20 Oct 2015

So, let's recap: Klopp is a genius because...Liverpool ran 116km without scoring? Give me a break.

As expected, after only one match in charge, Liverpool fans and ex-players are acting like Jurgen Klopp is the second coming of Jesus Christ, and many are raving like schoolgirls about his allegedly unique approach to the game. Gross overhype is par for the course when it comes to football, but the exaggeration about Klopp's alleged impact on Liverpool really is amusing to behold.

Listening to some fans/pundits, you'd think that Liverpool had spanked Spurs 6-0 on Saturday, but the reality is that Klopp merely inspired the the players to...run around a lot. Result!

As a collective unit, Liverpool ran 116K during the Spurs game, and according to countless fans and pundits, this is a life-changing achievement. Indeed, enraptured by Klopp's ability to turn a game of football into running contest, Jamie Carragher enthused:

“Transition pressing was massive for Klopp at Dortmund. As soon as they [Liverpool] lose the ball you can see they will keep pressing. How quickly you can press [is important]. He played them in the [right] positions and still got them to press. They [Liverpool] forced Tottenham wide and they pressed. It’s not going to be enjoyable [for other teams] if they [Liverpool] press like that.”

The key word here, I believe, is 'pressing' (and derivations thereof), and like so many others, Carra is ascribing a level of importance to it that just isn't warranted. Forget scoring goals, creating chances, and actually winning games, as long as the players run around like headless chickens, everything will be okay!

Obviously, I'm exaggerating to make a point, but the reality is that the pressing game *failed* against Spurs, and unlike some, I just can't see what's so special about yet *another* goalless draw.

Who cares if the players ran 116 km? It didn't lead to goals being scored, or Liverpool winning the game, so what's the point? End product is what matters, and whilst that may come in time, some people are acting as if Klopp tried some amazing tactical approach that no one has ever seen before.

Obviously, that's not true. Liverpool utilised the same game-plan many times under Rodgers, including this season, most notably against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium. It's nothing new, and in real terms, Liverpool weren't that effective against Spurs.

Indeed, Rodgers' pressing game against Arsenal yielded more positive results than the same tactic against Spurs. Here is a snapshot of the most important stats from both games:

Arsenal Game

* Shots on target: 8

* Chances created: 12

* Corners: 8

* Ball retention: Dispossessed (collectively): 13

* Tackles, Clearances, interceptions: 83

Spurs Game

* Shots on target: 3

* Chances created: 10

* Corners: 6

* Ball retention: Dispossessed (collectively): 35

* Tackles, Clearances, interceptions: 67

I've heard lots of fans (some on this site) argue that Liverpool's performance against Spurs was 'better' than the Arsenal performance, but how can that be if (against Arsenal) Liverpool created more chances; won more corners; had more shots on target; retained the ball better; and achieved better defensive stats?

As I understand it, defensive solidity is a key by-product of the pressing game, but overall, Spurs won significantly more tackles/duels, and wracked up more clearances, blocks, and interceptions. Pocchettino's team also achieved superior attacking stats (more shots on target/chances created/shooting accuracy/crosses/corners etc).

Liverpool had slightly more possession, but (as the stats show), the players did less with it. The only area in which the Reds truly excelled over Spurs is - yes, you've guessed it - running, and covering distance.

When did running become more important than scoring/creating goals, and winning games?

Optimism is one thing, but ludicrous exaggeration is counter-productive, as is the risible ongoing attempt to intellectualise the most bog-standard of tactical concepts. As the stats show, pressing or no pressing, Liverpool's performance against Spurs (in terms of actual, factual effectiveness) was merely adequate, and demonstrably less effective than similar games earlier this season.

Exhorting players to run more is not a significant achievement, and hard work is the bare minimum to be expected of players who earn up to £150k-a-week. I'd personally prefer to see Liverpool work *smarter* not *harder*, especially since it's impossible to sustain an intense pressing game without picking up lots of injuries (Klopp's time at Dortmund is a prime example of this).

Just to be clear: Klopp is not the problem here; the rank hyperbole over his first game in charge is the problem, and in my view, fans and pundits need to reign it in, manage expectations, and just let the guy get on with the job. I have no doubt that Klopp will be a success at Anfield, but for the love of God, let him actually achieve something significant before putting him on a pedestal.

Author: Jaimie K


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