What’s Happening with Liverpool’s Pressing?

Liverpool have begun the defence of their
Champions League title in reasonably good shape – despite a 2-0 reverse away to Napoli,
two wins on the bounce, and an upcoming home tie against the bottom side in the group,
Genk, should put the Merseyside team in a strong position before they host Napoli and
face RB Salzburg away in the final group stage fixture. As these stats from OneFootball show, Jurgen
Klopp’s side are, on average, dominating possession, but their free-scoring approach
is marred by the concession of six goals so far in the group, including three at home
to an admittedly good Salzburg side. Liverpool have generally stuck with the now-preferred
4-3-3, although Klopp will still use a 4-2-3-1 at times, especially if the full backs require
greater cover. The general pattern is that the midfield three stay compact and narrow,
ball-winning rather than playing too progressively – width comes from the full backs, while
the forward line also stay fairly narrow with Roberto Firmino dropping off to create space
and passing opportunities to the wide forwards. This is the formation and system most associated
with Liverpool and stylistically, this is usually backed by a concerted press. Klopp
has long been a proponent of pressing and counter-pressing, the concerted effort by
a team to close down space to win the ball back, especially immediately after losing
possession, in order to exploit the position and state of the opposition side. Liverpool have evolved under Klopp, with 2016/17’s
more possession-based approach, relying on creative passing from players like Adam Lallana
and Coutinho to try to spring Sadio Mane forwards, giving way to a more direct style in 2017/18.
The arrival of Mohammed Salah was key, allowing Firmino to come inside and orchestrate play
from a false nine position, as was Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s role as a more progressive 8 on the right-hand
side of a midfield three, supporting attacks and assisting a more energetic press. Nonetheless,
pressing numbers were high in both seasons, although arguably it wasn’t until 2017/18
that Klopp really had a squad who understood his concepts. Then, last season, Liverpool dropped off the
press somewhat. The attacking threat of the full backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy
Robertson allowed a slightly narrower midfield, while the arrivals of Alisson and Fabinho
allowed Liverpool to control the game more and keep a higher defensive line. This did
indeed see a reduction in pressing numbers, as measured by Passes Per Defensive Action,
effectively the number of opposition passes allowed per proactive defensive act – the
lower the number, the more proactive the defence in its pressing. But, as we can see, Liverpool are, in fact,
pressing more this season – albeit with a smaller number of games played. While the
trend prior to this season for Liverpool was definitely towards a lower intensity of press
– although still above league average – this season’s Liverpool is once again pressing
more. So why the general feeling that they aren’t? Compare, for example, the pressing numbers
for different fixtures. What’s clear here is that arguably Liverpool’s worst performance
saw them press least, but that otherwise, pressing levels are variable. Obviously, Liverpool
still press more than most teams, but within that there is a real range. There are two main reasons for this. The first
is to protect the full backs slightly. While Liverpool were extremely reliant on Robertson
and Alexander-Arnold last season for ball progression, in some games Liverpool were
caught out with direct passing in behind. They therefore want to control some matches
in terms of possession more, rather than be direct all the time, another facet of Klopp’s
evolution, and so here the full backs will tend to offer width along the midfield line,
rather than acting almost as wingers with a defensive responsibility. This means that Liverpool’s midfield line
is where the pressing happens, and so they will allow the opposition to progress the
ball in their own defensive third before engaging the press, rather than looking to choke them
higher up the pitch. In other words, Liverpool are pressing more situationally, which at
times means that the press is engaged later. The second reason is that Liverpool are currently
lacking the sort of midfielder who can push up and support attacks in the half spaces.
Concerns around the long-term fitness of Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and the
injury to Xherdan Shaqiri, have robbed Liverpool of the sort of progressive, attacking midfielders
that can support attacks where the ball is won higher up the pitch. If Liverpool’s
full backs are hanging back, and Firmino is dropping off, there are spaces that would
be occupied by onrushing midfielders to assist the attack, but the more workmanlike set-up
used by Klopp in many games prevents this – this was seen clearly against Napoli,
where a flatter midfield and full backs who didn’t push up meant that Liverpool’s
front three was quite isolated. With this being so, pressing high and further
up the pitch would expose Liverpool’s midfield – sitting off didn’t work well against
Napoli, but in games where Liverpool’s lack of forward thrust from midfield could be exposed,
Liverpool are more content to block up the middle and press situationally, especially
in the wide areas of the middle third, before countering quickly against a defensive line
that have pushed up. So, while Liverpool are pressing more overall,
they are pressing less in some games. The general trend of the last few seasons might
give the impression that Klopp is moving away from his pressing style – the truth is,
he is becoming more discerning in when and how his teams press on a game by game basis.

100 thoughts on “What’s Happening with Liverpool’s Pressing?

  1. Liverpool kind of plays with a formation of 2-5-3 and that's mostly because of Trent and Robbo.
    but they're conceding more this season. just 3 clean sheets in 11 games. still they're winning games.

  2. This started at the beginning of last season tbh. Instead of the "gegenpress" Klopp is famous for, we transitioned to a shadow press where we close down the opposition player somewhat whilst blocking passing lanes, then a certain situation will trigger a press by 3 or more players.

  3. I think it's too soon to analyse his game this season. Klopp has higher lines now, maybe to take advantage of VAR, which is more precise in offside rule and possiblt due to the new goal kick rule for EPL. At the start of a season any team will struggle to keep lines close to another and to press correctly. Now, with all those modifications to his tactics, I think adapting will be more difficult.
    However, since his times at Dortmund, especially the two last seasons, and against Guardiola, Klopp has tried to find tactics which allow his players to breathe and recover energy and to fight for possession and not only space as usual. You could be right about this being a change in his approach but I must insist, it's too soon to know in my opinion.

  4. I remember in an interview early on in his Liverpool days he said when we don’t press right, we run more, so it’s about being smarter with it as opposed to just running around playing 1v1 all over the field. sometimes they might need to do that but definitely not in most games. You wanna talk about a game where they pressed vigorously, last week against Tottenham and then at Anfield against Barcelona. They’re a better team now and so they know when to go and when to hold and when they do go, they’re organized enough to make it worth the effort.

  5. There isn’t a single answer for all your opponents. It would surprise people if I told them Man City would have to change things more tactically against Burnley than against Barcelona. That’s just football

  6. Klopp and the team are getting older and wiser. They know which teams they have to press and which teams they don't. That's what has lead to the many last minute winners.

  7. Everything Klopp does is based around 'pacing' the team for a long season … Klopp likes having a tight, smaller squad filled with players he trusts … so that means he has to be very careful that we don't burn out. It HAS been frustrating to watch us struggle at times this season, but you can clearly see that when we NEED to 'turn it on' … we can.
    Against Villa our fitness and energy in the last 10 minutes was incredible … it was as if the players almost decided it was time to WAKE UP and win.
    We rarely SMASH teams this season because if we're in control of a game by 2-3 goals clear, we will ease off … and not keep pushing. It's a bit risky but you can't argue with our points haul ….
    Liverpool have lost just ONE of our last FIFTY league fixtures …. that's insane form.

  8. I think ever since Kiev the team has been much more measured in its approach, once it gets a lead it is generally confident to hold it. Liverpool in 90% of games are:
    1) Trying to break the opposition down (until a lead of 1/2 established)
    2) Holding onto the lead
    They no longer need to play exciting expansive football to win games, the transition from mostly exciting games to mostly successful games in the last 2/3 seasons has been self evident

  9. Klopp only uses it ….
    Occasionally. Pressing.
    I urge ppl to try and do it …in the garden or with yr friends…..you'll be fucked.

  10. I think in general pressing works better against top teams than smaller teams. If they want the league they have to play less pressing. But pressing doesn’t always get picked up when they play against top teams if they haven’t pressed for a long time

  11. Another reason is to conserves eergy with congested fixtures coming and to avoid injuries,

    it will be epic to see Liverpool go all out pressing vs Man City, thats how they destroyed them last time they won

  12. One of the factor for Liverpool pressing game seems less I think is also because Liverpool has gone from underdogs in the past few years to European champions. In the past, teams would attack and go toe to toe with Liverpool allowing Liverpool to press-counter press. Now more teams are sitting deep against Liverpool, meaning less use of pressing-counter pressing rather Liverpool often have majority of possession require more incisive passing which sadly Liverpool midfielders lack.

  13. Great Analysis… fair to say that now that the engine is working Klopp is simply adapting to opposition tactics to exploit their formation. The fact remains its very hard to defend against speed. And Liverpool forwards and RB and LB are incredibly fast and fit. Any team would struggle to keep that sort of energy going for 100 Mins.

  14. Really no one realise nowadays opposing teams parked their buses, that's probably why they are not much pressing.

  15. The goal kick rule change is making stronger sides think twice before pressing high up since the offense has a free passing opportunity to start the game. Norwich scored twice on Man City with one short – one long pass tactic as the high up press leaves the back vulnerable.

  16. France won the World Cup with a 4-4-2 low block. Liverpool beat Spurs in the CL final with a low block. Are there still teams that employ the outdated high pressing of Cruyff and Sacchi?

  17. Any chance a video on the tactics being used in Sheffield United’s surprising start to the season and can they keep it going through the season?

  18. This analysis is statistically flawed with the 'passes per defensive action' metric. For example, consider a bad team like Watford who is constantly defending and can't make passes forward, they will naturally have a lower score to suggest they are pressing. Probably would be best to limit defensive actions to the opponent's half or flat out stop using that ratio in preference for something based on time of winning ball or attempts in opposition half to in their own half.

  19. I think we're not pressing as much because in most games, we don't need to anymore. You'll see against the better sides (with exception of Napoli), Liverpool will press more. Grinding games out against lower opposition allows the players to regain their energy for the next match, whether Klopp needs them or not. Whether it's the likes of Milner, Gini, and Hendo, or its the likes of Ox, Keita, or Lallana in the 8 positions, Klopp makes sure that his players are fit enough for every game, barring injuries. It allows anyone to come into those positions to do a job. The likes of Ox, Keita, and Lallana allow for a more attacking style of play, whereas the likes of Hendo, Gini, and Milner allow for a more defensively secure style of play. Everyone, including some fellow Liverpool fans, really want to see Ox and Keita fill the 8 positions every game, but it's foolish to think that. Yes, seeing them play is more enjoyable, but it also allows for more gaps at the back. While we do have the best defender in the world, he's not invincible. He cant be there on his own all of the time. Midfield support is vital. While basic stats show that Keita can be defensively sound, when you watch the game from a defensive/tactical POV, you can see he leaves a lot of gaps due to his free roaming style of player. Each player has their purpose and for some games, a different midfield player is needed for a different style of play. While yes, Jurgen's defining tactic is his high pressing, we can play however we want to play, given each game. But, expect to see his high press back in action vs Man City this weekend. It's this sort of game that Liverpool's true colours show: like Barca at home, like Bayern away, like City home and away in the UCL, etc. As well, given the match is at Anfield, expect there to be one hell of a game. It'll be either incredibly close or Liverpool will blow them out of the water. That, I have no doubt

  20. Very gud video mate… Was wondering about the press as well… And this video gives proper light into the Liverpool situation… Thanks.. Keep it rolling.. 👍

  21. V interesting. Its one thing I have felt is a little frustrating when we play some big teams like Napoli & almost show too much respect. Was so evident that night the fullbacks never got forward. And so our usual system falls apart and team can't flourish. Hopefully numbers & outliers like that will be shown to Klopp & he'll be less cautious & more ruthless against the big teams.
    Fingers crossed that starts this sunday vs City!

  22. The key to Klopp's Liverpool is he is building a side whereby they have a multitude of tactics, formations, ways of playing to keep the opposition guessing. This is why I think Klopp doesn't get the recognition as a tactical genius. Liverpool now can play a high press, low press, containment, counter attacking etc pretty much any tactical formation/way of playing for every team they face. I can see him buy a really creative 10 in the summer to counter act the deep lying defences which will happen more often than not. Or a replacement for Bobby and maybe move him back deeper

  23. Salah is the problem. Too wasteful and rarely passes. Should be scoring 4 or 5 goals in a game with our shots on target and 70% possession

  24. Would love to see a video about Bayern Munich and what happened to them recently with Kovac's dismissal and how and why he failed.

  25. It is definitely costing them goals this season though. When they were able to turn the ball over in the final third and exploit the shambles that created in the opposition defense, they were able to score a boatload of goals. The new approach may be safer and a bit more pragmatic (and the results show that its working), but it definitely is making games a bit more difficult to put away

  26. Thank God! Finally back to the stuff i loved most about Tifo, actually talking football tactics and styles of players, teams, managers etc. Fan of knowledgeable history but its not fun. Plz do these more often like you use too. 😅

  27. Oxlade-Chamberlin could be the difference between them winning and losing the league imo. His goal contribution from midfield is going to be important against low block opponents.

  28. Furthermore, this are the stats after 11(?) games now. I'm pretty sure that the stats looked very similar after the same amount of games last season.

  29. Klopp is a master tactical manager. There are basically 2 things that change Liverpool pace, determination and style of press. The first one is that you can become predictable, when you play the same high press you have to adapt to specifically system. The second one and obviously the most important one, is that Klopp play with a specific amount of players (14-15) with some changes over and over. The gengen pressing or the Klopp high press is the most diffucult press ever, for the physical of the players. Klopp understand these two. That's why he is adapting in every game. Winning back the art of suprise.

  30. 4:00 " Liverpool are currently lacking midfielder who can push up and support attacks in half space". Wait what??? Nabi Kieta is the kind of player who doing this whenever he plays. He is actually naturally initiate Liverpool attacks.

  31. The other reason is pressing high onto weaker teams just make them lost the games. Weaker teams just don't want/know to hold the ball.

  32. Im watching liverpool match since i was a kid and not miss one. If you look at player like henderson, fabinho, vvd, arnold, milner, wijnaldum, robertson, firmino, mane and salah they all have strong physics and hardworking not a lazy player. Jurgen know who can compete into their tactical and that's why he always use strong player even their front three is strong and fast. That's make liverpool unstoppable and not too easy to beat. If you meet team like this you have to work really hard to beat them. Barcelona is a good team with a fantastic player but they don't have strong physics and their front three is lazy at defend. Congrates Klopp, you make Liverpool great again 👏🏻

  33. Klopp will go down as one of the best managers ever. He's shown that he can improve rapidly, and has never had his style stagnant for too long. All of this, while being a fantastic motivator and cultivator of skill, he truly pulls the best out of his players, and is very picky about the type of person he adds to his team, not just the type of player.

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