Liverpool is Too Much

Playing Liverpool right now is a living hell because they come at you from everywhere and beat you in so many different ways.

I have never seen a team like this in my lifetime.

Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona and Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid were two teams I felt couldn’t lose.

That Barcelona team had the luxury of Lionel Messi and also had Xavi and Andres Iniesta who would keep the ball for the whole game.

Real Madrid also boasted an incredible midfield with Luka Modric and Toni Kroos. It was a team full of champions and Cristiano Ronaldo would just win the match if things got tight.

This Liverpool team is different.

They don’t really have the high-end superstar talent of Ronaldo, Iniesta, Messi or Modric but everybody on this Liverpool team performs 9/10 in every game.

Like Liverpool legend John Barnes said after Sunday’s 2–0 win over Manchester United, the consistency is just amazing. Liverpool’s performance level doesn’t drop on a game-to-game basis and they manage to maintain their level of play through the course of 90 minutes, which is difficult to do.

The fact Liverpool don’t have that super mega-star is also their strength. Every single player on the team contributes to the team’s work-rate because there is no one that is above the work.

The three star strikers — Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mo Salah — press opponents high up the pitch and sometimes they even work back to win the ball in their own half.

This is not something the Barcelona and Real Madrid teams did.

To be fair, Barcelona had their winning the ball back in six seconds philosophy and it suffocated the life out of teams. But, Messi and David Villa were not running back to win the ball near their own penalty area like Firmino did on one occasion against United.

It is mentally exhausting to play against Liverpool. It is exhausting to face danger from all angles.

Playing Liverpool right now is like facing a fighter who throws punches from everywhere, and doesn’t stop. Basically, playing Liverpool is fighting Manny Pacquiao in his prime. They are a whirlwind, and they don’t get tired.

There are just too many ways in which they can hurt you.

The fullbacks:

Liverpool’s fullbacks Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson are the best in the world. The way they influence games is so great teams are now changing formations and game-plans to combat them.

Liverpool is one of the first teams I have seen where the fullbacks contribute so much of their side’s playmaking. Right now Alexander-Arnold and Robertson are both in the top 10 in assists in the English Premier League.

Off the top of the head: Brazil with Cafu and Roberto Carlos did cause nightmares with their wingback play. Coaches didn’t sleep.

But, apart from Brazil there are few examples where opposition teams actually tweak their formations because of the fullbacks they are facing on the day.

This is what is happening when teams play Liverpool. Arsenal did it when they went to Anfield. Manchester United, to a degree, were also thinking of Liverpool’s fullback threat when they switched to a back-three with wingbacks (Aaron Wan-Bissaka and BrandonWilliams) that tried to occupy the spaces Alexander-Arnold and Robertson love to run into and hit their crazy cross-field passes.

To United’s credit, they did manage to slow down the Liverpool diagonal pass which is killing teams right now. But it wasn’t enough.

The aggression:

Liverpool are like a bunch of dogs right now. They press the ball ferociously and win it back quickly. They tackle hard, push you and kick you. Jordan Henderson, James Milner, Georginio Wijnaldum and Fabinho are all breathing down your neck. It is too much to deal with for 90 minutes.

The athleticism:

Apart from their insane pace, Liverpool is probably the strongest team in the league. Mane, Salah, Firmino, Wijnaldum, Fabinho and Van Dijk are incredibly strong. The number of physical contests they win is impressive (35,759 aerial battles/duels won this season, according to Premier League stats).

Set-pieces:

Arsenal and Man United both were doing OK at Anfield and then had their hearts broken from a cornerkick. So, our team is playing well and then we concede from a header because Liverpool are too tall and good in the air.

The star strikers:

When all else fails Liverpool’s front three will just force a goal out of nothing through sheer determination or just plain magic.

So how do you beat Liverpool?

1. You pray. You pray hard.

2. You attack them. The few times Liverpool have shown any vulnerability is when teams have gone at them.

Obviously, this is a risky tactic, but games that come to mind are Tottenham’s 4–1 league win over Liverpool at Wembley (in 2017), Napoli’s 2–0 win this season in the Uefa Champions League and Manchester City’s 2–1 league win at the Etihad Stadium last January when Bernardo Silva went crazy.

On each occasion the opponent went to toe-to-toe with Liverpool and played quick and brave.

I feel teams are too worried about losing the ball against Liverpool but you really have to be proactive and take chances with the ball against them.

Liverpool often start games fast and then sit-back to rest towards the end of the first half because their pressing game is exhausting. In this period teams always seem content or relieved to finally be keeping the ball against Liverpool when they should actually be aggressive with their possession, even if it means risking a counterattack. Slow build-ups haven’t proved to work often enough against Liverpool.

Conclusion:

Jürgen Klopp has done a truly amazing job to build an incredible team, one that is slowly entering the conversation to be amongst the best sides ever.

They are on fire right now; Liverpool have taken 91 points from the last 93 available in the Premier League (Played 31, Won 30, Drawn 1, Lost 0). It is insane.

One last scary thing: The average age of the team that played against Manchester United is 26.3 years. It means this moment Liverpool is enjoying could still have some years to go.

It’s too much.

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Teboho Molapo

Teboho Molapo

Part-time athlete, part-time coach, part-time writer; fulltime believer in life. | #MolapoKTM