to reclaim it. The purpose of this strategy is to prevent the opponent’s counterattack and to win the ball back. Due to these features, Gegenpressing is also often called as counter pressing.

Disadvantages of the Strategy

Despite the fact that this strategy has successfully promoted the quality of the team- 1st place in areas of box chance making, key passes, goal scores, shots on target, there are several drawbacks. Some of the many weaknesses of Gegenpressing are the enormous amount of energy consumption, requirement of strong solid defense and attacking players that are capable of finding space. These repercussions lead to the reason why Liverpool is called the “Robin Hood” in English Premier League previous season. According to the statistics provided by Sky Sports, Liverpool is the team that lost the least points to the top 6 teams. Despite this record, the team has struggled in matches against the relatively weak teams.

Advantage to Disadvantage? 

Many Liverpool Fans, commonly called “The Kop” often blame the team’s downfall on the goalkeeper, Mignolet. His lack of skills does contribute to the team’s loss; however, it is not the main cause of Liverpool’s downfall. Based on the analysis of several football experts and columns that criticize Liverpool’s slump, the root causes can be depicted as the following: Lack of Plan B, shallow squad depth and concentration of defense.

First of all, there seems to be no Plan B in Jürgen Klopp’s strategy. First of all, Liverpool’s pressuring tactic works on the relatively strong teams because they have the tendency to attack and score goals. However, this plan does not work well to the relatively weak teams that for the strategy of ten-back and counterattack. This strategy is simple. All the players including the strikers lower their positioning lines and help the defense block the opponent’s attack. When they have a chance to grab the opportunity, they quickly convert the team’s defensive position to attack and create chances. One of the epitomes that best exemplify this concept is the Champions League semi-final match between Chelsea and Barcelona in which Mourinho applied this strategy in order to overcome the gap of skills between the two teams. If the relatively weak teams perform this strategy, then Liverpool’s Gegenpressing is useless since the opponent does not come over the line and attempt to attack.

Secondly, Liverpool’s squad depth is shallow compared to the other Top 6 teams in the league. The transfer head directors must find a replacement for Lovren and Matip, the two center backs that are showing disappointing performances this season. Despite the fact that Gegenpressing require huge amount of energy, the squad depth is very low which leads the players to be prone to injuries.

Third, Liverpool’s perpetual dilemma: the defense mistakes. Although Liverpool is one of the highest scoring teams in set pieces, they are also one of the teams that concede the most goals in set pieces. Klopp’s football is currently applying “zone defence,” in which the players do not mark each player, but cover their assigned areas. This tactic has been shown insufficient and unorganized which led his tactics to receive several criticisms from the media. Further concerns and questions are raised about Klopp’s decision to sign Oxlade Chamberlain and not other center backs in the summer transfer window as the team is showing low quality defense this season.

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The author is a senior student in King's Academy who writes about subjects related to football in the professional world as well as athletic co-curricular activities.