Liverpool: Jurgen Klopp must release Diogo Jota to avoid potential shock for Tottenham

06 May 2022 | 08:07

Liverpool’s form has been unrelentingly astounding throughout 2022, which is what made their brief wobble on Tuesday night so remarkable – and potentially important.

Villarreal gave themselves a 2-0 lead in the first half and on the verge of a comeback that may have deflected Liverpool’s pursuit of the back four. And although Jurgen Klopp’s side have found a way to respond, the moment they stuttered in the first half meant it was yet to have an impact.

That is 45 minutes that Antonio Conte will have to carefully study.

His Tottenham side are undoubtedly the biggest domestic obstacle remaining for Liverpool, not only in terms of player size and quality but because the Italian has the precise tactical strategy to hit the point. weak points of Liverpool and give Manchester City a decisive lead in the title race.

Conte’s transition is a big threat

What makes Spurs unique is the way Conte compresses space in the midfield third, using counter-attacking and direct tactics but from a higher starting position than most of the teams Liverpool have faced.

For example, Everton dropped a lot deeper and although they held out until half-time it never really looked like a point in the game.

But Spurs will know how to squeeze in central midfielders and allow Liverpool to hold most of the ball (killing their ability to play vertically and find space in the last third) without having to face the ball. penalty area and wait for the onslaught.

It’s something few teams are capable of, but there’s only the right balance in Conte’s 3-4-3 formation for it to work; three centre-backs can focus on Liverpool’s forward line, freeing Spurs’ full-backs to be closed by Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson.

From this base, Spurs could capitalize on their pace at halftime to get behind Liverpool’s high line. Harry Kane will fall into number ten with Heung-Min Son and Dejan Kulusevski running behind, a move that has been put to good use under Conte and could send Spurs off the field.

This was especially effective during artificial transitions, when Conte used a pass from behind to drag opponents forward before quickly turning them around and galloping into the final third.

It’s a technique that worked well in the 3-2 win over Manchester City, and will likely succeed at Anfield against Klopp’s difficult midfield. Fabinho, Naby Keita and Thiago Alcantara had a lot of pressure on them as they had to close enough in the Spurs midfield to prevent them from dodging pressure and tit-for-tat.

The battle for space between Fabinho and Kane, with the former essentially marking the latter at times, could be decisive.

Villarreal shows a quick start is needed

To carry out their tactics, Spurs will require a flawless performance and sloppiness from Liverpool.

If Klopp’s side can get their rhythm back soon, Spurs will certainly be pinned too far, and with Tottenham’s full-backs forming five full-backs, Liverpool will be able to dominate the spaces right up front. front – where Alexander-Arnold’s pass crushed the team into submission.

To avoid defeat at Anfield, Spurs must learn from how Villarreal started on Tuesday – and race out of the ring.

It’s important to defend very aggressively from the start rather than being afraid to let the likes of Thiago run the game; Unai Emery’s men were first of all loose and happy to attack with numbers because they knew that when Liverpool were in trouble early on, they would try to control the game.

It’s been a counter-intuitive truth in the face of Liverpool this season: fearless for the first 20 minutes and they suddenly look vulnerable, hence the focus on quick transitions – of which there are plenty. , when Liverpool’s pass gets boring – can bring the chomouth goal into action.

Replace the Jota key for Liverpool to win

Of course, it speaks to Liverpool’s dazzling form that even a superb first half against Villarreal was not enough to avoid defeat tonight.

It looked like the hosts were noticeably fatigued after that quick start and retreated too much, although arguably more important was Klopp’s decision to swap Diogo Jota for Luis Diaz in the first half.

Liverpool are constantly worse with Jota on the pitch. He doesn’t have the ability to drop down and link midfield and attack, but he also lacks the direct dribbling ability to force opponents back with quick runs – and as a result, he often frequently missed.

Liverpool tend to look sluggish if he starts, unable to execute sharp forward passes that keep opponents from sitting in a tight form and blocking their way to goal.

Surely now, after such an obvious example in the middle of the week, Klopp has learned his lesson. With Sadio Mane at No 9 and Dias on the left wing, Liverpool have enough firepower to clear Tottenham’s two-man midfield and penetrate dangerous areas, paying particular attention to the flanks.

Emerson Royal and Ryan Sessegnon are Tottenham’s weak points. Using a dangling Mane to double with a wide Liverpool forward was enough to deal serious damage.

In the end, no matter how confident Conte’s side are to start off and no matter how strong their central midfield is, the technical gap between the Tottenham full-back and Liverpool’s wide forward is too great for the visitors. could ruin the title race.