Liverpool finding winning balance between crossing and creating

 3 months, 11 days ago 0 Comments

After a sticky spell in which Liverpool failed to win or score in four Premier League matches, Jürgen Klopp’s side have begun to find their form once again. Convincing away wins over Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United helped to alleviate the pressure on the team, and now Liverpool are once again looking upwards in their quest to defend their Premier League title.

One of the key tasks which Klopp has faced this season has been integrating Thiago Alcântara into the Liverpool starting eleven. The Spanish international was forced to miss a large chunk of the season due to a knee injury suffered due to Richarlison’s horror challenge in the Merseyside Derby back in October, and it’s fair to say that Thiago has struggled at times to find his purpose in the Liverpool team, as the club have slipped in the odds on 2020-2021 English Premier League title winners.

Much of the challenge facing Klopp and Thiago has been balancing the midfielder’s creativity with the more rudimentary attributes the team excel at. After all, Liverpool’s success over the last couple of years has been defined by a brutish directness – the simple art of quick passing into the channels and early crosses developed into a punishing ordeal for defences. With Thiago in the team, however, Liverpool must find a way to integrate the Spaniard’s soft piano notes with their usual bombastic heavy-metal style.

Against Tottenham and West Ham, that balance has been struck to great effect. When Thiago was signed, many imagined that he would become Liverpool’s driving force in terms of creating chances and putting goals on plates for the likes of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané. But instead, Thiago has played more of a deeper, metronomic role in the last few matches, and his task has been to supply the full-backs with his inimitable ability to pick passes that never seem on.

The arrival of Thiago was never going to mean a drastic change of style for Liverpool, rather it simply gave Klopp another string to the team’s bow in terms of their ability to react to different situations in matches. The relentless nature of this season has meant that gradually integrating Thiago into the fold has been impossible, and it may be next season when we really see his qualities shine through in the most effective way.

But setting Thiago and the midfield aside, Liverpool’s main reason for their return to form has been their full-backs, who are very much the driving force of the team. Trent Alexander-Arnold has struggled of late, but he produced a gargantuan performance in the win over Tottenham, displaying the kind of quick-thinking and dynamism which defines Liverpool’s best performances under Klopp.

It’s become clear that when Liverpool’s full-backs are on song, the front three gain a significant boost in terms of confidence. Roberto Firmino was in full flow at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, tapping home in the first half to give Liverpool the lead, while Sadio Mané found the net later on in the game. Salah was denied a goal in that match by VAR, but made up for lost time against West Ham, where he netted two sublime strikes. These are encouraging signs for Liverpool supporters, and it will have been a great relief to see his side discover some rhythm once again.

There is a bit of a gap opening up between league leaders Manchester City and the chasing pack, but Liverpool have shown that they are beginning to find the right balance in their team, and they’ll be gearing all their efforts towards clawing their way back to the summit of the table.

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