Adam Lallana

Tactics Session: Liverpool’s midfield to blame for poor defending, too

Leave a comment

Here’s something said by anyone and everyone who’s watched an hour of the Premier League over the last 24 months: Liverpool won’t win the PL title until Jurgen Klopp sorts out that shambolic defense.

[ PL ROUNDUP: Man City’s historic start; Man United, Arsenal win ]

Well, duh, and thanks for really going out on a limb with that one.

On Saturday, NBC Sports’ Robbie Earle went error-by-error in picking apart one of the Reds’ many defensive breakdowns (above video) during last weekend’s 4-1 defeat at the hands of Tottenham Hotspur. In short, Dejan Lovern, Joel Matip, Joe Gomez and Simon Mignolet were all guilty of critical errors as Harry Kane opened the scoring after just four minutes. There’s another group of players, though, which is worth considering as opponents continue to pick Liverpool apart on a near-weekly basis.

[ PL PREVIEW: Battle of the new bosses; Brighton vs. Southampton ]

Theory: it’s actually Liverpool’s midfield which is most responsible for this season’s repeated disasters at the back. The results are as poor as they’ve ever been under Klopp — they had the worst defensive record of the PL’s “big six” sides during Klopp’s first (partial) season at Anfield, followed by the second-worst of the six last season, and are sixth out of six thus far in 2017-18 — with little reason to expect significant change as the defensive characters remain the same. When called upon in 2016-17, again, it was simply more of the same.

The key difference being: they were better protected, thus forced into action less frequently, in the past. Whether by design or happenstance, the midfield and forward lines aren’t disrupting possession and winning the ball back as consistently as previous iterations of Klopp’s old gegenpress system. Most notably, it’s the early moments (first five seconds, or three passes) of opposition possession which haven’t been challenged with that familiar urgency.

[ MORE: England top Spain, win U-17 World Cup ]

Take, for instance, that loss to Tottenham — while Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Emre Can are probably the three most “defensive” midfield options in Klopp’s squad, they’re also the three least mobile and press-suited. Georginio Wijnaldum is often labeled an “attacking” midfielder, that what makes him perfectly suited for the transition from pressing to attacking. The same goes for Adam Lallana, who’s currently injured and gutting this side through his absence. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, should he ultimately end up in central midfield, is very similar in that regard. Marko Grujic, while still a relative PL unknown, profiles better as a central midfielder than the three who started at Wembley Stadium.

Without that constant on-ball pressure, Mauricio Pochettino was inspired in his tactical tweak to feature Harry Winks, Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli in a pass-heavy midfield-three, as the three on-ball technicians were able to play through the middle third of the field with very little resistance and get at the likes of Lovren, Matip and Gomez more directly. The return of starting right back Nathaniel Clyne (hamstring), who hasn’t played a minute this season, will undoubtedly add a bit more mobility and athleticism to an otherwise plodding rearguard.

It’s a trend that, should it continue, will result in more and more — and easier and easier — goals conceded by the Reds.

Adam Lallana out months with thigh injury

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Liverpool have been dealt a serious blow as the club confirmed winger Adam Lallana will miss “several months” with a thigh injury suffered in the match against Atletico Madrid on Wednesday.

“This is certainly not news we would have wanted,” manager Jurgen Klopp told the official Liverpool website. “Unfortunately, the damage is such that it will likely mean Adam is out for a couple of months not weeks, so I think we can pretty much rule him out of August and September.”

[ MORE: 2017-18 PL season preview hub ] 

“Beyond that we will monitor and wait and see. He is a boy with a world-class attitude to everything professionally and he has always come back in good time from injury setbacks since I have been here, so we will see.”

The 29-year-old had a strong season last year as an important part of Klopp’s squad, scoring eight goals and assisting seven in 31 league appearances, only missing time in April due to a hamstring injury.

It’s unclear what exactly the injury is this time around, as it was not specifically announced, but with the length of time out, it’s likely he tore a muscle.

Lallana steals a Wenger-ism: Sturridge “like two new signings”

Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images
Leave a comment

“Getting [X-player] back from injury will be like a brand new signing for us.”Arsene Wenger, every August and January, when asked why he decided against splashing the cash in the transfer market.

[ MORE: Sunday’s transfer rumor roundupSaturday | Friday ]

Liverpool midfielder Adam Lallana apparently liked what he’s been hearing from the Arsenal boss all these years, and has elected to double-down on the old adage by claiming that a healthy and fit Daniel Sturridge “would be like having two new signings” at Liverpool this season — quotes from the Telegraph:

“Listen, [Sturridge] has been absolutely brilliant in preseason so far. You couldn’t put a price on him. He is a world-class player. He has come back from the summer looking absolutely brilliant, so fit. He is going to be a massive player for us this season. I can feel it.

“He is looking really sharp and to have him firing on all cylinders would be like having two new signings if he can keep on the pitch and scoring goals.”

[ MORE: Conte’s goal for Chelsea? “To avoid the Mourinho season” ]

We’re awaiting word on how signing Sturridge not just once, but twice this summer, will affect Liverpool’s standing with regard to Financial Fair Play.

Klopp talks new Lovren deal, Top Four worries, Watford

Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Liverpool announced a new contract for Dejan Lovren on Friday, complete with the requisite “I love my club” comments from the defender.

Then Jurgen Klopp got his hands on a microphone.

The outspoken manager explained that re-signing Lovren to a new “long-term” deal ensures that the Croatian spends the best years of his career with the Reds.

[ MORE: Top PL Storylines ]

He also spoke plainly about Lovren’s perceived struggles and successes since arriving at Anfield from Southampton in 2014.

From The Liverpool Echo:

“If Dejan played for another club you would want to sign him – and pay a lot of money. He is 27, the best time is still to come.”

“If you’d asked fans after the Dortmund game they would said give him a 20-year contract. After the Palace game fans would have said ‘can we find another team who will have him?’ Truth is somewhere in between.”

Turning to Monday’s trip to Watford, Klopp isn’t concerned about the chance that his Reds will open the day outside the Top Four if Man City and Manchester United both win at the weekend.

He also says the Reds could have Adam Lallana and Daniel Sturridge at Vicarge Road, though Jordan Henderson remains out.

Premier League Preview: Liverpool vs. Arsenal

Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Leave a comment
  • Reds lead all-time 84W-59D-78L
  • Liverpool won 4-3 on Aug. 14
  • Arsenal last won at Anfield in ’12

Two powerful teams dealing with wildly disappointing 2017s meet at Anfield on Saturday in a high-powered clash (Watch live at 12:30 p.m. EDT on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

Liverpool and Arsenal carry relatively woeful form into Saturday’s match. Fourth-place Arsenal lost to Watford and Chelsea before a narrow win over Hull City, the last of which followed a blowout loss at Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League.

[ MORE: MLS Week 1 preview ]

The Reds, meanwhile, have found wins hard to come by since the calendar turned and recently were crushed by struggling Leicester City. Now in fifth place, Liverpool is more than a result out of second place (let alone their former aim of first).

Liverpool has done well against good sides, still unbeaten against the Top Six including a 4-3 win over Arsenal. Their Saturday opposition is a bit more predictable; Arsenal only has one loss to a lesser light (Watford). Their other losses? Chelsea, Man City, Arsenal, and Liverpool.

What they’re saying

Liverpool’s Adam Lallana on their record vs. poor sides: “Possibly it’s a mentality issue and something that we need to learn quickly because time will eventually run out. I want to achieve something special here at Liverpool and to do that we can’t just perform against the big teams, we need to perform against every team and treat them the same.”

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger on his future“I have been here for 20 years and I had many times the opportunity to leave so I don’t think I have to convince you that my preference has always been Arsenal. But of course I am objective and lucid enough to make the right decision for myself and the club as well. The club is free to make the decision it wants and I will respect that.”

Prediction

Given their seasons, it wouldn’t be shocking for either to produce a rout. That said, we’re betting on the equal misery that would come from a 2-2 draw.