Big change at Liverpool… A look at Klopp’s new defensive approach

Jurgen Klopp’s feet are firmly under the table at Anfield, so let’s take a look at the defensive structure of Liverpool under the German and how it differs from what we saw during Brendan Rodgers’ reign. We all know that under Rodgers Liverpool, despite having one of the best attacks in the world (during the 2013-14 season), were defensively vulnerable. Through the campaign in question the 101 goals scored were countered by a whopping 50 against, which, perhaps, undermined their title chances. They finished second due to their attacking prowess of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, but the following season saw both absent (the Uruguayan sold and the Englishman perennially injured), robbing Rodgers of the major weapon at his disposal. Liverpool finished sixth, with group stage exit from Champions League and no silverware. 2015/16 started reasonably well and Rodgers emphasised defensive improvements. However, we cannot take a detailed look at defensive structure of Liverpool under the Northern Irishman this term, instead we will have a look at Liverpool’s defensive foundation so far under Klopp.

Defensive Setup: Overview

  • Both full-backs (Nathaniel Clyne and Alberto Moreno) are first and foremost defenders before they become attacking options.
  • Neither of them start in very high positions, but look to make overlapping runs and play a flowing game from the wide positions.
  • Centre-backs (Martin Skrtel and Mamadou Sakho) do not split much, rather they remain very compact. If they do wander, then a defensive midfielder, usually Lucas, drops in between them.
  • Playing out of defence is not longer a necessity for Liverpool – they have mixed it up with direct balls to Benteke.

Centre-Backs

Looking firstly at how their possession, they either play wide to the full-backs so that they can make that attacking run or play directly to one of forward players – Benteke’s presence helps them to play more directly.

Skrtel and Sakho now don’t play much between themselves and are more keen on getting the game rolling with more purposeful passing. Sakho seems happy in moving few yards up and trying for a new passing lane to build attacks.

This further movement of Sakho can sometimes induce errors, though. Stepping out of the defensive line to make an offensive-minded pass or make an early challenge requires good game-reading and he needs to make sure that there is sufficient cover behind him. For now, Sakho has impressed and whenever he tends to get caught, Lucas comes behind as a cover.

Skrtel is the kind of player who tends to drop deeper and be more defensive in his play. In that respect he is a perfect partner for Sakho and sometimes he can cover the Frenchman by coming to the left side and asking Lucas or Clyne to fill in for him.

Full-backs

As I noted earlier, the full-backs’ starting positions are a little deeper, and they will look to make overlapping runs to boost attacking options. Both Moreno and Clyne’s initial job is to stay compact and try to stop crosses, but Klopp demands that they’re an outlet when attacks start.

Moreno has genuine pace, which enables him to start few yards ahead of Clyne because he has the capacity to track back when required. Sakho, when he plays the ball wide, often looks for Moreno. Clyne on the other hand is more compact and although he offers little less going forward, he is still very good at his primary task: defending.

All in all, the defensive structure already looks better under Klopp than it was through Rodgers’ era. Liverpool, after a long time, look like a team that can rely on their defence in big games and appear more likely to hold a lead.