Sunday, November 22, 2015


Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool and the importance of ‘gegenpressing’ (Jonathan Wilson, 16 October 2015, The Guardian)

Who is the best playmaker in the world? While others squabble over individual players, Jürgen Klopp has no doubt. Nothing, he believes, creates more chances than gegenpressing.

It is his faith in that style and his ability to instil its principles in his players that allowed Borussia Dortmund to compete with far wealthier clubs. The system was able to negate the fact Bayern Munich were able to afford better individuals. The hope at Liverpool is he can have a similar impact in the Premier League. [...]

“The best moment to win the ball is immediately after your team just lost it,” Klopp has said. “The opponent is still looking for orientation where to pass the ball. He will have taken his eyes off the game to make his tackle or interception and he will have expended energy. Both make him vulnerable.”

In itself, perhaps that is not a particularly revelatory insight; where Klopp – and Pep Guardiola, who was also a pioneer of gegenpressing – were innovative was in how they took advantage of that realisation, pushing high up the pitch and co-ordinating how the hunt for the ball was conducted.

Most importantly, the team have to be compact. If there are spaces when a team presses, then it’s relatively easy for the opponent to thread passes through the gaps. That applies both vertically and laterally – Arrigo Sacchi, who pioneered pressing at Milan in the 1980s, spoke of an ideal of 25m from the most advanced player to the back four, while there is also a requirement for, say, the right-winger to move centrally when the ball is on the left. At Bayern, Guardiola has one of the training pitches divided into zones to help players work on their spacing. At Barça he operated a principle of “one and three”: when the ball is lost, one man goes straight to the ball and three race to the scene to try to cut out passing angles.

A team also have to understand when to stop pressing: the ball cannot be hunted relentlessly, partly because to do so is exhausting and partly because once that initial moment, when the opponent has gained possession has passed, it is not that difficult to hit a long ball into space behind the pressing defence (which is one of the reasons goalkeepers such as Víctor Valdés and Manuel Neuer, who can sweep behind their defence, are so valuable).

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard misjudged MLS, says Landon Donovan (Jamie Jackson, 18 November 2015, The Guardian)

Donovan, a former United States captain who played for Galaxy, Bayern Munich and Everton, said of Gerrard and Lampard: “They have been perceived well but it’s not easy. Sometimes people have this impression that you can go there and it will be easy – people from the outside. The players will tell you ––and I think Steven has spoken about it openly – it’s quite difficult. Not because there is more quality from Liverpool but it’s difficult to travel and the pace of the game is fast.”

Donovan, who retired in December 2014, added: “The Premier League is probably the fastest in the world but the pace [in the US] is faster than you realise. There are a lot of different issues so I think both of them will come back next year and be more prepared and make a much bigger impact.”

Saturday, March 21, 2015


How Liverpool FC 'reprogrammed' Jerome Sinclair ahead of first-team chance : Revealed: the intricacies of preparing a striker for a shot at the big time (James Pearce, 3/20/15, Liverpool Echo)

[F]or analysis purposes the penalty box is divided into five zones. The central area in front of goal is zone 1.

A line is then drawn from each post to the far corner of the box – creating 2R and 3R on the right as well as 2L and 3L on the left. Zone 2 is closer to the centre with zone 3 being where the angle for strikers is much more acute.

Jerome Sinclair and the areas goals are scored from

For a right-footer, the easier zone to score in should be 2R but prior to Christmas, Sinclair hadn’t scored once from that area. Reds staff were concerned that the kind of goals he had scored through the age groups simply aren’t netted at the highest level.

Saturday, March 7, 2015


Mario Balotelli agent says striker has never been asked to run before (The Telegraph, 3/07/15)

[H]is agent, Mino Raiola, has offered an insight into why his client has struggled by saying that the player has never before been asked to work as much as he is on Merseyside.

He is quoted in The Mirror as saying: "Mario has found a coach who asks him things that had never been requested of him, including the fact of running without the ball.

"Right now I think Mario makes a very interesting development for his career.

"This allows him to grow as a person and as a footballer. He will come out even stronger. He is proud of the Liverpool team and that is most important."

Monday, March 2, 2015


Stunning Jordan Henderson captaincy stat! Great news for Liverpool fans (talkSPORT, March 2, 2015)

So far this season, Henderson has started a match as captain 12 times and his record over the course of those matches is pretty close to flawless – won nine and drawn three – with Liverpool yet to suffer defeat under his stewardship.

Sunday, February 22, 2015


Javier Mascherano – the last great Argentine hero (Juan D'Angelo, 2/22/15, Backpage Football)

Silent hero, a born leader, the mood engine of the team. These are just a few adjectives that the press has been used to qualify Javier throughout his career.

Surely Marcelo Bielsa saw what Almeyda did at the time, because in June 2003, and before Mascherano had even played a single game as a professional for his club River Plate, the “Jefecito” debuted internationally for Argentina in a friendly against his Uruguayan counterparts.

From that moment, Javier built a career worthy of a legend. From his first steps in River Plate up to these days in Barcelona, where he is a fundamental part of one of the best teams in history, “Masche” turned into a leader and a reference for his teammates.

One of its early discoverers, the Argentine coach Jorge Solari, said that,when he saw Javier in action during a match played in the small town of San Lorenzo (the hometown of a Mascherano) he was surprised by the commanding voice of that young boy.

The leadership shown by Mascherano is not based on intimidation and fear, as it was with Vinnie Jones and the “Crazy Gang” of Wimbledon. The Argentine midfielder is the example of everything good that should be a professional football player.

Javier gives everything in every workout, play every game like a final, is correct to the press without being condescending and, most importantly, knows when he should be a leading player and when it should remain in the background. the defensive midfielder who's so aggressive he's always one second away from a red card.  If Arsenal had such a player they'd have won some titles the past few years.

Monday, February 9, 2015


Jordon Ibe illuminates stalemate in Steven Gerrard’s final derby day (Andy Hunter, 2/09/15, The Guardian)

The 19-year-old signed from Wycombe Wanderers excelled on his surprise derby debut, only his second league start for Liverpool, carrying the threat to Everton throughout, striking a post with a venomous drive from 20 yards and almost capitalising on Sterling’s deflected shot across the goalmouth.

For 26 minutes Liverpool’s forward line contained Ibe, Sterling and the returning Daniel Sturridge. It’s a prospect that should alert Roy Hodgson and it reflects Rodgers’ inherent belief that British-born talent is not technically inferior to its continental counterparts. “Maybe I have too much belief in young players,” he admitted. “But part of me thinks you never know until you throw in a young player and it doesn’t matter what the game is. This is a real springboard for Jordon Ibe. I would have no qualms about playing Jordon now and there is no greater pressure than a Goodison game with that intensity and he was obviously man of the match. [...]

Liverpool’s clean sheet was the first time they have kept four in a row in the league under Rodgers and featured another commanding performance from Emre Can. 


How Philippe Coutinho became the key in Liverpool FC's 3-4-2-1 formation (Kristian Walsh, 2/09/15, Liverpool Echo)

The contrast before and after Liverpol’s switch in tactics – and therefore, Coutinho’s switch in position - is stark. Most notable of all is how the midfielder managed to create just five chances in 12 appearances before 3-4-2-1, but is now on 23 created in just nine; zero assists have transformed into four.

His shooting accuracy has also improved – 57% now, 45% then – having taken eight more shots at goal in three fewer games, though he’s scored the same number of goals (1).

His passing has not been as accurate, although he averages more passes now; an explanation also comes with the sort of passes he’s making.

In a more advanced position, he is taking risks and looking to feed his team-mates, rather than the risk-averse style which crippled his style earlier in the season. That is evidenced in his pass length also lengthening in the 3-4-2-1, as well as making six successful through balls – five more than he managed in his first 12 games.

He has also produced more successful dribbles (31 v 29) with a better success rate, and is fouled far more now in his advanced position.

The 3-4-2-1 is a curious system. At its optimum, it is a phenomenal mix of control and attacking balance - but if some key components are missing, replicating previous performances could prove difficult.

Coutinho is one of those players who turn the system into a winning one. His pressing is excellent, as his ability to find little pockets of space between defence and midfield – something this position allows him to do often.

He also has plenty of options in front of him. The striker, usually Sterling but soon to be Sturridge, is available; there will also his attacking midfield partner to his right. The wide men also push forward, as does one of the central midfielders. Coutinho fills his boots, and fires them towards the ball.

The space this movement creates also allows him to move further up the pitch. Coutinho is at his most dangerous close to goal. He has been tasked with improving in front of goal, but when his sights are locked on players to pass to, he is a dead-eyed sharpshooter.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Guilty Because Charged (THEODORE DALRYMPLE|, 1/22/15, Liberty & Law)

Even the most thoroughgoing of penological liberals, I have noticed, has a category of crime – a favourite of sorts, I suppose – that he thinks ought to be severely punished. However much he may deny that punishment is justified, morally or practically, for other crimes, the crime he has selected as being of special heinousness deserves only the most condign punishment. All other crimes may in his opinion merit, and be susceptible only to, explanation and understanding, but this crime must, for moral reasons, be treated with exemplary harshness.

At present in Britain the crime selected by penological liberals for special severity is rape. While they are perfectly happy for other criminals to be treated with leniency, and are fierce in their support for every conceivable protection for the accused, they find the sentences given to rapists to be totally, even ludicrously, inadequate, and sometimes argue for a different standard of proof to secure conviction of the accused. The presumption of innocence ought in this case be abandoned or at least diluted; and because in this crime there can be no smoke without fire, they are distressed that so many cases end in acquittal.

This vengefulness, so ill-assorted with the rest of the penological liberal’s outlook, was succinctly expressed in an article in the normally liberal British newspaper, the Guardian, in a recent article about the case of Ched Evans. [...]

After his release on parole from prison, Evans tried to resume his lucrative professional footballing career. The football club for which he had played at the time of his conviction, Sheffield United, initially took him back, but public reaction was so negative that it soon reversed its decision. Another club, Oldham Athletic, agreed to take him on, but again reaction was negative and some members of the public sent menacing messages, including threats (here one can only admire the fineness of the logic) to rape the wives of some of the staff if he were employed.

Penological liberals would probably be outraged if, for example, a released murderer were refused access to the airwaves or permission to publish a book on the grounds that he was a murderer. But most of them would be equally outraged if a convicted rapist were permitted to resume playing football. Rape is thus a more serious offence than murder, or football a more important activity than broadcasting or writing.

However, it was the last paragraph of the article in the Guardian that struck me as deeply sinister. It read in part: Whether or not [his appeal] is successful, Ched Evans has a great deal more to do before he can find acceptance again as a professional footballer…

In other words, he is guilty even if he is found innocent. So the penological liberal adopts the great principle of totalitarian jurisprudence: guilty because charged.

Why even let prisoners out after their sentence if no one can employ them?

Saturday, January 17, 2015


Exciting times for Liverpool fans: How lightning quick attackers could fit in to the Reds' team (Carl Robinson, January 16, 2015, Talk Sport)

For those who didn’t witness the striker emerge at the World Cup, Origi is very athletic and uses his explosive acceleration to beat defenders trying to face him down one on one.

Origi has scored five goals for club and country this season – one goal more than Sturridge, Balotelli and Lambert have managed for the Reds so far this campaign.

Along with his two assists for the season, Origi can play either as the main striker or cutting in from either flank.

Rodgers will look to use this versatility in combination with the returning Daniel Sturridge.

Origi will add power and pace to a front line that will leave defenders looking foolish in their wake.
Like Origi, Ibe has been gaining valuable experience on loan, notching up five goals and two assists for Derby County this season with some scintillating performances.

It is these performances that have led to Rodgers recalling the 19-year-old with a first-team role in mind.

Ibe has impressed more than just Rodgers, with Derby manager Steve McClaren saying: ““We wanted to bring players here who can get the crowd on the edge of their seats when they pick the ball up. That is what Jordon has done. He has lit us up when he has played.”

Rodgers may well look to add Ibe to an attacking four that will include Sturridge, Raheem Sterling and Origi.

Raheem Sterling's greatest gift is his unmatchable speed, which is wasted at the point of attack.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


Pick these players Rodgers! The stars Liverpool are more likely to win with (Talk Sport, 1/14/15)

3. Jordan Henderson has the third highest win rate percentage (45 per-cent) in the Premier League of Liverpool’s players this season [...]

2. Emre Can and Javier Manquillo have been on the winning side in 50 per-cent of the Premier League games they have featured in so far this season.  [...]

1. Lucas Leiva – 63.6 per-cent of Premier League matches won this season

There was a great statistical analysis a couple years ago showing that if you wanted to replace Stephen Gerrard, two of the players most like him in the world are Lucas and Joe Allen.