Conservative Reds were handed a heart-breaking injury time loss at the hands of Villarreal in Spain, uneven play being main catalyst behind that defeat.
Klopp started with a 4-3-3 shape without an out and out striker. Firmino was leading the line as false 9; Lallana and Coutinho just beside him as front three. Milner, Lucas and Allen as three behind the front three. The back four had one change too with Toure coming in for banned Sakho.
It was a bit conservative approach from the German especially after knowing Villarreal love to play on counters, rather Liverpool for most of the game were playing on the break and allowing equal amount of possession to the Spanish opponents.
Let’s have a look at Reds’ shape and analyse through as to what actually went wrong and all is not lost for the Reds with second leg coming up in 6 days time :-
As we see in the image above, Milner and Allen were not very wide in their midfield positions, the reason being the deeper role that Lucas was playing, the Brazilian was most of the time acting as a third centre-back. The fullbacks were very high whenever they got the opportunity. Coutinho(later Ibe) and Lallana were very wide from where they should be to press in tight spaces. That allowed Villarreal to play out back whenever they wanted to.
Let’s take a situation with Lucas almost as third centre-back and Villarreal having the ball, this situation forced Allen and Milner to be central and cut that half space in between the lines, Coutinho(later Ibe) and Lallana were very wide and never affected the midfield part of the game allowing the Spanish side to get into Liverpool’s half without much pressure.
It was a conservative approach surprisingly by Klopp and we all could see Liverpool never looked comfortable in it. Firmino being false 9 never allowed the Reds to clear the ball high up field with someone to hold on to, it was all pass, pass and pass which sometimes created pressure. Whenever the fullbacks got themselves into good position, they had no real target to aim at with their crosses. They failed to latch onto second balls too in many occasions.
Milner is not a player we know when he’s playing in midfield centrally. The veteran was forcibly playing in that central position and never looked comfortable in it. Sometimes he tried to go wide with subtle movements but lack of midfield presence allowed Villarreal to play through the Liverpool midfield.
All in all Klopp was not very frustrated with this result, he knows that in 6 days his team can score more at Anfield in-front of a vocal crowd. He kept Sturridge out for the whole game which came as a surprise and the idea of playing possession football along with counter play never gelled together and the disjointedness was evident throughout the game.
On the other hand, Villarreal have something to hold on to which they do very nicely, they have one of the meanest defence in Europe and should be hard to break even in Anfield, they know one away goal and Liverpool could be chasing the game like wankers in 6 days time. Still in balance this semi-final, both teams have advantages to play on to.
By Mizgan on 29th April, 2016
Twitter – @mizgans