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Football News: Brighton v Liverpool - A Quick-ish Liverpool Perspective

Brighton v Liverpool - A Quick-ish Liverpool Perspective

Brighton & Hove Albion v Liverpool


That game was even more frustrating than the defeat to Spurs, though without as many controversial decisions. In fact there was only one really blatantly bad one, the decision not to send off Gross for hauling down Szoboszlai in the box. It was a blatantly poor decision, one which was clearly wrong, but it was not the reason for Liverpool failing to win. This time around the problems were all of Liverpool's own making. The terrible tactics and team selection were to blame. This kind of result had been coming, with the tactics failing repeatedly in the first half, it was always going to be a matter of time before the team was unable to rescue a win when needed.

The inverted full-back has more effect than just leaving a gap on the right, when playing out from the back it also lessens the options for passes as there is no one in the place where the full-back would normally be. What you end up with is the centre-backs too far apart and the goalkeeper forced to come out and fill the gap or a Brighton player can step in and cut off the potential passes. It only takes a small error and it ends in a goal, as there is almost no chance a goalkeeper can get back before the opposition can take a shot, as we saw in this match.

In my opinion it is a very avoidable problem, solved simply by not inverting unless in possession in the opposition half (or even better at all!), as it then increases the options for the man on the ball. Or you can simply drop any attempt to play out from the back and launch it longer, but that would make a mockery of the whole thinking behind the inversion, as it is all about keeping possession of the ball. An other option would be to play a defensive midfielder who will drop between the centre-backs and allow the pairing to split, while not limiting the left-back from moving forward. Of course, you can also move the left-sided centre-back across to the centre and hold the left-back in to play like a centre-back, but that seems silly when the left-back is so good going forward.

And yet that is not even the main issue with the tactical approach. It is the reversion to last season's failure of attempting to play slow, lethargic, possession football, rather than the fast, intense, attacking style that brought Klopp so much success. It is bizarre that Pep Lijnders wrote a book entitled 'Intensity' but has then been such a huge advocate of moving away from that very intensity that gave the team the success to enable him to write a book. It has gone from simply tweaking it to keep it relevant, to completely dropping what worked in favour of doing what is basically copying others. It has taken away the club's identity as an exciting, attacking side, to become another tedious possession team who pass for the sake of passing. This is a team capable of challenging for the title, but it is being held back right now by the tactics. I just hope Klopp sees that before it is too late.

What also worries me is that there are regular selection mistakes being made of a similar ilk to those made when Klopp persisted with Fabinho and Henderson as centre-backs until far too late in the season to do any more than finish in the top 4. The use of Mac Allister in the deep role is a similar kind of error that he is refusing to change. I am sure the stats will no doubt be used to tell us all how great he is doing in the position when Lijnders does his next round of podcasts and interviews, but it is clear for all to see that it is not working. Adding in Alexander-Arnold, who is miles off being fit enough, was almost like the team were down a man, with both only being like half a player right now. It really has to be time to scrap the Mac Allister as a deep-lying playmaker experiment while Liverpool are still in contention at the top. Leave it much longer and it could cost them any chance.


Brighton look to me to be going backwards and looking gradually worse every time I watch them under De Zerbi. His insistence on rotation for the sake of it, even rotating the keepers depending on whether the game is away or at home, is causing them major problems. It also does not help that the away keeper, Steele, is barely even good enough for League 1, let alone the Premier League. They do seem to have replaced Caicedo effectively with Baleba, but the team itself looks really messy and lacking in cohesion. That is what makes it more galling that Liverpool failed to win that game as this BHA team is nothing like as strong as it was under Potter. They did have an immediate lift after De Zerbi arrived, but now they are beginning to gradually look like a team losing its way, reminiscent of how Everton looked so much better after Moyes left and Martinez took over. But then the second season they began to fall away. I have a feeling that something similar is happening at the Seagulls.

That is why this result was frustrating from a Liverpool perspective, this is not a Brighton side at the same level as the last couple of years and is very beatable. They pass around at the back aimlessly, and when pressed they panic and turn over the ball very easily. It is the perfect team to play Klopp's old heavy metal style against, due to that tendency to give the ball away deep in their own half when pressed. And, despite having found an excellent striker in Ferguson, they are not creating anything like the number of chances they used to.


Quick notes on the players:


Alisson - this new set up is drawing him out of position to get involved in the play from the back, instead of him being able to stay within the box to do so. That led to one of the Brighton goals, because he had no chance to get back when it was given away. Personally I would say that is an issue with the tactics, rather than the fault of the goalkeeper. Playing it around in dangerous areas is a big enough risk when the goalkeeper can stay back, but when he is having to come out to be a part of the play, well that is just asking for problems. He did make good saves when he was in the goal, but it did highlight how bad the new tactic is when the team is trying to use it to build up play from the back.

Alexander-Arnold - looked well off the pace and nowhere near match fit. It was a mistake, in my opinion, to start him as he is not looking anywhere near ready and Gomez had been playing well.

Matip - struggled defensively with the movement of Brighton's players. He kept getting caught running forward when he should have been dropping off, as usual when facing a team with players that get forward to support a striker. He lacks the football smarts needed to realise that just following a striker around is going to leave a huge gap in the defence to be exploited.

van Dijk - he is playing his normal role well, but there is no adjustment to his positioning for the lack of a proper right-back when in possession, leaving too much space between himself and Matip. He needs to shift to the right and play more like the central defender in a back three if the team are to make this inverted full-back complicated mess less of a mess. He also needs to take more care passing out from the back, his pass to Mac Allister, which led to one of BHA's goals, was poor. Overall though, he is still playing well.

Robertson - played that game more like his old self, which possibly contributed to van Dijk staying too far to the left. However, his old self is exactly what the team needs, as his driving runs are badly missed. He contributed well to the attack and defended mostly very well. There is no getting away from the fact that he made an horrendous error by not clearing the ball and cost the team a goal by doing so.

Mac Allister - he is really struggling with this new role he is being asked to play and it really does not make the most of his abilities at all. It was at least partly understandable when Jones was available, as Jones and Szoboszlai have been an excellent pairing, but Jones was suspended and this was the perfect chance to move him forward to where he is most effective. Instead he ended up costing the team a goal by not being aware and standing round waiting for a ball to come to him and allowing a Brighton player to nip in and steal it. It is not his fault, but he is just not playing well in the deep role. The sensible thing would be to give Endo his chance, but it seems Klopp and Lijnders are committed stubbornly to once again forcing square pegs into round holes.

Szoboszlai - his worst game in a Liverpool shirt, though he did play well once back on the right side, it is just that he has set a very high bar with his previous performances.

Elliott - struggled to make an impact as a starter. Playing on the right side made little sense when playing central anyway. With Szoboszlai playing so well, the sensible thing would have been to play him on the left and leave the Hungarian where he was. Instead Elliott was put right and Szoboszlai moved. I understand the thinking behind having a wide forward playing on the opposite side to his strongest foot, but when playing central it is no longer a help for cutting inside, as you really want them to be able to cut to the outside into space.

Diaz - he works hard, causes chaos, links well, creates and scores, but he does have a tendency to just try and do a little too much when on the ball. At times it can lead to brilliance, but most of the time it frustrates. Also his shooting is very wayward and maybe some of the shots he took would have been much better if used to slide someone else in to a shooting position.

Salah - he really does seem to love playing against Brighton. Salah is involved in almost everything good the team did in this game. He does not show any signs that he might have peaked yet. In fact, if anything, he seems to be hitting a new peak this season.

Nunez - his all-round play is improving massively but he is still very volatile. The slightest flashpoint always seems to involve him being dragged away by someone to stop him getting himself sent off. Having said that, I can't help loving his fire and the passion it stems from.

Gravenberch - replaced Elliott at half-time. Had a decent game, but his awareness is lacking. The opposition can run off him all day long and he rarely notices. I certainly would not want to consider him in a deeper role as some have suggested. That lack of awareness would be a huge problem as a deeper-lying midfielder. He has to stop relying on his pace and start using his head to make sure he is in the right place and save his legs for getting forward at speed.

Konate - took the place of Matip in the 73rd minute. Despite not having the best of games himself, the defence did feel a lot more solid with him there. It makes a huge difference having a defender who is not caught constantly in the opposition half when you are being attacked.

Gomez - came on for Alexander-Arnold in the 80th minute. Never really had time to truly impact the game. His arrival was needed though, as Alexander-Arnold was really looking sluggish by this point.

Written by Tris Burke October 12 2023 04:19:37


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