Premier League Playback: Key questions for Klopp at Liverpool

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KLOPP’S INSTANT IMPACT

Whistling like a German kettle on the sidelines at White Hart Lane, Jurgen Klopp was full of that “full throttle” approach he expects from his players.

During his debut both in charge of Liverpool and in the Premier League, Klopp impressed with his passion on the sidelines as he gesticulated furiously in a circulations motion with his right hand while whistling ferociously every single time his side gave away the ball. The result? Liverpool’s players slotted straight back into their positions as if they were sheepdogs being controlled by a shepherds whistle. In just four days of training with his new squad, Klopp already seems to have got them on his side.

[ MORE: Three things we learned

Plenty of questions still remain following his first outing. Overall, a 0-0 draw away at Tottenham Hotspur probably won’t be the liveliest of his Liverpool career but Klopp will see it as a decent result at in-form Spurs. Missing Danny Ings (at least for six months), Daniel Sturridge, Roberto Firmino and Christian Benteke (all likely to be back this week) from his lineup, Klopp placed Divock Origi in attack and the 20-year-old delivered a performance where his pace caused Spurs problems and he was unlucky to see his header come crashing off the crossbar and out after a blistering start to the game from Liverpool. Origi impressed Klopp, who revealed he tried to sign him for Borussia Dortmund in the past but how he uses him, Sturridge and Benteke remains to be seen. It’s a huge question as right now it seems to be a case of one striker from three.

[ MORE: Klopp cool, praises attackers ]

Keeping up that “full throttle” start for an entire 90-minutes will be tough but speaking to the media after the game, Klopp declared himself more than satisfied with his first point as Liverpool boss but did reveal some of the answers to how his team didn’t manage to get a win.

“The problem of the game was that when we had the ball we were not cool enough. We didn’t use our skills. We were a little too hectic or eager. Something like this,” Klopp said. “We didn’t see the option as much but it is normal. You start like this, you got the ball from this space and you should open your view and you can play it this side because Tottenham is a zonal defending team. We didn’t use these situations but we had our moments. A very good corner [Origi’s header against the bar] and some other situations where we could have been a little better but for today it is really okay. After three or four days it was brilliant. Now we have our own experience together and we can go on working.”

Klopp is renowned for having his team work hard and press high up the pitch. The 4-3-2-1 — Christmas Tree formation, as it’s commonly known — system worked well on Saturday with the players at his disposal. However, with key attackers set to return from injury you’d be hard-pressed to believe that Klopp won’t line up with two up front when Southampton come to Anfield next Sunday for his first home league game in charge of the Reds. In midfield the trio of James Milner, Lucas and Emre Can worked tirelessly, with Klopp yelling “Yaaaa. Come on!” when Can rattled into a challenge in the first half. He praised that narrow midfield three afterwards and during the game he was very positive and constantly cajoled his side and applauded even their mistakes. Let’s see if he does that in a few months from now

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Some pretty impressive stats emanated from Liverpool’s opening performance under Klopp. They became the only team to outrun Tottenham this season, as their boss Mauricio Pochettino is another fierce proponent of high-pressing. Liverpool also completed more sprints than Spurs, 50 more to be exact, and although they ran out of steam after their exhilarating opening 25-minute spell to the game, Klopp’s boys did gain a second wind in the second half after Simon Mignolet denied Harry Kane and Clinton N'Jie when Spurs were on top.

It will take Liverpool’s players some time to live up to the high-paced demands of Klopp, but Saturday proved that they are not too far off how he expects them to play and approach games. Their fitness levels will need to be worked on and that is not easy to implement midway through a season. Now is the time to be patient as there are plenty more hurdles for Liverpool and their new manager to negotiate and plenty more questions to be answered. We got a taster of what’s time to come from Klopp, and judging by the German-inspired flags proudly waved by their fans, they already approve of “The Normal One” during a rather normal first game in charge.

Premier League Schedule – Week 9

Result Recap & Highlights
Chelsea 2-0 A Villa Recap, watch here
C Palace 1-3 West Ham Recap, watch here
Everton 0-3 Man Utd Recap, watch here
Man City 5-1 B’mouth Recap, watch here
N’castle 6-2 Norwich Recap, watch here
Saints 2-2 Leicester Recap, watch here
Swansea 0-1 Stoke Recap, watch here
Tottenham 0-0 L’pool Recap, watch here
Watford 0-3 Arsenal Recap, watch here
WBA 1-0 Sunderland Recap, watch here

CITY’S OUTSIDERS STEP UP

Without leading scorer Sergio Aguero and chief creator David Silva for the next four weeks through injury, Manchester City’s second-string attackers were expected to step up and deliver the goods against Bournemouth on Saturday. They did. Impressively. Raheem Sterling scored his first senior hat trick in the first half and Wilfried Bony struck twice to humble Bournemouth 5-1 and keep City top of the Premier League with 21 points from a possible 27.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Going into a huge Manchester derby at Old Trafford on Sunday, big question marks were hanging over City and how the likes of Sterling, Bony and Kevin De Bruyne could handle the pressure in the absence of the two players many believe are the best attackers in the Premier League. The fact that summer acquisitions Sterling and De Bruyne cost City $150 million in transfer fees alone tells its own story. Their strength in-depth is greater this season which is a big reason why they are many people’s title favorites.

De Bruyne was particularly outstanding on Saturday, as the Belgian international is settling into life at City extremely well. His ability to run at players from a central position was fully utilized by Manuel Pellegrini at the weekend and with the pace of Sterling and the strength of Bony having the Cherries in a spin, City could have had eight or nine. In truth, they took their foot off the gas in the second half with a big UEFA Champions League game coming up against Sevilla on Wednesday in Group D play, then United to come next weekend in the 170th derby. Vincent Kompany is also likely to return after being an usused sub and rested against Bournemouth and it’s a big week for the Citizens to prove they now have the cover, especially in attack, to deal with the absence of Silva and Aguero. If they can get positive results against Sevilla and United, the early season PL leaders can feel very good about the months ahead. Plus, it’s always handy to have ‘Dav the Wizard’ and Kun Aguero to slot back in whenever they’re needed…

HAZARD’S BENCHING HARSH?

On Saturday Chelsea got back to winning ways, as Jose Mourinho’s side beat a lackluster Aston Villa outfit 2-0 at Stamford Bridge. Diego Costa bundled home the opener and his shot cannoned off Alan Hutton and past Brad Guzan for another in the second half to wrap things up. That was the game. It was pretty straightforward.

The main storyline to come out of the Bridge was not what happened on the field but more about who spent most of the game off of it. Mourinho raised plenty of eyebrows when Eden Hazard was left on the bench for the visit of Villa but afterwards he described exactly why the Belgian wizard, who is the reigning PL Player of the Year, was left on the bench.

“I left out Hazard because we are conceding lots of goals. We need to defend better,” Mourinho said. “When you don’t have the ball, quality means nothing and what means [thumps chest]… you have or you don’t have. It was just a tactical decision, leaving super quality on the bench, but bringing tactical discipline and hoping that the team could be solid. Willian and Pedro did amazing defensive work and allowed the midfield players to be very comfortable. I continue that way, or he comes in our direction and tries to replicate the same work that Willian and Pedro did.”

Tactical. Really?

In the games Chelsea have been been dreadful in this season, and that’s been plenty of them, Hazard has been the one player who has shown he can beat a man and has that extra bit of quality. Sure, Pedro and Willian deserve chances to shine but this is Eden Hazard, the man who tore apart opposition defenses in the PL at will last season. If anybody deserves an extended run in the team it is him. Mourinho may have got the desired defensive work out of Willian and Pedro — we all know Hazard struggles with tracking back, as it was proven when Chelsea lost to Atletico Madrid at home in the UEFA Champions League final in 2013-14 season — but by publicly ostracizing Hazard and calling out his work-rate, the latest mind game from Chelsea’s manager may have grave consequences and cost the Blues their best player in a season where they desperately need him to regain his best form and lead them back into the top fourth. This is either brilliant management or madness from Mourinho. I suspect the latter.

FOUR-MIDABLE WIJNALDUM; MAGPIES WARY

Georginio Wijnaldum smashed in four goals for Newcastle on Sunday, leading the Magpies to their first win of the season in a pulsating 6-2 victory over Norwich City. In his ninth PL game in charge of the club former England boss Steve McClaren finally got a win but he knows Wijnaldum’s clinical finishing can’t paper over the cracks. Newcastle scored with all six of their shots on target and Wijnaldum now has six PL goals for the season as the marauding Dutch midfielder is looking like one of the bargains of the summer as he’s perfectly timed runs from midfield are causing opponents havoc.

[ MORE: Standings | schedule | stats ]

In an incredible first half Newcastle went 1-0 up but Dieumerci Mbokani equalized, then they went 3-1 up but Nathan Redmond pulled another back to make it 3-2 at the break. Redmond hit the post in the second half and Newcastle kept dropping deeper and deeper. In truth, the scoreline flattered McClaren’s side. Apart from Moussa Sissoko and Wijnaldum’s brilliance, plus a thumping volley from Aleksandar Mitrovic in front of his adoring fans, Newcastle still have plenty of issues to resolve as they aim to get out of the relegation zone. At least McClaren knows it as he failed to lose sight of the bigger picture in the postgame press conference, which cannot be said for most managers when you score six goals in a much-needed win.

“It’s Newcastle, is it possible to make any sense?” McClaren told reporters. “That’s what we are fast discovering. But I think that was just reward. I’m so pleased for the players, so pleased for the fans. Like we have said all along not to get too down and after tonight, we are not going to get high. There’s a lot of work to do, but it shows today when it comes together what we are capable of doing.”

Next up for Newcastle, the small matter of facing a Tyne-Wear derby against the team who sits bottom of the PL table: Sunderland. Buckle up. With Sam Allardyce in charge for the Black Cats and narrowly losing his first game in charge away at West Brom in controversial fashion, this is going to be a rambunctious derby next Sunday with three points, momentum and local pride on the line at the Stadium of Light.

Premier League Playback comes out every week as PST’s Lead Writer and Editor takes an alternative look at all the action from the weekend. Read the full archive, here. 

Bayern, Dortmund ready for monumental Klassiker

Der Klassiker preview
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Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc is a living legend for the black and yellow side, a one-club man who’s distaste for Bayern runs deep.

Zorc knows Der Klassiker as well as anyone, and Tuesday’s 12:30 p.m. ET derby in Dortmund could be a veritable title decider.

While his league derby successes as a player weren’t many, Zorc was part of some of Dortmund’s most memorable Klassiker wins, including the 1998 Champions League quarterfinal, a German Cup, and a German Super Cup.

[ MORE: Latest Bundesliga news ]

And with so much of the world still in isolation, there’s a spotlight on this derby more than any other since Bayern beat Dortmund in the 2013 Champions League Final.

“Every football fan in Germany is looking forward to this match,” Zorc said of the occasion, later adding that “We must believe in ourselves and not make any cheap mistakes in possession. … We need to ride out the spells in which Bayern are dominant. We’ll need to defend very well together as a team and be aware of our own qualities going forward. We can always score goals against them. And we can beat them”

Bayern star Thomas Muller feels the import of the occasion and momentum for both clubs.

Experiencing a resurgent season with a league-best 17 league assists, Muller is aware that growing Bayern’s table advantage to seven with a win in Dortmund would put the Bavarians on the precipice of an eighth-straight Bundesliga crown.

“We are marching, Dortmund is marching, we can look forward to Tuesday,” Muller said, via Bild. “I hope that we can show what makes us strong and that in the end we will leave the Dortmund stadium with a smile. But it will be hard work.”

The last away win in this derby came seven matches ago, a 3-1 Bayern win at the Westfalenstadion on Nov. 4, 2017. Will Bayern do it again, taking a seven-point lead on all chasers regardless of what happens on Tuesday and Wednesday around the league?

Lyon asks French prime minister to reconsider early end of Ligue 1 season

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Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas is asking French authorities to backpedal on their decision to end the football season prematurely amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The men’s league was canceled four weeks ago with 10 rounds remaining, Paris Saint-Germain declared champion, and Lyon finished outside the European places in seventh.

In a letter on Monday to French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu, Aulas argued the premature conclusion of the season will have catastrophic consequences for French clubs, which could face losses of “700 to 900” million euros ($760 million to $980 million).

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Alongside Amiens and Toulouse – the two clubs demoted to the second division – Lyon took action against the league decision but their case was thrown out last week by a Paris administrative court. Lyon now wants France’s highest administrative court, the Council of State, to issue a ruling on the matter.

In the letter, Aulas said the fact that the French league was the only one among the seven biggest European leagues to opt for an early end should convince authorities to reconsider their move.

In Europe, the Dutch and Belgian leagues have also ended their 2019-20 seasons early.

Aulas has argued for the French league to be given a chance to be completed by late August with a temporary playoff system, but with PSG staying the champion given its large lead before play was stopped.

“The Bundesliga resumed matches on May 16, Spain will resume matches on June 8. Italy, Russia and Portugal have resumed collective training and England is working on a resumption after June 19,” Aulas wrote. “How can France not be downgraded very quickly and see its professional football devalued?”

On June 2, the French government is expected to make further announcements related to France’s lockdown exit strategy.

“Many developments and hopes are expected on this date, so that France can gradually regain a good dynamic,” Aulas said. “Could we imagine that June 2 is also a great opportunity to rectify the mistake concerning French football and to allow, with a health protocol used everywhere, to give the starting point for a gradual resumption of training (in June) and, why not, a resumption of the 2019-2020 season over the months of July or August?”

Lyon, meanwhile, still hopes to reach the quarterfinals of the Champions League after beating Italian champion Juventus 1-0 in the first leg of their round of 16 match on Feb. 26. The return leg in Turin was suspended.

Transfer news: Jimenez, Coutinho to Arsenal; Higuain to Wolves

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The latest transfer news has linked both Raul Jimenez and Phillipe Coutinho with moves to Arsenal, while Gonzalo Higuain has been linked with Wolves and Newcastle.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

First up, Arsenal are once again front and center as Raul Jimenez has been linked with a move to the Gunners, as both Man United and Real Madrid are said to be chasing the Mexico star.

Per a report from Tuttosport in Italy, Jimenez is said to be valued at $70 million, which seems a little low even though he’s 29 years old. Juventus and Barcelona are also said to be interested in the Mexican striker but how could Arsenal afford him?

If they offload Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (who has one year left on his current contract) this summer then it’s possible. Add in that Alexandre Lacazette could also be leaving Arsenal and Mikel Arteta will have two big earners off the wage bill and will need some attacking reinfrocements.

Jimenez has said he’s happy at Wolves for now and even though he is a hero at Molineux with 39 goals in 88 games in all competitions over the last season, this summer would be the perfect time to cash in.

Talking about that, a report from the Daily Express claims that Wolves are interested in signing Gonzalo Higuain from Juventus.

Okay, Wolves fans probably aren’t going to be overjoyed with this given the fact that Higuain struggled badly during a loan spell at Chelsea. However, in the right system he can still deliver goals and the 32-year-old has scored 303 goals in 630 appearances throughout his career.

Higuain holding the ball up and getting on the end of crosses from Diogo Jota and Adama Traore makes sense. He’s similar to Jimenez, but less mobile, and even though Newcastle are said to be interested in Higuain, it appears Wolves would be the frontrunners for the Argentine striker and he would be a good back-up option to Jimenez if he does stay at Wolves. River Plate and a potential move to MLS are also options for Higuain.

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Rounding off the transfer news, Arsenal are said to be in talks with the agent of Philippe Coutinho, Kai Joorabchian.

Coutinho, 27, is currently on loan at Bayern Munich from Barcelona but the Bavarian giants will not be spending big to sign him permanently. That is where Arsenal come in as a report from Le 10 Sport says that Mikel Arteta wants to add Coutinho on loan.

Per the report, Arteta is keen on Coutinho being central to his rebuild of the Gunners and if he’s available on loan, it may be his best option of regular minutes in the Premier League. A return to Liverpool seems very unlikely, while Chelsea are reportedly interested but they have a host of attacking options and Frank Lampard seems to prefer his younger stars.

If the finances align, Coutinho to Arsenal is a very good deal for everyone. He can rip it up in the Premier League and if it is a loan deal, what do Arsenal have to lose here?

USMNT: Youngsters ready for busy Bundesliga week

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Week 28 of the 2019-20 Bundesliga season has some huge clashes and USMNT fans will know there are plenty of young American players to keep an eye on during the midweek action.

[ LIVE: Bundesliga scores ] 

Bundesliga games will of course be played in empty stadiums, which is the plan for the rest of the season and beyond, and USMNT stars will feature in plenty of them.

From Giovanni Reyna to Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie to John Brooks, plenty of USMNT stars are going to play pivotal roles as their teams battle for the Bundesliga title, European qualification and against relegation.

[ MORE: Bundesliga latest news ] 

BTW, if you’re new to Germany’s top-flight, here’s a guide to help you pick a club to support.

Below is a look at what lies ahead in midweek for the USMNT stars, as you can check out the full schedulestandings and find out how to watch the action, while we will have you covered right here on ProSoccerTalk.


Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig – Came off the bench in the second half of Leipzig’s 5-0 win away at Mainz and played in his preferred role of central midfield. Some really good defensive work, interceptions and calm passing. Will play a key role in the coming weeks as Julian Nagelsmann rotates his team as they’re well in the title race. Hosting in-form Hertha will be tough, as they are very dangerous on the counter. With Dortmund and Bayern playing one another, great chance for Leipzig to gain ground in the title battle.

Matchweek 28: v. Hertha Berlin, Wednesday, 12:30 p.m. ET

Gio Reyna, Borussia Dortmund – Came off the bench in Dortmund’s win at Wolfsburg, with some nice touches and high-pressing out wide. Reyna, 17, could start against Bayern Munich in the biggest game of the Bundesliga season. That would be a massive moment for the young playmaker who was supposed to start against Schalke before he picked up an injury in the warm up.

Matchweek 28: v. Bayern Munich, Tuesday, 12:30 p.m. ET

Weston McKennie, Schalke – Has worked hard in the humbling defeats at the hands of Dortmund and Augsburg but subbed off in the latter and Schalke are a bit of a mess. Their Europa League push has been hit without a win in nine games and David Wagner’s teams usually fade at the end of a season. McKennie needs a bit more direction and a lot more help in midfield. He does the simple things well but he’s lost his spark and cutting edge.

Matchweek 28: @ Fortuna Dusseldorf, Wednesday, 2:30 p.m. ET

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John Brooks, Wolfsburg – Had a very solid outing against Dortmund as for the most part he kept Erling Haaland quiet. He was caught a little out of position for Dortmund’s first goal but overall a 7/10 display. Wolfsburg are in the hunt for Europa League qualification and coming up against local rivals Bayer Leverkusen will be a big test as Kai Havertz and Co. are ripping teams apart. Brooks v. Havertz will be a fine battle to watch for USMNT fans.

Matchweek 28: @ Bayer Leverkusen, Tuesday, 2:30 p.m. ET

Josh Sargent, Werder Bremen – Started in Bremen’s big win away at Freiburg which keeps them in touch with a bunch of clubs above the relegation zone. Sargent needs plenty of service and Bremen do create a ton of chances, so he will be hoping Monchengladbach’s open style gives him plenty of chances on the break.

Matchweek 28: v. Borussia Monchengladbach, Tuesday, 2:30 p.m. ET

Timothy Chandler, Eintracht Frankfurt – Defeats against Monchengladbach and Bayern Munich have been tough for Frankfurt to swallow in the first two weeks of the restart. Chandler has come off the bench in both games and could start on Tuesday given Frankfurt conceding eight goals in their last two games, sucking them back into the relegation battle.

Matchweek 28: v. SC Freiburg, Tuesday, 2:30 p.m. ET

Alfredo Morales, Fortuna Dusseldorf – Started and played the full 90 minutes as Fortuna coughed up a 2-0 lead in the 88th minute to draw 2-2 at Cologne. That was a massive disappointment as Uwe Rolser’s side need wins to get out of the relegation playoff spot, especially with Bremen now breathing down their necks.

Matchweek 28: v. Schalke, Wednesday, 2:30 p.m. ET

Fabian Johnson, Zack Steffen: Did not feature in Week 27. Fortuna’s Steffen is recovering for a knee injury. Johnson has not been in Monchengladbach’s squad.