Allardyce is right to praise direct play, but that doesn’t define Klopp’s squad

Heading into their mid-season break, Liverpool find themselves at the top of the Premier League after creating a 22-point gap between themselves and their closest rivals, defending champions Manchester City.

They must be doing something right.

The truth is, they do a lot of things right, all at the same time. Especially when it comes to their plan (s) of attack.

For opposition analysts, a team whose attacking style can be easily defined is one that is easier to prepare for, while a team that has several effective ways to break down a defense may be. almost impossible to predict.

Just as an NFL team must establish a passing game to make room for the running game, and vice versa, an association football team that uses a plan of attack before suddenly hitting the opponent with something else, a defense can surprise.

Liverpool’s tactics when they don’t have the ball can be more easily defined than when they do.

Even though there is a lot more pressure and back pressure than it seems at first glance (pulling the triggers, traps, spacing, and knowing when to retrieve form, etc.), c is their main characteristic when out of possession.

Intense counter-press which seeks to retrieve the ball at the top of the field to launch an attack near the goal in the transition, when the opposition is least prepared to defend.

In attack, Liverpool were forced to mix things up. Many teams come to Anfield with the sole intention of setting up camp in the defensive third and challenging Liverpool to pass them.

When that happens, the easiest thing to do is hold onto possession, pass it around defense and midfield, but often do nothing with it. The challenge is to break through that low block, and Liverpool have more than one way to do it.

Part of this shot includes long passes or long balls. Although definitions vary, Jürgen Klopp’s team always does both.

WhoScored’s definition of “long ball” is: “An attempted / accurate pass of 25 yards or more. “

This does not include crosses as they have a separate definition: “An attempted / accurate pass from a wide position to a central attacking zone.”

The data below, from WhoScored, shows Liverpool are fourth in the league when it comes to the total number of long balls played (long balls and long passes are one and the same in this data), but are 16th regarding the percentage of passes classified as long balls.

There is nothing wrong with Liverpool playing long balls. Particularly as a counter-press team, it might actually be advantageous to occasionally create turnovers in the opposing half of the field.

As Sam Allardyce pointed out in a recent interview with the Daily mail, they play the long ball game better than anyone.

“Liverpool are playing the long ball very well from right to left, and very quickly,” Allardyce said. “But no one will say Liverpool are playing a long ball.

“You wouldn’t hear [Sky commentator] Martin Tyler says it because it would be frowned upon. You have to be careful not to say that Liverpool are playing a long ball. But it’s like that.

“They play exceptionally well and better than anyone. And that’s why they do it.

As Allardyce hints at, referring to a style of play it is often associated with, any mention of the phrase “long ball” can have negative connotations.

Long-ball football is seen as negative in today’s football landscape where “playing the right way” conjures up images of a certain style of football.

These visualizations are crisp, quick and short passes with all the players having time on the ball, and all of them play a part in the perfect movement, which hopefully results in the perfect goal, similar to the one Liverpool have. almost scored against Southampton last week, only for Mohamed Salah flagged for offside.

Much of this is due to Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, who at Barcelona combined influences from Johan Cruyff, Juanma Lillo and Marcelo Bielsa to produce one of the most attractive incarnations of the beautiful game.

But possession for the sake of possession, as some seem to have misinterpreted Guardiola’s style, is not an attractive way to play football and is not efficient.

At worst, a possession game can be boring, stale, and placid; and may produce errors which lead to better odds for the opposition than it creates for the team playing such a style.

Guardiola’s teams were as focused on penetrating the final third through expert dribblers (Lionel Messi was helpful) and visionary passers (Xavi and Andres Iniesta were helpful) who could fake defenses in an instant, as they were on the accumulation game further.

Catalan side Manchester City have played the second-shortest longest ball in the league this season but, as shown below, they have the greatest accuracy with their long passes. Perhaps this is because City are playing their long balls across the pitch and into space (which Liverpool do as well), rather than directly and into traffic (which Liverpool do).

Liverpool can play the possession game as well as anyone, and some of their moves leave viewers in awe, but it’s possession with a goal.

When it comes to other weapons in Liverpool’s arsenal, no Premier League outfield player has made more imprecise passes than his right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold.

This is in part due to the number of crosses he attempts, but also another common tactic used by Liverpool which is to see full-backs send long balls down the line or into the channels so that one Sadio Mané or Mohamed Salah continues.

Andy Robertson’s Smarterscout map, which shows what kind of action the player takes and where they’re taking them from, is a perfect example of this.

From his own half he tends to throw long passes, indicated by the predominantly yellow squares, but in the opposing half he will connect with the attack by playing shorter and more complex passes as he approaches the edge. from the area, before attempting crosses once closer. to the signature.

Once those long back balls are played, if Salah or Mané manage to win the ball, so much the better, they can use the skills that saw them elected among the top five players in the world to attempt to produce a piece of magic in a attempt. to create a goal.

If the defense manages to get the ball back, great, then Liverpool can counterpress, which they do better than any other team in the world.

It’s a win-win situation. It’s a long bullet, and it shouldn’t be laughed at.

“The best clubs have different ways of beating you,” Allardyce added, and Liverpool definitely fall into that bracket.

This team will attack from everywhere, in any way they can. They will even attack by counter-pressing when they don’t have the ball, making sure opposing teams always have to be on their toes and can’t rest for a minute.

This offensive variation is one of the reasons Liverpool are European champions, world champions and currently lead the Premier League by a huge margin.

They can’t be categorized as a longball team, but it’s not wrong to say that they play the longball game when they need it. This should not be taken as a criticism or a negative.

Liverpool are not just a longball team, they are probably the best longball team in the world, but that doesn’t define them. Far from there.

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