Liverpool and Tottenham played out a hard-fought stalemate at White Hart Line, with Danny Rose cancelling out James Milner’s first half penalty.
Klopp made two changes to the lineup that featured against Burnley last week, Matip and Mane coming in for Klavan and Sturridge respectively. It was a Premier League debut for former Schalke defender Joel Matip.
It was a 4-1-2-3 lineup (primarily 4-3-3) deployed by the German manager with skipper Henderson again in that defensive midfield role. Wijnaldum and Lallana ahead of him; Coutinho, Firmino and Mane featured as front three for the Reds.
Let’s now switch our attention towards the tactics board and analyse a few points of the game and also observe the pressing points from the Reds
As we can see, Henderson was protecting the back-line, Lallana and Wijnaldum just ahead of him as the shield. Coutinho was more tucked in on the left side compared to Mane.
To start with, Henderson had a better game overall in the defensive midfield role. The skipper did well to mop up possession from the back, find someone with creative boots higher up the pitch and make life difficult for runs of opposition midfielders. Lallana was reasonable in bits and pieces, pressing in high blocks and closing down in central areas were the feature of his play. His midfield partner Wijnaldum was getting better as the game moved on, he was deeper than Lallana in terms of pressing and retaining possession. The Dutchman did well to hold the ball in middle of park and switching play when necessary.
Coutinho, who missed a ‘sitter’ very early on recovered well and was tucked in centrally to help Firmino press the Spurs’ centre-backs. Mane was wider as compared to his Brazil counter-part, tracked back when needed and always remained an outlet for counter-attacks, devastating pace being the most visible threat from the Senegalese.
Now, let’s take a look at the pressing and counter-pressing positions of Liverpool
Whenever Spurs tried to play from the back-line, this was the shape Liverpool acquired to close down the spaces and not allow the opposition to play out easily. Coutinho and Firmino occupied the centre-backs, Mane was wide not allowing the opposition fullback to have a free space. Lallana and Wijnaldum pressed high spaces where Spurs could have played out from.
There was clearly a pattern to this high-line press, Henderson never moved above the centre circle while others were closing down the spaces. Clyne and Milner got themselves a bit tucked in from their usual fullback position to block the runs of Lamela and Eriksen from those areas. Matip and Lovren were a bit wide in order to mark any channel runs from the Spurs’ striker if the ball was played up top, Henderson just behind the centre circle was there to give a proper shield to the centre-backs.
The above image gives us the position of Liverpool players when Spurs had the ball in midfield. The visible thing here was the tracking back of Firmino to help the midfield trio press the central areas and close half spaces in quick time to avoid swift transitions.
This middle block press too had a certain pattern convoluted, Coutinho and Mane were ahead of Firmino in anticipation that if one of the four players pressing nicked the ball, they could become an outlet for the counter-attack. The back four held their shape in proper high line.
So, all in all it should be said that Klopp got it right in terms of tactics, Liverpool had considerable amount of chances to finish the game off before Spurs got the equaliser. The lack of a potent finisher was certainly missing as Liverpool created handful of chances which could not be converted by forward players in charge of the game otherwise. The German manager was visibly frustrated by it and clearly suggested in his post match presser that his team needs to be more clinical to win games they deserve to win.
Tactically, Spurs struggled to press as a unit and were out of the game for most parts of it. They got better in the second half and got an undeserved (over the course of the game) equaliser after 70 minutes.
As for Liverpool, they were better tactically and did the pressing work much better than their opposition, however there are subtle things that need to be ironed out if Liverpool are to challenge top 4 this season.