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UEFA Super Cup

Besiktas boss Avci breaks down Liverpool & Chelsea's tactics in the UEFA Super Cup

14:00 EAT 15/08/2019
Jurgen Klopp Liverpool UEFA Super Cup 2019
Liverpool's mid-game adjustments as well as the overall performance of the Blues should leave both managers proud, says the Besiktas boss

Istanbul was the venue for the first all-English UEFA Super Cup as two giants challenged each other for continental supremacy.

Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool looked to capture another piece of silverware after their Champions League triumph last June, while Frank Lampard's Chelsea aimed to put a rough Premier League opening defeat to Manchester United behind them.

Goals from Olivier Giroud and Sadio Mane left the game 1-1 after 90 minutes, and extra-time saw Mane score again, only for Jorginho to level matters from the spot and force penalties.

It would be Liverpool who emerged truimphant, as Reds goalkeeper Adrian stopped Tammy Abraham on Chelsea's fifth spot-kick to help his team once again taste European glory in Istanbul. 

Besiktas’ magnificent stadium Vodafone Park was filled to capacity with more than 41,000 supporters and Abdullah Avci, the Turkish giants' new boss, was in attendance to see Liverpool's shootout victory. Avci analysed the game and both teams in detail for Goal.

What do you think about Liverpool’s transformation since the beginning of the last season?

Jurgen Klopp had arrived from Germany with “gegenpressing” written on his CV but last season he evolved Liverpool into a team that mainly likes to have possession. There are some differences between German and English football styles. In Germany, most teams prefer building attacks from the back; so gegenpressing seems to be more effective. But in England, opponents usually let Liverpool have the ball and choose to play with a more rigid defensive mentality and this forces the Reds to go with a possession game. Focusing on only one part of the game may result in success in the short term but can cause serious problems in the long run. Possession itself is not enough and defensive positions seem to have much more importance for the teams’ attacking efficiently. Teams with a more reactive strategy can have better results in tournaments but it’s very hard for them to maintain that success in the long run. If any team wants to challenge for the championship at league level, they must dominate possession.

But specific to this game, something was more important than possession:Winning! Chelsea manager Frank Lampard analysed their first Premier League game against Manchester United and noted the spaces they left behind due to pressing up front; so, he preferred to sit back and wait for their opponent at the halfway line in the first 30 minutes. Thus, Liverpool started the game having more possession because Chelsea preferred a more rigid defensive structure. Later in the first half, Chelsea started to press higher on the pitch and increased their offensive efficiency thanks to N’Golo Kante’s tackles and recoveries. Chelsea fans didn’t like Maurizio Sarri’s low-tempo passing game very much and they even booed the team last season. But considering the game against Manchester United, it seems that Frank Lampard’s new mentality combining higher tempo with aggressive pressing has more appeal for them.

What kind of a season do you think Chelsea will have?

With Maurizio Sarri, Chelsea used a 4-3-3 formation very efficiently and became one of the fastest passing teams in the Premier League. They made a good start but had some troubles in the final third as the season continued. It appears that we’ll see mainly a 4-2-3-1 formation this season. Before the Liverpool game, I was expecting Chelsea to have less possession and Frank Lampard to go with a more transition offense. This UEFA Super Cup game proved my expectations are correct. However, they may struggle getting results if these defensive problems aren’t fixed. Obviously, it’ll take time for us to see what Lampard has in mind but this team has a strong tactical-memory from last season and I believe that this philosophy will evolve into a more efficient strategy.

When Chelsea attackers pressed high against Manchester United, the defensive line didn’t show any support, and this resulted in giving too much space to their opponent.​ Can you tell us how important the team structure is in football?

No matter how you choose to defend, you always have to be compact. Whether you press high or sit back and wait at the halfway line, you must keep narrow distances between blocks. There must be approximately a 10-12 meter-distance between your defence and midfield block.

How important do you think Alisson Becker and Virgil van Dijk’s leadership was for Liverpool’s success last season? And in general, do you consider leadership as a main reason for success?

It can be misleading to interpret any team’s success in conceding fewer goals with only focusing on their goalkeeper and centre-back’s individual performances. It’s also important that centre-backs should have a good chemistry in order to maintain a solid team defence. Central defenders usually must be equipped with strong leadership skills. It’s no coincidence that Van Dijk didn’t let any of his opponents dribble past him and Liverpool conceded the fewest number of goals last season in the Premier League. In addition to his physical strength, he stands out with his positional understanding and ability to read the game at the highest level. I think every player must be the leader of his own area.

Neither Liverpool nor Chelsea made any signings this season. Must clubs sign players for improvement or is it just an illusion?

It’s an advantage to choose players that suit your playing style if you are trying to switch into a new system. It’s also a managerial success to have maximum efficiency from each player on your team. You must design your team considering the characteristics of your players and help them become more versatile and reach to the level where they can perform in multiple positions.

What did you think Jurgen Klopp planned when starting Joe Gomez at right-back?

Honestly, I couldn’t understand that decision at all! He also preferred Gomez at the right-back position against Paris Saint-Germain last season and he had troubles against Juan Bernat.

Can you tell us what N’Golo Kante changed in Chelsea midfield?

Kante’s return to the starting line-up significantly improved Chelsea. It’s impossible to define Kante as a classic defensive midfielder. Lampard assigned him to a box-to-box role against Liverpool (just like Sarri last season) and this resulted in an impressive performance. He made eight successful dribbles which is his career high! Sarri was constantly criticised for this but Kante was the best Chelsea player on the pitch. I also liked Pedro. He’s the ideal attacking wing player in modern football; he can help his team, protect the ball, he doesn’t lose possession easily and can dribble past his opponent in the blink of an eye.

While Liverpool struggled producing big chances against Chelsea’s compact defence, the Blues were the more effective side in the first half. Do you think both managers’ striker preferences (Sadio Mane and Olivier Giroud) was the reason for that?

Considering the first 45 minutes, it was very similar to Liverpool’s Premier League games. Mane disappeared against Chelsea’s compact defence and he touched the ball only 15 times, which was the lowest number for any player on the pitch. So, Klopp had to change something. Bringing on Firmino and putting Mane on the wing was the best move we saw during the game. That simple touch helped us watch a more productive Liverpool team. Firmino made the real difference for Liverpool offensively. He was dropping in between the lines to receive the ball and Lampard used Jorginho to mark him but he was clever enough to pull him away to open passing lanes.

Chelsea scored the first goal executing a similar offensive set from Sarri era, which is a strong sign of them having a tactical memory from last season. Their three central midfielders (Jorginho, Kante, Kovacic) had 84.6 per cent passing accuracy, which is close to the level they had last season, and this helped Chelsea break Liverpool’s press without having much trouble. In short, Chelsea used Sarri’s legacy very efficiently against Liverpool. Under the new coach, it was magnificent that Chelsea dominated Liverpool in such a crucial game. As a coach with similar experiences, I can imagine that it must have been difficult for Lampard to tell his players that they played so well and still ended up losing. But I strongly believe Chelsea can have a good season if they continue to play like that and build upon their good heritage.