Klopp to blame for Liverpool's attacking struggles & five tactical lessons learned from the weekend

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The Reds boss made a series of head-scratching substitutions at Old Trafford, meaning his side struggled to break down Manchester United

Liverpool moved back to the top of the Premier League table with a hard-fought 0-0 draw with Manchester United at Old Trafford, but with the hosts succumbing to a series of first-half injuries it felt like two points dropped for Jurgen Klopp’s side.

That Manchester City went onto lift the Carabao Cup a few hours later adds to the sense that momentum shifted in the reigning champions' favour on Sunday.

Elsewhere, Claude Puel was relieved of his duties at Leicester City following yet another home defeat, while Maurizio Sarri finally relaxed his principles at Wembley – only for Kepa Arrizabalaga’s rebellion to overshadow Chelsea’s tactics.

Here's what we learned over the course of a headline-grabbing weekend...


Klopp must shoulder the blame for Liverpool blanks


Liverpool’s failure to capitalise on Man Utd’s injury problems during a game in which they held a clear psychological advantage could end up costing them the title - and Jurgen Klopp has to take the blame!

The Reds coach failed to turn the match in their favour, with all three of his substitutions ultimately reshaping the match to the hosts’ advantage.

By the time Roberto Firmino withdrew through injury in the 31st minute it was clear Liverpool lacked creative guile in the final third, with Man Utd’s deep block successfully stifling the front three.

But, rather than bring on Xherdan Shaqiri, Klopp went with Daniel Sturridge, who was largely anonymous.

The second substitution had a particularly negative impact. By withdrawing Jordan Henderson for Shaqiri and switching to 4-4-2, Klopp badly disrupted Liverpool’s rhythm; without their screening midfielder, Liverpool could no longer pen Man Utd in for long periods, while in an unusually flat formation they stopped building carefully into the final third.

After Henderson left the pitch Liverpool failed to record a single shot on goal.

To compound a day of tactical errors, Klopp then withdrew Mohamed Salah for Divock Origi, who managed just three touches of the ball.

Daniel Sturridge touches GFX

PIC: Sturridge touches vs Man Utd


Solskjaer proves he can manage a Man Utd defensive effort


Man Utd’s deep-lying, resilient defending at Old Trafford was reminiscent of a Jose Mourinho defence from 2017-18, as every player dropped back to put in a shift for their team.

In the first half, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s best tactical move was instructing supposed strikers Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford to drop all the way into auxiliary full-back positions, shutting down Liverpool’s favourite passing lanes into Salah and Sadio Mane.

A series of enforced changes saw United switch to a 4-5-1 after the break, further evidence of Solskjaer’s proactive tactical approach to management, and his side were no less defensively solid.

Luke Shaw and Paul Pogba were particularly impressive in the left channel, the former shepherding Salah out of the game and the latter repeatedly tracking runners who  went beyond Shaw.

Solskjaer has surely now earned the job on a full-time basis. Not only has he brought attacking football back to Old Trafford, the Norwegian has even managed to improve the defensive side of things following the collapse under Mourinho.


Sarri finally switches things up - but is it too late?


The Carabao Cup final will forever be remembered for Kepa Arrizabalaga’s refusal to be substituted and how it solidified the notion that Maurizio Sarri has lost the dressing room - meaning history will forget this was the day Sarri did the unthinkable: modifying his tactical approach!

Sarri may finally be ready to become more flexible, although it is surely too little, too late.

Chelsea dug in at Wembley, backing right off Man City in a dramatic subversion of their high-pressing approach in the 6-0 defeat at the Etihad Stadium a fortnight ago.

Both David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne struggled to influence the game due to Chelsea’s narrowness, while N’Golo Kante looked considerably improved in a system more naturally suited to his defensive talents.

Starting Eden Hazard as a false nine raised eyebrows, but it meant Chelsea had two wingers willing to track back; another pragmatic decision from Sarri at just the right moment.

As City tired, psychologically as well as physically, Chelsea gradually moved up the pitch, utilising long diagonal passes into the wingers that – again – showed Sarri is finally ready to change his dogmatic tactics.

The Italian also broke his string of predictable, like-for-like replacements with academy products Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek getting their chance off the bench.

Maurizio Sarri Chelsea 2018-19


Lacazette's evolution good news for Arsenal


A routine 2-0 win for Arsenal over Southampton will not live long in the memory for either set of fans, but Alexandre Lacazette’s quietly intelligent performance deserves a mention.

The France forward has improved his game under Unai Emery, dropping deeper to link with the Arsenal midfield than he was able to under Arsene Wenger.

Against Southampton, he completed more dribbles (five) and took more shots (five) than in any other game this season.

Crucially, those dribbles all took place in the central column of the pitch, a zone Lacazette traditionally vacated to run the channels, but has since become his main area of influence.

In the sixth minute on Sunday, he won the ball in the centre circle and wriggled past two challenges before feeding Alex Iwobi, whose cross was eventually bundled in by Lacazette.

Given that Arsenal are preparing for life without their two number 10s - Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey - Lacazette’s evolving game is excellent news for Gunners fans.


Puel pays the price as midfield goes AWOL


Sarri’s eventual willingness to change may or may not have come too late, but it certainly did for Claude Puel, sacked on Sunday following Leicester City’s seventh successive match without victory.

Having come under intense scrutiny for playing a dull brand of possession football, Puel appeared to have made a last-ditch attempt to play in an attacking manner on Saturday – only for Crystal Palace to punish them ruthlessly.

Youri Tielemans plays high up the field and does less defensive work than James Maddison, which left Wilfried Ndidi with too much to do against Palace.

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James McArthur found acres of space for his 40th-minute shot – deflected in off Michy Batshuayi – because Leicester’s midfield trio were in a dreadful shape, Maddison at the base and Tielemans lifeless when he should have closed off the passing line to McArthur.

Again, Tielemans was at fault for Palace’s second goal, failing to apply pressure to the ball so that Ndidi was left alone to track McArthur. A half-hearted challenge from Maddison was not enough to stop McArthur’s cross reaching Wilfried Zaha, who made it 2-0.

Leicester Palace Tactics GFX

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