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5 Things Learned from Jürgen Klopp's First Game at Liverpool

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5 Things Learned from Jürgen Klopp's First Game at Liverpool

Shaun Cordingley

To me, there is not a lot of value in immediately commenting on what was learned from one game, as it is hard to get an overall sense of things, nor is it particularly easy to do it when you are watching a game live. Having re-watched the Liverpool FC v. Tottenham now and actually thought about what I saw on the screen, here are the five things that stood out the most to me, sitting here 7056 km away from the pitch:

1) Brendan Rodgers & The Transfer Committee Weren't Completely Crazy...

With Benteke, Firmino, Flanagan, Gomez, Henderson, Ings, Rossiter & Sturridge missing, LFC were still able to compete at a high level with a team that should be competing near the top of the table, in their stadium, and keeping the first clean sheet since August. Admittedly the play in the final third, aside from a couple of chances (primarily by 20 year old, 4th choice striker Origi) was lacking, the defensive capabilities were in full display, particularly by Mamadou Sakho.

2) Except in the heart of the defense.

Thank goodness Sakho is getting to start consistently; his strength, pace, shot-blocking and decisiveness was on full display at White Hart Lane on Saturday. The other side, there are questions. Personally, I have never been as anti-Skrtel as a bulk of the LFC fanbase seems to be, however I do hesitate at the idea of him starting as the full-time Center Back next to Sakho.  There is a hesitancy is his game, perhaps from the loss of a step, that is making him less decisive and prone to getting caught at the back. He is still quite good in the air, but watching how uncomfortable he looks on the ball is worrisome. 

Unfortunately, LFC do not, at present, appear to have a lot of viable options to put in the middle of defense: Lovren has never looked altogether since his move to Anfield, and the only other option (if pressed) appears to be an player out of position (more on this in a second), or the now out-for-the-season Gomez.

Here's a few names I desperately miss....even this era's Skrtel

Here's a few names I desperately miss....even this era's Skrtel

Whomever was sitting on the committee thinking "yeah, we are fine" is kidding themselves.  Knocking on wood furiously, what was the plan should another player get injured? With only 3 "viable" options (and one super young, unproven option in Gomez, whom I would like to see get a chance next to Sakho in future), there is a severe lack of foresight/thought/understanding what they have here.

3) Apparently, Players Like Being in Their Natural Positions

This should not have to be a point. The fact that this is a point explains part of what was so wrong with what was happening under Brendan Rodgers.

Now true, Milner was forced into playing something of a wing role Saturday, due to injuries (and I believe partially to do with a short bench needing to play Europa League against Ruban Kazan on Thursday, and back in action in the Premier League Sunday) as opposed to his favored, central role, however, it is a position he frequented for Manchester City...and Milner is something of a workhorse regardless of where he plays. However, is a point that is made abundantly clear by the play of this guy:

Perhaps the greatest Commons photo I could've found of Emre Can...

Perhaps the greatest Commons photo I could've found of Emre Can...

Finally.  FINALLY the player that I remembered from watching Bayer 04 Leverkusen (and occasionally when not out of position for DFB) was on the field for LFC. Emre Can is a central midfielder, who will play box-to-box, and run the other team into the ground. Watching (and re-watching) Can in Saturday's game against Spurs was like watching a completely new player.  He was absolutely everywhere on the pitch, both pushing forward and in defending.  There was a moment in the second half where I am pretty sure Can ran the entire field twice in about 2 minutes.

Now when all of the injured players return, it remains to be seen whether Can will be kept in this role, but it is pretty obvious that he is better suited to this then playing in the back four.

While it was not just apparent in watching Emre Can, his was the best example, and hopefully something that will continue. .

4) Gegenpressing or Counter-Pressing Will Take Time But Seems to Fit

To play Klopp's preferred system of gegenpressing, his team needs to be in spectacular shape. Getting the players to fitness (and returning the injured into training) is going to take time, because this up-tempo style requires a team to run, followed by run, and then run some more, as no opposition player is left on the ball for long without pressure.

This also requires LFC to adapt to playing in a new, cohesive shape that allows for the team to be compact and maintain the chance to break,  Considering Klopp and his staff had 3 days with the team in training, the structure is already beginning to show. Let's be fair, after what we had been seeing this season, any structure, particularly on defense, is appreciated, and there is already something to be seen in Saturday's game, even if it is only a beginning.

Taking a look at the opening 20 minutes on Saturday and, even with all the injuries, it was great to get a taste of what the new identity of this team could be, and seeing that pressure put stress on Spurs, and create a few chances was a sight for sore eyes.

5) "It's time to work" 

I have watched Bundesliga for years, and if there is one thing that Klopp has always seemed, it is that he is passionate and genuine when it comes to football, and that his players love him. He is never one to put himself out in front of the media, but has become something of a media darling thanks to his candid excitement, clear messages and gigantic grin. Having a manager who has such a proven track record when it comes to finding, developing and nurturing talent is something that LFC has not had...well as long as I have been a fan.

What is going to be fascinating is to see what happens as LFC develops into a Klopp team, and more players return from injury.  I am looking forward to seeing this group develop together and adapt to a style suited to the way they play best, as Klopp has always coached to. The problems in the final third that have plagued Liverpool since Suarez's departure are still there (hopefully some injury-free time from forwards will help...), however there we have seen the briefest of glimpses of what can happen with this team. 

Hopefully there will be time to see what they have, in all positions, with no further catastrophic injuries, so that come the January transfer window, what is needed, and who can go is clear. Perhaps even bringing back Lazar Markovic early from his (absurd) loan and trying him in position...

Now that the Klopp regime has started, we the Liverpool fans, need to remove all expectations (hard, yes, but not impossible), take our heads out of the past, and give Klopp and co. space and time, to develop and mold this team to where it needs to be, and look forward to the future.

-S (@Shauncord)