Jurgen Klopp can beat Pep Guardiola at his own game with Liverpool tweak on a strategy used by Pep Guardiola and Mikel Arteta

Jurgen Klopp can beat Pep Guardiola at his own game with Liverpool tweak on a strategy used by Pep Guardiola and Mikel Arteta

Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp adopted a strategy used by Manchester City and Arsenal to improve his team’s performance. He moved Trent Alexander-Arnold, one of his full-backs, into a box midfield during possession, which proved successful in the final 10 games of the season.

At Manchester City, Pep Guardiola directed John Stones to join Rodri in midfield when in possession, while the opposite full-back, Nathan Aké, provided balance to the team.

Aké, who was positioned on the left in a four-man defense, functioned more as a third center-back rather than an attacking full-back.

He had limited freedom to move forward, as indicated by his low average of only 12.3 touches in the attacking third per 90 minutes.

While Stones advanced into midfield, Aké would stay deep to provide defensive support and prevent counterattacks. Essentially, he acted as a safety net for the team.

Arteta, on the other hand, followed Guardiola’s lead by deploying former Manchester City player Oleksandr Zinchenko as an inverted midfielder on the left side.

Meanwhile, Ben White, the opposite full-back, had the freedom to be more attacking-minded, as evidenced by his average of 20.2 touches in the attacking third per 90 minutes. However, he didn’t overlap with his winger as frequently as a conventional right-back would.

While in possession, White took up more advanced positions but remained aware of certain limitations on his freedom to roam.

In contrast to Guardiola and Arteta, who converted center-backs to fit their systems, Klopp utilized a natural full-back, Andy Robertson, as a counterbalance to Trent Alexander-Arnold. What’s interesting is that Robertson often played in a more attacking role similar to a winger.

Although Robertson displayed a slightly more conservative approach in those 10 matches, the magnitude of the transformation has been exaggerated.

He averaged 26 touches in the attacking third per 90 minutes during that period, which is considerably higher than the numbers achieved by White and Aké.

Surprisingly, it was even higher than Robertson’s own statistics from the earlier stages of the season. Klopp had injected a notably more assertive dynamic into the team.

There is speculation that Klopp’s tactical choices were influenced by the available personnel during the season. Reports suggest that Liverpool is interested in acquiring a left-sided center-back during the summer transfer window, potentially following in the footsteps of Arsenal and City’s strategies (according to Fabrizio Romano/Here We Go Podcast).

The future development of Klopp’s new system remains uncertain after a complete off-season, but regardless of any incoming players or adjustments made, it is difficult to envision Robertson not being a regular starter considering his significant past contributions to the team.

Liverpool’s decision to retain Kostas Tsimikas, Robertson’s backup, suggests a preference for full-backs with offensive abilities. This indicates that Klopp is determined to find alternative methods to make the inverted full-back approach successful, whether through different players or strategies that offer defensive cover while maintaining a threat on the counterattack.

While Liverpool’s performance last season showed promising signs with seven wins in ten matches, it is important to note that the teams they defeated had an average finishing position of 13th, with four of them being in the bottom seven of the league.

Maintaining an exceptional points-per-game rate throughout an entire season will prove challenging, particularly as opposing teams have more time to analyze and understand Liverpool’s new system.

Klopp’s approach seems to be the most daring among the inspirations he drew from Guardiola and Arteta.

Nevertheless, if Liverpool can successfully integrate two attacking-minded full-backs into their lineup without compromising overall balance, the potential rewards could be even greater.

Jurgen Klopp can beat Pep Guardiola at his own game with Liverpool tweak on a strategy used by Pep Guardiola and Mikel Arteta

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