Premier League 2018/19: Liverpool vs Manchester United
Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp continue to their sheer brilliance with a thrilling 3-1 derby win against Manchester United which was a job done in some style. Consequently, Jurgen Klopp’s side keeps the top spot of the Premier League table for themselves thanks to yet another impressive performance against Mourinho’s Manchester United, which caused the Portuguese manager to say goodbye to Manchester.
In this tactical analysis, I will provide you with a tactical analysis that is based on some stats and graphics from the game.
Jurgen Klopp fielded a 4-2-3-1, which has become a kind of fashion recently, against Mourinho’s 3-5-2 as seen in the graphic above. However, it should be noted that considering Liverpool’s free-flowing football, their shape and formation may change constantly during the games.
In the United side, though, the only different action was that Rashford moved up front on a regular basis throughout the game against the Reds. The idea behind trying to create a solid block in the central positions of the defensive area was that Mourinho wanted to defend well and stop the electrifying Liverpool attacks and through balls from the central areas but they couldn’t quite manage to do that as Liverpool had 36 shots which was their second-best shot stat in a Premier League campaign.
As clearly seen in the graphic above, Manchester United were in an effort to defend a Liverpool attack that started in the centre of midfield with Mane who dribbled with the ball through the attacking third where he faced no Manchester United player to come up against him despite they were in defence with 5 players + 2. This “disorganized” Manchester United defensive line got them in trouble literally all game. They were a lot in numbers as they played with a back 5, in general, that was supported by Matic and Herrera, but their efficiency and productivity in defending were simply alarming.
Although the centre of defence was occupied mostly by the Manchester United players, Liverpool never seemed to stop trying to make something out of that area. They kept on trying to benefit from that area with some fast through balls and dribbles thanks to their pacey attackers.
Another important point is that as you see in the graphic, Keita played up front supporting the Liverpool attacks but his main duty was to come deep into the central areas to block the passing lines of Manchester United players and it’s possible to say that he put in a great effort to do his duties. He both supported Andrew Robertson on the left wing and also contributed to defending the central areas from where he initiated the transitions when he managed to tackle, intercept and win the ball. It’s very important for Jurgen Klopp’s team to have such players who are pacey, combative, and also quality on the ball in order to provide such services that turn into opportunities for his teammates.
As I mentioned earlier, Manchester United failed to defend the central areas where Liverpool were very effective from the very start of the game. Eventually, on the 24th minute, Liverpool found a way to open the scoring through Mane’s feet after a sensational long pass from Fabinho who just can’t help himself but gets better day by that at the Anfield. It was a perfect delivery, undoubtedly, but Mane’s run in down the right was even more satisfying as he drilled across the United defence that was congested with 5 players. As I mentioned, once more, they were high in numbers but not successful in most of their defensive efforts. Fabinho got the pass from the left and was in control of the ball in a quite comfortable way before providing Mane with a brilliant assist.
As I stated earlier, Liverpool’s shape changes a lot during the games. Here in the graphic above, for example, we see Roberto Firmino on the ball with Sane up front and Mo Salah on his regular place at the right-hand side. Firmino drags Matic with him and turns around successfully before playing some one-twos and create opportunities. He currently plays as a number ten but just as he was not your typical striker when he used to play up front, he is not your typical number ten when he plays right behind the striker. He not only contribute to defending as a team but also performs a lot of different actions in terms of attack which confuse the opposition. The fact that the Liverpool squad is full of combative, pacey and strong players helps Jurgen Klopp to get positive results in every scenario. He can use a player (like Mo Salah, Keita or Firmino), especially in the final third, in different shapes with different roles and he gets results thanks to their talents as well as their fighting spirit that keeps up the team defence and concentration.
Liverpool’s attacks were stopped by Lingard’s goal that came through an Alisson blunder. Manchester United, then, looked to find spaces behind the Liverpool fullbacks but it’s possible to comment that they failed at making something out of those insufficient attacks. None of those were productive because Virgil van Dijk’s composure and quality in the air caused troubles for the Manchester United striker who was to keep the ball to create chances. He couldn’t create any chance for his teammates and couldn’t score himself.
In the second half, there cometh the hero of the game. Xherdan Shaqiri. He positioned himself in the central area where he was covered by not any Manchester United player and he scored a beauty to make the Anfield go wild. Mane’s effort caught the eye in this position but Shaqiri’s positioning is very precious here, in my opinion. He realized the lack of concentration in the Manchester United defence and he benefitted quite impressively. It’s also possible to see here that there’s another massive gap in the defensive zone. The left-back of Manchester United, Ashley Young, moved in to help defend the six-yard box but there occurred a huge gap for the Liverpool right back to overlap. I mean, Clyne was there to get the loose ball even if it wasn’t for anyone else to do something. Shaqiri scored his second goal to make sure that Liverpool got all the three points with an eye-catching performance and he became the man of the match himself.
Liverpool’s ever-changing, free-flowing, impressive attacking football continue to cause troubles for the oppositions as they remain at the top of the Premier League with one of the greatest performances in their history. It will be very important to keep focused till the end of the season to bring in the first ever Premier League title to the Merseyside but there’s one thing for sure that this team will never stop showing some sort of exciting football.
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