Liverpool finished the 2018/2019 league season in second place after a thrilling title race against Manchester City, that saw them finish on a record-breaking ninety-seven points. They were able to quickly rectify the heartbreak of losing the league by winning one of the most prestigious club competitions Europe has to offer – Champions League.
As one of the most attractive clubs in European football right now; it would make sense that Liverpool would be all over the market right now, looking to strengthen their already fantastic team. However, currently, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Multiple reliable sources have said the Liverpool are looking to have a quiet window with a back-up left-back and a versatile forward player as the only priorities.
Their only signing so far has been seventeen-year-old Sepp van den Berg, a Dutch defender bought from PEC Zwolle, in the Eredivisie. Van den Berg is a right-footed defender, who predominantly plays as a centre back, but is also comfortable playing as a right back. During the 2018/19 season, he played a total of twenty matches for PEC Zwolle. This tactical analysis will be a scout report on Van den Berg’s playstyle, how he’ll fit into Jürgen Klopp’s plans, tactics and what can be expected from him at Liverpool.
Ball playing defender
Style of play as a whole is continuously evolving in football, and currently, many managers prefer their players to play out from the back. If players in defence can keep hold of the ball and are able to play out from the back, the team is able to transition much easier into the attack, and therefore create more chances to score. Some defenders will sometimes struggle with this concept as it is a difficult concept to grasp late in a footballer’s career.
Sepp van den Berg is only seventeen, and it is clear that the elements of playing out from the back have been instilled in him early. He is comfortable with both short, and long passes, and he can dribble through a midfield if need be.
Statistically, he completes 90% of his passes, with 79% accuracy in terms of forward passes and 70% pass accuracy into the final third.
Furthermore, Van den Berg is also confident dribbling with the ball at his feet, often taking the responsibility to bring the ball up himself, and start an attack.
Having a ball playing centre back who is comfortable in possession both with passing and dribbling gives the manager so many more options when approaching the way in which they want to break down the opposition. Having a good pass completion shows that Van den Berg will be good at breaking the line of play. He can be utilized by dribbling the ball through the opposition and laying off a pass, giving his team the numbers advantage going forward. Having a ball playing centre back also forces the opposition to press him when having the ball, leaving spaces to exploit, and leaving less of the opposition to defend the forward players.
Sepp van den Berg’s best attributes defensively rely on his quick thinking, which allows him to get the ball out of danger as quickly as possible. He averages 2.49 clearances and 4.84 interceptions a match.
This quick-thinking allows him to disrupt the attacking play of the opposition, most of the time, before they truly threaten the goal.
However, Van Den Berg does not just mindlessly tackle; he often is able to win possession back. His tackles are well-timed, winning them cleanly and attempting to start the attack. Only averaging 0.6 yellow cards a game, it is clear he is mindful of when to tackle, knowing to not give away free kicks.
How he fits In Klopp’s system
Over the years, Jürgen Klopp has changed and evolved his tactics, and his system, based on the players at his disposable, but the fundamentals remain the same. Klopp is often credited with popularising the gegenpressing, also known as the counter-press. A team that employs the gegenpressing style rely greatly on organization, communicating as a team, and speed. A high line is often deployed when teams are using the gegenpressing to suffocate the opposition.
The central defenders are often in and around the halfway line, which creates a high risk, high reward factor. If they are not quick enough, the opposition can quickly get the better of them on the break and put themselves one on one versus the goalkeeper.
Sepp van den Berg’s depth perception and speed allow this to happen rarely. He knows he has the speed, and he positions himself to angle his run, ensuring that he can recover and stop an attack on goal.
Areas for improvement
Sepp van den Berg is listed as being 6’2” feet tall, which is approximately 189 centimetres. That being said, in Liverpool’s recent preseason content, he is comfortably taller than Klopp, who is also listed as 6’2″. Assuming Van den Berg has not been measured recently, he’s likely to be around 6’4″.
For such a tall player, his aerial duel percentage is quite poor, only winning 56%. When going into aerial duels, Van den Berg often mistimes it, jumping too early, or being too hesitant, and jumping too late.
Van den Berg sometimes finds himself bullied off the ball too easily. He loses the ball an average of 5.34 times a match. This will improve as he grows older, and begins to shape up with more training and workouts in the gym.
One for the future
Liverpool fans may feel underwhelmed by their club’s summer business so far, but they should not overlook Sepp van den Berg and his capabilities. Klopp will likely assess him throughout the season and judge how capable he is to play with the first-team. It is unlikely that he will feature in Premier League and Champions League matches, two competitions that Liverpool will be fighting hard to win. However, he might make appearances during Liverpool’s cup runs in the FA Cup and the League Cup. He’ll likely play most of his apps with the U23 team in his first year at Liverpool, but Van den Berg will train with the first team at Melwood, and he’ll be expected to become a member of the first team quickly.
With the signing of fellow U17 Dutch centre back Ki-Jana Hoever, it is clear that Klopp is building for the future. Using analysis one can see the potential and it is clear the Klopp is hoping to take the talent that both centre backs have, and mould them into players that are able to play in his system, and eventually have them become regulars for Liverpool in years to come.
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