EPL: Liverpool v Leicester match analysis

Opening of new main stand at Anfield Road and record attendance since 70s was a perfect stage for Liverpool clash with holding champions Leicester. Both teams had a shaky start to the season and found themselves in the wrong half of the table before the game. This fact made an already important match even bigger as both managers wanted to get on track and catch up with top teams.

Claudio Ranieri plugged the hole that opened when Nampalys Mendy got injured with Daneiel Amartey. Surprisingly, he omitted striker Islam Slimani who was signed for 30M. Luckily, Kasper Schmeichel recovered from hernia injury and was back to form a line up that won the Premiership last season. Without Kante obviously.

Although there is nothing new in way how Leicester plays this season, high tempo direct football with lots of long balls to Vardy, Klopp decided to replace injured Dejan Lovren (and Ragnar Klavan) with rather small Lucas Leiva in center of defence to cope with those high balls. Additionally, he also left out Moreno, probably to give him a rest after a tough spell he went through in recent matches. His replacement, though, was another surprise. A formidable and versatile midfielder James Milner but a player who probably can’t remember when he played left back last time. Despite a gamble with Milner, Klopp’s judgement proved to be very sound as intelligent professional Milner did his job to the highest level despite being up against Riyad Mahrez.

 

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Despite Leicester defence seems positioned perfectly, they fail to shift ball side fast enough which creates a gap between Simpson and Morgan that is exploited by Firmino to break the dead lock

Above you can see How disciplined and well positioned Leicester is in defensive phase. It is their strength from last season. However, there is a dire mistake in their positioning even if they seem to be as compact as ever. Notice the ball in the feet of Lucas Leiva, he is already in the left half space and Okazaki fails to close him down to give his team mates time to shift to the left. A quick ball to Millner finds Leicester compact defence on wrong foot.

This calls for a quick, chaotic, shift from Simpson who goes to close down Milner. However, as Sturridge is keeping Morgan occupied, this gives precious window of split second for Firmino to run into the gap between Simpson and Morgan. Another key player here is Milner who can execute a perfect right footed curled pass into space for Firmino that would be extremely difficult for left footed player and Liverpool breaks the dead lock in 14th minute.

From then on, Liverpool has all the confidence and although Leicester isn’t playing poor, Liverpool is simply brilliant moving on and off the ball.

 

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Again, Leicester defence is set up decently. However, they fail to cope with great off the ball movement from their opponents and Wijnaldum has all the time to pass. Even to change the point of attack through Clyne on the right wing.

 

Above you can see Wijnaldum in possession and despite Leicester being set up in good defensive block, Liverpool midfielder still has time and space to safely pass the ball towards one of his open team mates. If you take a closer look at positioning of Liverpool players you can see they are set up to break the opposition by quickly passing through them while Clyne is keeping change of point of attack as an option. This is normally not enough to break such a formidable defence. However, off ball movement of home team combined with flair made it possible for Liverpool to completely dominate the first half.

It wasn’t only offensive phase where Liverpool excelled in a match against holding champions. The way they played without the ball was as much important for control of the game since they prevented any threat to their own goal.

 

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Liverpool didn’t only play well on the ball, but their defensive work prevented all the dangerous passes forward. Leicester had only 47 per cent of completed forward passes during the first half.

Above you can see a chart of forward passes Leicester has made in first half. Only 47 percent of those found their target and literally none of them was into the dangerous positions. The problem Leicester has, and will have throughout the season if they don’t change something significantly, is they have no plan “B”. Direct, high tempo passing to Mahrez and Vardy can work as long as the defence manages to keep the clean sheet and opposition keeps attacking. Once Liverpool established complete control of the match Ranieri’s side had obvious trouble getting into any kind of scoring position. It took a poor touch from Lucas Leiva, a horrible sideways pass to Mignolet, to get Leicester back into the game and give them courage they could still do something.

The second half saw much more engaged Leicester that was closing down well but as time passed and they committed more men forward Liverpool was always more dangerous from counter attacks and in the end they punished the guests twice more to see out the match. While Leicester has serious problem in lack of different approach to their normal long ball, Liverpoo has shown the glimpses of a team they could and will be by the end of the season. At this phase they still remind of Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle of mid 90s when they were chasing title by outscoring their opponents. As Newcastle back then, Liverpool at the moment is joy to watch when they are on the ball. However, they still lack consistency to keep their defensive game for 90 minutes but since they don’t need to chase European glory, they will surely have time to work on that as well.

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EPL: Arsenal v Liverpool 3:4 – Analysis

No doubt Arsenal and Liverpool played a match of the season at the Emirates on Sunday. It remains to be seen how long this title will hold, however. Season opener is always a tricky affair as no one wants to lose, luckily, both teams went for a win and the match didn’t disappoint.
Arsene Wenger had some tough time deciding the starting line up as he was missing six players. Welbeck, Mertersacker and Gabriel were injured while Oezil, Giroud and Koscielny are still not in shape after EURO. In defence he had little to chose and new signing Rob Holding made a début paired with unproven Calum Chambers. Only real surprise was on left wing where another unproven player, Alex Iwobi, took place ahead of Oxlade-Chamberlain in the starting line up. All in all, Wenger was forced to pick severely weakened central defender pairing while deliberately sidelineing Oxlade-Chamberlaine.

Similar problems in defence had Juergen Klopp who was missing new signing Joel Matip due to injury while Mammadou Sakho was out of squad for breaching the discipline during the pre-season. Last year’s starters James Milner and Daniel Sturridge were also missing. However, unlike Wenger, Klopp did his shopping during the summer and had new signings Ragnar Klavan, Georginio Wijnaldum and Sadio Mane to replace injured players. By the end of the match it will prove decisive as all players that made a début for Liverpool proved crucial for victory over Arsenal.

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No doubt Juergen Klopp was very angry as poor positioning from Moreno undones whole concept of controlled transition into middle third

As expected, both teams opted for high pressing game from early on. You can see above four Arsenal players locking down six Liverpool players which lead to a lot of problems for visiting team. At times Liverpool had trouble getting out of their defensive zone having to rely on long clearances more than Klopp had hoped for. This might be the reason Wenger went for Iwobi instead of Oxlade-Chamberlain as Nigerian is much harder worker thus more useful chasing down opposition defence. Whole lock down on above screenshot is down to Alberto Moreno who is way too central congesting the space and making it easier for Walcott to mark himself and Klavan. As this is not bad enough, his poor positioning clogs the midfield as Wijnaldum is directly affected by Moreno’s positioning so he is restricted to occupy more central position as well.

Wijnaldum’s role, as well as Henderson’s is to drop deeper when Liverpool is pressed high and help them establish numerical advantage to transition the ball from defensive into middle third. Whole Klopp’s idea gets destroyed by poor positioning from left back.

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When out of pressing Liverpool organized transition with four players in a square. While full backs maintain the width, wingers go central

While high pressing triggers Wijnaldum’s and Henderson’s runs deep, deeper opposition triggers forward runs from full backs as you can see above. Liverpool has a solid base of two centre backs and two midfielders who create a box to control the transition into middle half of the pitch with numerical advantage. While width is achieved by pushing the full backs high, wingers Coutinho and Mane get into central positions to occupy the centre backs. This image also tells an important role Firmino plays for Klopp. He has relatively free role to roam left and right.

As match progressed in deeper in the first half Arsenal scored after Henderson lost the ball deep into his half to Alex Iwobi who assisted Walcott. Five minutes after the goal were best football Arsenal offered in the match with crisp passing and quick runs from central players, particularly Aaron Ramsey. However, Liverpool regained their composure and put their foot on the game rather quickly. After a masterful free kick in the injury time they were back and second half looked very promising.

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If you compare this screenshot with the one above you will find a lot of similarities. It shows basic idea of free roaming central forward and overload on left side of the pitch

Although Liverpool pressed high in first half, they did it with even more energy after the second half had begun. Only four minutes into the second half comes the moment Klopp will be especially happy about. As you can see in picture above, Liverpool positioning in attacking third is very much same as in second still shot, albeit on the left side of the pitch this time. Free roaming Firmino changes places with Coutinho and passes him a ball from left into the central area. Coquelin and Elmeny fail to close him down and Chambers is forced to leave the defensive line opening space behind. Skilful pass finds Wijnaldum who exploits that space and Liverpool is through. Subsequent cross from Wijnaldum finds his partner in midfield and Lallana who scores with great finish.

Although skills to pull the move off are down to players, the move itself is conceived and done by Klopp on training pitch. At that point Liverpool stole the ball from Arsenal and controlled the game completely. While Arsenal tried to get back with more pressing Klopp’s team employed more direct balls and threatened even further. Quarter of an hour later they were three goals clear of hosts and it looked like the match was over.

Despite the fact Arsenal managed to get two goals back, Liverpool wasn’t really in danger of letting points go. Well, it was, but not from well executed team play by Arsenal. In conclusion, Liverpool showed they play as a team more than Arsenal does at this early stage. Also, the quality of players Klopp brought in, compared to those Wenger could muster together, was too much for London team.