Remember when Liverpool drew 1-1 with Rubin Kazan last week? Well we were supposed to play the return leg last night but we couldn’t as Rubin Kazan don’t exist anymore. Instead the Reds went up against the newly re-branded FC Rubin; the same team to all intents and purposes, but with a different name.
A different name, yes, but the same old playing style. FC Rubin were happy to try to get a draw against a Liverpool side that were keen to dominate and push their opponents to the limit. When the Merseysiders went 1-0 up through Jordan Ibe’s goal everything seemed rosy, but a spate of 1-1 draws of late meant things were never as comfortable as we wanted them to be.
Here we’re looking at a couple of the talking points from last night, discussing the most obvious of factors that led to the Reds’ win and the 3rd win in a row for Jurgen Klopp’s men. If you think we’ve missed something or you don’t agree with the points we’ve picked on then be sure to drop us a line. You can leave a comment beneath the piece or else send us a tweet. We’re keen to hear from you!
The Klopp Effect
Team’s often have a ‘bounce’ when new managers join them, everyone knows that. So in some respects it shouldn’t be too surprising that the Reds have hit a run of good form since the arrival of Jurgen Klopp to the Anfield dugout.
Yet the way things have gone so far suggest that this is something more than merely a ‘bounce’ on the back of a new appointment. After all it’s not as if things exploded immediately upon the enigmatic German’s arrival. His first game was a 0-0 draw against Spurs at White Hart Lane, his second was that 1-1 home draw against Kazan that we mentioned before, and his third was another 1-1 home draw against Southampton in the league.
Football is, above all else, a game based on results. How you interpret those results will ultimately dictate how you feel about things, with Jurgen Klopp’s three home draws in a row taken as a sign of solidity being re-introduced to Merseyside, whilst the two draws and a win that preceded them when Rodgers were in charge were seen as being symptomatic of the malaise that had set in at Anfield.
Some fans were criticised for suggesting that some of Brendan Rodgers’ soundbites were somewhat Shankly-esque, but it’s difficult to talk of Liverpool managers without being acutely aware of the history that lies before them. Inevitably, then, Jurgen Klopp’s stats were going to be looked at in comparison with other managers that have sat in the Anfield hot seat and this one will give Kopites a reason to feel optimistic about things moving forward: Since 1959 only Bob Paisley has a longer unbeaten run from the start of his managerial tenure (8 games) than Jurgen Klopp’s 6 matches.
The new manager doesn’t want to re-write history, of course. If anything he’d probably quite like to re-create it, and a good performance in a European competition is one of the best ways he can get started on that front. Last night’s win was the first time an English club has won a match so far east in a UEFA competition. It beat the previous record held by Spurs in their win over Makhachkala. Not exactly anything to write on the CV, but impressive nonetheless.
The reality is that Klopp IS having an effect on everyone associated with Liverpool Football Club. The players seem to have an extra bounce in their step; the fans are loving every moment that the manager does…well anything at all, really. Just have a look on Twitter for the amount of RTs given to a GIF of the new gaffer shout “IBEEEE” at the goalscorer after the match last night.
On the pitch there are definite changes taking place, too. We’ll talk about the defensive side of things in a minute, but mentality-wise is where arguably the biggest change has come. In the game against Chelsea last weekend the players didn’t let their heads drop after they conceded an early goal, whilst last night they didn’t become disheartened when their attacking play wasn’t resulting in the deadlock being broken.
Against FC Rubin, away in a European match, the Reds managed 23 shots to the home team’s 7. 6 of Liverpool’s shots were on target, 0 of Rubin’s were. There were 13 shots from within the opposition’s box as opposed to the 4 we allowed in our box. Liverpool had 66% possession. If you don’t think that those stats are reflective of how well Liverpool seem to be playing under their new manager then you may never be convinced.
Liverpool attempted 274 final third passes vs Rubin, with only 13 from their own half. Penned ’em in. pic.twitter.com/BpLlaOogCH
— Andrew Beasley (@BassTunedToRed) November 6, 2015
Then again, after three hours of football Liverpool had taken 58 shots compared to the Russian side’s 12, with the scoreline being just 2-1, so perhaps you may feel that Klopp needs to make his team more clinical in front of goal. It would be a fair criticism, but the manager has only had about four weeks to work with his new charges and there already seems to be a marked difference in the player’s approach to things.
Brendan Rodgers claimed that if FSG wanted to see real results from his Liverpool team then they’d need to ‘give him the tools to work with’. Jurgen Klopp, on the other hand, seems to believe that he’s got everything he needs ‘tool’ wise in the squad right now. He said, “When I saw the squad – when on my holiday – I thought ‘good job, I can work with this’”. Positivity from the new manager compared to excuses from the old one – it’s no wonder people seem to be having a little more fun at Anfield nowadays. If the results stay positive too then players and fans alike may start to feel that the sky is the limit under Jurgen Klopp.
What a relief it was to watch a match in which you didn’t feel like Liverpool were destined to concede a goal every time the opposition moved forward. It’s worth noting, too, that the Reds looked defensively sound even though Dejan Lovren had come in to replace Martin Skrtel in Liverpool’s backline.
Klopp has deliberately made the point that if Liverpool can be defensively solid then the more creative players will know they can play with a touch more freedom and joy than if they feel that they’ve constantly got to be looking over their shoulders and wondering whether the team was going to concede.
Liverpool now seem to be playing with more unity than at any other time in recent memory. We all remember 2013-2014 as a brilliantly exciting and thrilling campaign, but given the amount of goals Liverpool conceded and the amount of games they conceded in it would be a lie to suggest that they spent the whole season playing as a cohesive unit on the pitch.
FC Rubin were, to be fair, rubbish. They never really looked like scoring and also didn’t even seem that bothered about trying to. But make no mistake: Liverpool look like a team that are going to be difficult to score against. Chelsea only managed one goal against the Reds and, slump in form or not, they have some of the best attacking players in the Premier League at their disposal.
Rafa Benitez was, arguably, the last manager who was able to get the Reds playing with any sense of defensive reliability and even that was way back in 2008-2009. The 2009-2010 season saw Liverpool return to more rocky ground at the back, despite the Spaniard’s desire to keep things tight.
Of course one of the best ways of stopping your team from being under pressure at the back is to be exciting going forward and Liverpool’s front players deserve plenty of credit for the manner in which they kept FC Rubin pinned back. It was only through a combination of the crossbar, the goalkeeper and some last ditch defending that Kazan managed to stop the Reds going in with a healthy lead at half time.
But the defenders deserve huge credit too. Clyne and Moreno helped the attacking players out brilliantly throughout the game, with the Spaniard particularly looking as though he was on fast forward at times his legs were moving that quickly. Even Dejan Lovren looked reasonably comfortable for the majority of the match, notwithstanding a few ‘Lovren’ moments.
If Jurgen Klopp can get Lovren looking like a real defender after the torrid start he’s had to his Liverpool career aren’t Reds fans entitled to get just a little bit excited about the future under the German?
We couldn’t talk about last night’s match without a small mention for Jordan Ibe. In the aftermath of the cup win over Bournemouth we wrote quite critically of young Jordan. He failed to impress after being given a chance by his manager, and we felt that he lacked the mentality and maturity to progress to an elite level.
It’s still early doors, of course, but there can be no mistaking how well Ibe played last night. He was, along with Firmino, at the centre of everything good that Liverpool did moving forward. He made more successful dribbles than the entire FC Rubin team put together. He was electric and exciting and all of the things we’ve wanted him to be since he first broke into the Liverpool team.
Jurgen Klopp made the point that Ibe is still young and that he could have a tremendous career in front of him if he listens and learns. The admiration is mutual, too, with the English forward admitting he’s learning all of the time now that the training has changed at Melwood.
Jurgen Klopp took any number of players at Dortmund and made them into superstars. From Reus through to Lewandowski, players that were not hugely well known before they worked with the German became household names throughout the world thanks to the performances that they produced after his tutelage. We are desperate to be wrong in our criticism of Jordan Ibe and would be over the moon if he became the latest superstar to grown and develop under Jurgen Klopp. Can he? We’ll have to wait and see, but his performance in Russia suggested that the 2000 miles travel weren’t wasted.