Very good might not be enough for Klopp’s Liverpool against Man City
Very good might not be enough for Jurgen Klopp… his Liverpool side are just not at Manchester City’s level
- Liverpool traveled to the Emirates with the intention of marking their mark
- The game in London finished as a draw and not what Liverpool had wanted
- Jurgen Klopp understands he is up against the Manchester City juggernaut
- Liverpool looked to be their nearest challengers but they are quite a way off
Jurgen Klopp was having a problem with his chair. ‘Is this the height?’ he said, fumbling around with the lever to give himself some elevation at his press conference table, late on Saturday night. ‘Did Unai sit like this or did he put it down?’
Reaching the required level is a godforsaken challenge in what, by all available evidence, is beginning to look like an era of Manchester City dominance when even 100 points might not be enough to win the Premier League.
Liverpool delivered on Saturday in ways which would have been unimaginable just 12 months ago, weathering tide after tide of attacks from an Arsenal who bore not the remotest resemblance to the late-Wenger era, then transitioning with counter-attacking football which scaled the heights at times. Yet in the new landscape, the point was not enough.
Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side are meant to be the ones who are challenging Manchester City
Some perspective is needed because even in the last year, they’ve traveled a distance. The anniversary has only just passed of the game which epitomised the shortcomings of Klopp’s philosophy about Liverpool playing the Liverpool way and not worrying about the rest.
It was the 4-1 defeat to Tottenham at Wembley, when the side played a suicidally high line on the huge Wembley pitch and did not seem to have done any preparatory to work on how to deal with Harry Kane.
You wondered if they really would be capable of the pragmatism required resolve the defensive problems which at times last season gave them the look of a Kevin Keegan team.
James Milner took the lead for Liverpool in the Saturday evening kick-off against Arsenal
They have been. Virgin van Dijk made the £75m fee paid out to Southampton for him look very ordinary on Saturday night. He marries that easiness on the ball which Alan Hansen and Phil Thompson always possessed in the days when Liverpool were great. His physicality is even greater than theirs.
Some numbers tell the story. The five points Liverpool have collected at Tottenham, Chelsea and Arsenal this season is four better than last season. Their tally of 27 points out of a possible 33 – the same haul they had after 11 games back in 2002/03 – equals their best ever start to a Premier League season.
Yet the required level is still higher. Five from three against any opposition is inadequate when the City phenomenon exists.
Alexandre Lacazette leveled the Premier League clash to earn the home side a point
Liverpool can be better. Though there were moments when Mohammed Salah briefly touched the heights on the Emirates turf, the front line was not at its best. Less obvious, though equally significant, the tuning of Liverpool’s gegenpressing was fractionally off.
‘We were too high on the wings,’ Klopp related afterwards. ‘And that’s it. The timing was… the time was not really good. You cannot press with really no formation. You have a compact formation. You force them to pass the ball somewhere.
‘That’s pressing. It’s not that complicated. But actually they had two or three options to pass and that makes life pretty complicated and it makes life pretty uncomfortable for the three in midfield. That’s it.’
This shortcoming, almost imperceptible to the human eye, was very evident to James Milner, the 32-year-old who has turned what seemed set to be a career swansong at Liverpool into the most commanding period of his 16 years in the game. ‘Milly, was the one who saw it first and was quite, how can we say, was not happy,’ Klopp said.
Klopp and Unai Emery both realise just how tough it is to compete at the top of the league
Seeing and trying to plug the problem was still not enough. Arsenal, a side who 12 months would have been extinguished by a goal like Milner’s, were tooled up with extra firepower by Unai Emery in the game’s last quarter. They overloaded Liverpool again and equalised.
Klopp made the best of things, fiddling with that chair, raising a laugh and giving a very good impression of a man who would take a point. Week to week, Liverpool’s fans are doing the same.
An excellent segment on the Anfield Wrap podcast last week focused on how, with City doing what they are, there has to be a more profound measure of Liverpool success than the title. Embrace the days out, enjoy the wonderful football, live in the moment and if we’re second, then live with it, the argument ran.
Yet ambition doesn’t work like that in a city which has waited 28 years for a title and has a very good team. Having contributed to an evening of quite sublime football, Liverpool must raise their level. Very good is no longer enough.
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