The question all Liverpool fans ask themselves nowadays is “can we do it against the smaller teams?”. This is usually asked after a big performance against one of the top tier rivals who we are in a battle with for the much hyped “top four” positions.
For a number of seasons the fans already knew the answer to such a quesion while asking it at the same time. Usually it resulted in dashed hopes and an inability to capatilise on a slip up on the same weekend by one or more of the bigger teams. All in all adding up to lost opportunities and damaging defeats.
I found myself asking such a question to myself again last week (quietly mind you) as we travelled to a Chelsea team that was unbeaten under new boss Antonio Conte. My justification for such being that if we did go there and were able to get the win surely it would indicate just how well we would do this season.
Added together the wins over Chelsea, Arsenal, Leicester and draw to Spurs it seems a very impressive start to a hectic season. Not many teams will go to those fixtures in London and come away with 7 points not to mention the beating dished out to last seasons champions.
But there in among those wins is our achilles heel of a defeat away at Burnley two nil and a game we really dominated on the day, it was certainly a game to forget. Hence the questions remain.
So now it comes again..can we get the win this time at home to a Hull City side lying 12th in the table only 3 points behind ourselves.
Hull spent 17m this summer mostly on the purchase of Ryan Mason from Spurs. They have scored six goals in five games and conceded seven. They have scored four of their goals from set pieces and last time out were beaten at home by Arsenal 1-4.
The statistics suggest that Hull will try to dig in this season make themselves hard to beat and always hope to apply pressure high up the pitch in order to secure set pieces.
This in seasons past has been the precise type of opponent that Liverpool so often struggled to break down and in doing so often ended up losing such games from the few chances created by the opposition. A lot of teams know that if you come to Anfield and park the bus, frustrate the home team that inevitably they will try to force the game leaving gaps at the back.
I’ve mentioned before the way Phillipe Coutinho in particular seems to try to drive inside to the edge of the box and shoot from 25 yards out when the space gets tight ahead of him..this usually is a sign of frustration.
This week in his prematch press conference manager Jürgen Klopp has spoken about this saying “don’t lose your nerve and shoot from 45 yards.stay in the game”
He also spoke about why it is other teams know we seem to have a problem when they come to park the bus. In his time here he has seen such problems and thus the fact he mentions it in his press conference publically means he has obviously spoken to the team about it also and hopefully has moved to address the issues.
We have scored eleven goals so far this season in the league with only Arsenal and Manchester City scoring more. We didn’t score against Burnley at all. We have also conceded eight goals in five games. Only four teams have conceded more in the league. So both statistics paint a somewhat puzzled picture so far.
The best teams usually stick to their game plan and don’t panic. This is what we need to learn to do and to keep the ball better when faced with two banks of four. Barcelona never resort to the long kick and hope ball game when faced with this problem, which is in most games in La Liga. They keep possession of the ball, pass around the fringes probing and pulling the opposition around until the point where the lose their shape and leave that one gap that creates the chance needed to score.
I think this is also a reason why the manager recruited attacking midfielders in the summer even though we already had alot in midfield. He might see the best way to open such defences with balls coming from deep and with attacking runners getting beyond their own passes thus making it harder for a set defence to pick these players up. Strikers can be easier marked and shackled in such formations making the centre backs job alot easier if he only has to worry about the player along side him. We all know a centre back hates the sight of a player running at him or through the gap between them. Saudi Mané, Roberto Firmino and Co seem to be adepth at this along its Adam Lallana.
So to me at least it seems Klopp is loading the middle third of the pitch this season in the hope it will provide the flowing attacks that will break open such packed defences and get the wins from these smaller teams that is needed to push Liverpool along to where they need to be. Hopefully Liverpool are still in the mix for the title when we are all filing our faces with turkey and wearing those wee paper hats.
So is this game against Hull a big game? I would suggest yes it is. I would also suggest that a few of the other managers will be watching very closely on Saturday night just to see how Jürgen Klopp sets out his stall to deal with the threat Hull provide and we will all see have things changed. Or are we yet again going to be “Lost in translation” from the master plan.
Written by @StephenKing75