It took no-one by surprise that Liverpool bounced back from defeat at Leicester with a victory against Arsenal. It has been the theme of the season for Klopp’s men; impressive results against the top sides and momentum killing disappointment against the bottom teams.
There is much speculation to why this is the case. The first team acquits themselves with distinction against their peers – so we know they are capable players. The conclusion is it is a poor mindset, or tiredness, or a lack of recruitment, or having no Plan B.
At this point in the season most teams have a week or more to prepare for each game. When Liverpool face a team that have been preparing for 7 days to shut down their high pressing system they seem slow to respond and lacking ideas.
The truth is many things combine to make it harder for the Reds. Good recruitment is the starting place to address all these issues but the transfer window remains shut for these final games of the season. Sticking with the same starting eleven and game plan is not working. So how can Klopp use his squad to create some surprises and variation to conquer the lower ranked sides?
He could start by using the strikers. Origi and Sturridge have both proved themselves capable at this level but Klopp doesn’t trust their work rate. While that makes sense against Chelsea or Spurs you can let that go against a team who wants to sit back and catch you on the break. When center backs have prepared to face Firmino or Lallana and are met with Origi or Sturridge it makes them change their game plan. Why not try both? If it’s not working you can always revert to the plan A with no striker.
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Klopp could also try utilizing the left side more often. Currently Liverpool have no threat down the left hand side. This allows the opposition’s right-sided players to pressure makeshift left back James Milner and double up on their left against Sadio Mane. The opposition are able to target a weakness and neutralize a strength. By attacking the left side more often it will create room for the midfielders to operate in the same way they are able to against the bigger sides who typically leave more space.
None of Liverpool’s starters suit a left-sided attacking role. All of them drift inside when deployed out wide, clogging up the midfield. While Liverpool fans may recoil at the idea the most able player to fulfil that role is derided left back Albert Moreno. He is clearly not a long-term option but playing him in attack does not expose his defensive shortcomings. In fact Klopp has tried this from time to time late in games. He needs the courage to implement it from the start to relieve pressure from Milner and Mane.
Until reinforcements can be acquired Klopp is going to have to throw some variation into the mix. Otherwise that coveted Champion League spot will quickly fade from view.