Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has identified defence as his priority but the untimely injury to striker Danny Ings has emphasised how much of a necessity it has become.
The German’s attacking options have been reduced to Daniel Sturridge and the raw Divock Origi, who has not scored in his last 10 matches.
Christian Benteke, the Reds’ £32.5m (€44.1m) summer signing, is still at least a week away from recovering from a hamstring problem and Ings will be sidelined for a minimum of six months after a cruciate knee ligament injury.
Ings, another summer arrival, is the club’s top scorer with three goals but the team as a whole have managed just 11 in 13 matches this season and that contributed to the demise of Klopp’s predecessor Brendan Rodgers, who throughout his three-year reign at Anfield never got to grips with a leaky defence.
No clean sheets in the last eight matches proved particularly costly, especially when in five of the last six they had taken the lead. The limited amount of time Klopp has had to work with his players after their return from international duty — and the fact the last time Liverpool scored more than once in an away game was February — means he has concentrated on making his team difficult to beat.
“We have to be compact, close together in the game, and if you are always close enough with your players you always have options to help,” he said ahead of today’s trip to Tottenham for his first match in charge. “If you prepare for problems and you are strong enough to handle this situation then you can stay in the game and win the game.
“It is not the time to change many things — only to turn the screws a little bit in the right way. I expect to see that we have worked together, although not too often, and we can be very well organised after this short time.”
Klopp intends to establish a defensive platform from which he can build a team playing in his preferred, high-tempo pressing and counter-attacking style.
He also believes shutting the back door will help restore the players’ fragile confidence which has contributed to them throwing away leads and then losing their way in matches they had been dominating.
“You cannot just think about offensive things — up to now we have not scored enough goals but you have to feel stability,” added Klopp
“When you feel this you are free for creativity and that is how football works. A good example is the Aston Villa game (a 3-2 victory) where we scored a goal after two minutes and everything changed in that moment.
“It is not the only way to get free in a game when you score a goal in the first few minutes.
“Nil-nil is an absolutely normal score. You will find a way if you are patient enough to wait for the next situation and not think”
Klopp has wiped the slate clean with the players he inherited from Rodgers, giving everyone every chance to prove their worth to him as he moulds his side.
“It is not so interesting what they did last week, two weeks ago,” he said. “It is more interesting for me what are they able to do on their best day. That is what I am looking for, how I try to make the starting line-up for Tottenham.
“Now if nothing happens in the next training sessions I know how I want to play and we have to use these two sessions to understand a bit more. But, at the end, it is only football. All these guys are able to play really good football — that is the reason they are here.”
For his part, Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino insists his high-pressing style is nothing like the tactics Klopp deployed at Borussia Dortmund. Klopp has arrived to a surge of excitement on Merseyside, after leading Dortmund to two Bundesliga titles with his self-proclaimed “heavy metal” football based on pace, power and pressing the opposition.
Pochettino has become known in England for a similarly dynamic style, which worked to great effect at Southampton and is now beginning to bear fruit with a young squad at Spurs too. The Argentinian, however, argues Klopp’s teams are different as they tend to defend much deeper.
“It’s a different pressing,” Pochettino said. “If you analyse Dortmund, it’s not similar to how we played at Southampton because our pressing was high up, to the opponent’s keeper, but Dortmund play a medium block.
“It’s very strange to compare those two styles — Klopp’s style to mine. We are different. One is not better than the other; we are very different. I think Dortmund were a very physical team. They applied transition very quick and always went forward, but sometimes when you have players to play in this style, you can do these counter-attacks.
“It’s different to the way we played in Southampton.”
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