Why Virgil and Gini will win the CL!

Finally, an English team will break the reign of the Spanish CL rulers. It is possible to break the combination and possession play that dominated European football for so long. In the 2005/06 season, the CL became a chess game on grass. In the four semi final matches, only 2 goals were scored. The average that season, was 2,3 goals per game which is the lowest since 1992/393.  The success of the Italian clubs and conservative coaches like Benitez and Mourinho led a new trend. The best way to win something in Europe, was the thought, is to build a strong defensive organisational unit and hope for a counter attack.

Twelve years later and offensive football is victorious. A trend that started with Barcelona. Between 2006 and 2015 they win the most important prize in club football four times! And with dazzling attacking play. And now, this style is being followed, obviously by Pep Guardiola himself, as he brings Bayern Munich and now Man City to the level of his Barca teams. When Barca wins the trophy in 2011, they are one of the few teams to pass 500+ times per match. In this season’s CL tournament, there are 10 clubs that manage this.

To stop the Barcelonas and Bayern Munichs of dominating, the “park the bus” tactics were used, and with success too! Mourinho with Inter Milan, Chelsea under Di Matteo. Atletico’s Diego Simeone turns it into an art form, by playing a solid 4-4-2  with very tight space between the players in a zonal defensive system.

But it’s a German coach who plants the seed in 2013 as a response to the Spanish combinationdomination. And that seed will result and has already resulted in the spectacle in the Champions League we saw this season…

It’s Borussia Dortmund vs Bayern Munich. Both teams have a football approach that starts with possession of the opponent, but with a thrust of pressure forward. A way of thinking reminiscent of the famous AC Milan team of the late 80s, early 90s under Arrigo Sacchi. Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp: “My teams are modelled on the AC Milan team of Sacchi. He was my mentor. I actually never met him but my former assistant coach Wolfgang Frank, who did work with him.”

Exactly like Milan, Klopp’s teams are trained to re-possess the ball in areas and in moments where losing the ball will bring the opponent immediately into trouble. The opponent is unorganised and Klopp’s team will pounce. In 2013, Dortmund beats Malaga and Real Madrid, while Bayern humiliates Barca by winning 7-0 on aggregate!

It doesn’t result in a new German era of success, but it does bring about the new trend of zonal marking, aggressive forward pressure and immediate pressing when the ball is lost. This is how AS Monaco beats Man City in the CL season last year. And this is how PSG beat Barca 4-0 at home. Sadly, the Parisians lose their cool in the Camp Nou and resort back to their defensive, park-the-bus tactics and actually lose on aggregate…

The UEFA’s annual technical report is quite clear, in the 2016/17 season. More than 20% of all goals are scored from a fast transition in open play from defence to attack. And this is even without all the free kicks and penalty kicks that derive from this. The number of passes to create a goal is decreasing as well. As is the average time it takes to win the ball back and score. And almost half of the goals are the result of possession turnaround high on the pitch, in the final third.

That season, Liverpool isn’t in the CL otherwise the stats would have been even more prolific. In the EPL, Klopp is still faced with teams that are happy to use the long ball and by pass the whole build up. And in the EPL, Liverpool does lose too many points against those opponents. In the CL however, teams like to build up, to pass the ball, have possession and break down an opponent.  In the CL, it helps if you can play out from the back with incisive and risky passing, and it helps if you can re-possess the ball swiftly and set up a lethal attack at the same time. Liverpool can do both.

This Liverpool is not the best organised lot. Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Juventus, Man City and Tottenham come to mind as being much better. But Liverpool is the King of Chaos. With the Reds, it is all about the turn around. When the opponent is just off the pace for seconds. When half the team of the opponent is still in forward motion and the other half breaks down to move back. Whenever Liverpool have the ball, they are prepared for when they lose the ball. When Liverpool are without the ball, they are preparing for the counter attack that will come, when they re-claim the ball. And, when Liverpool does start their turn-around move, they’re sheer unstoppable.

Ready for the press!

Klopp summarized it once as such, when asked what the difference was between Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal and his Liverpool. “Wenger loves to have the ball and loves to play from foot to foot. They’re well structured and balanced. Like an orchestra. They play lovely harmonies. I prefer heavy metal. I like noise. I like chaos.”

The Liverpool Stats on their way to the CL finals are stunning. Out of the 33 goals they scored, 28 goals were set up with less than four passes. No other team has scored or shot on target as often from the turnaround as Liverpool have…

Klopp organises his teams in such a way that winning the ball back equates becoming a threat immediately. This is how it’s done. The Liverpool team will veer with the opponents movement. The pace goes down a bit, every player protecting his zone. The team on the ball will actually believe they get a moment to breath and build up nicely. But Liverpool players are taught to recognise when the opponent gets into trouble. For instance, a pass on a midfielder with his face towards his own goal. Or a square pass to a back who is with his back to the line and has less options. Or a pass lacking the pace. A stray pass. Anything. And when that happens, it’s like Liverpool turns from kittens into leopards. They suddenly increase the intensity and hunt for the ball. Klopp’s team is like a predator, allowing the pray to think they’re safe. Until they’re not anymore.

The moment Nangolain made the wrong pass…

With Mane and Salah up top, Liverpool has the speed. And they work well together with false #9 Firminho, the first station in the counter attack, he will find the pass towards the two speedy forwards. Firminho is also the man to join in and his bursts usually create space for the upcoming midfielders, like Can or Wijnaldum or Oxlade Chamberlain. The Liverpool midfielders are all built for this chaotic style of play. They can all come up with creative solutions under pressure. Klopp: “How I coach the counters? That is not hard. I start with signing players who are willing to work hard every match and who are happy to run constantly, even if they won’t get the ball.”

And Liverpool is away….

And the entertainment value of Liverpool matches is the result of all this, as Liverpool also makes mistakes in their execution. They score 5 against Roma, using their strengths and concede 2 against Roma in situations where the cohesion is gone. When the field becomes too stretched or when a defender misses the challenge, Liverpool can become really open and vulnerable. Klopp doesn’t seem to care. “As long as we score more on the other end…”

These are the 6 principles of Jurgen Klopp’s philosophy:

  1. Lure the Opponent in

Liverpool doesn’t need the ball. Liverpool wants to control space. They determine where the opponent can go and where they can’t. By pressing early and high, opponents can either play the long ball, and there is a fair chance The Reds will win that (Virgil van Dijk) or they play out of the back, which is a high risk game. Because if they lose the leather, the likes of Salah, Mane and Firminho will tear you apart. Liverpool will drop back a bit, giving the opponent the idea it’s safe to start building up and then – as explained above – when a certain risky situation appears, they will pounce. They will all move towards the side where the ball is and suddenly block off the next pass.

2.  Direct the ball towards one side

Liverpool doesn’t mind it when the opponent has the ball as long as they have it where Liverpool wants them to have it. And they do this by not being totally in balance. It’s the smart body language and smart runs that will slowly force the opponent into a certain area. Roberto Firmino is the king of this game. He’s got the intelligence and the energy to repeatedly do this in a match. Klopp will find the weakest link in the opponents team and seemingly leave that player unmarked. Once he is played in (usually a full back) Firminho will move towards the player in such a way that the next pass is predictable. And pray for the next Liverpool player. Another element that is key is the ability of the Liverpool players to “mark” two players. Basically, the midfielders and the defenders of Liverpool are capable of putting pressure on the man with the ball but also by blocking a pass to a team mate of the opponent.

Liverpool forcing the goalie to make the risky pass into one of the central backs

3.  Prepare the trap

When Liverpool is at the point where the opponent is forced to the side where Liverpool wants them, the trap will be set. Liverpool will block every pass, except the one that Liverpool likes to see used. Liverpool keeps one option open and the player under pressure will usually use that option. In some situations, four Liverpool players will be ready to immediately put pressure on the ball with intensity and pace. Once the ball is won, Liverpool can immediately attack.

4. Set the trap

Liverpool, as a result of the number of players used in the trap, will always have players available to release the ball to. There is usually always a man more situation created as a result. Obviously, Liverpool will be understaffed on other areas of the pitch and sometimes a really special player will be able to play the ball in one time in that area, but Klopp is happy to have that risk. Because when Liverpool do win the ball, they have a man more situation (at least one man more) and most of Liverpool’s goals are scored from this situation.

5.   Do get the ball!

Apparently, this is the past where Klopp needed most work. Because putting pressure on the ball or actually getting the ball are different things. Klopp wants his players to go for the kill. Not complacent pseudo challenges. But go for the ball 100%. The result in the 2016/17 season: Liverpool players re-possessed the ball most out of all EPL players, and that includes creative players like Philippe Coutinho.

6.  Attack!

The last ingredient of the Klopp recipe is to actually attack. Don’t repossess the ball and recycle it with a square pass or a back pass. No. Attack! Immediately. The opponent usually is badly organised in these situations and Klopp wants to use that situation. But it does mean his players have to work ever so hard and cover so much ground. With Mane and Salah he has speed and with the likes of Firminho, Wijnaldum, Milner and Can he has the work horses to support.

With this style of play, it is easy to see why the top teams don’t like to play against Liverpool. But it also shows why it ‘s hard for Liverpool to win the EPL title. Most of the teams in the bottom half of the league will not try and dominate, or play possession and walk into the Liverpool trap. Against these teams, the long ball will be used by the opponent and Liverpool will have to find a Plan B to break these clubs down.

Winning the Champions League seems easier for Liverpool than winning the EPL title…

Thanks to VI Pro for the insights…



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  1. Looks like Roma have agreed to personal terms with Justin Kluivert. I don’t know how I feel about the move.

    He’ll get to play European football which is a plus.

    He’ll play in one of the top leagues, another plus.

    Plays for an exciting attacking team, another plus. And he’ll most likely be in the starting 11.

    But there’s just something about football in Italy that gives me a weird feeling.

    1. Lot of competitions too. EL Shaarawy, perotti,Florenzi, Under. Roma is CL so there will be rotation obviously so its pretty much comes down to what or how much impression he makes when given opportunity otherwise he will be a investment for future. Strootman and karsdorp are both there so he wont find it hard settling down.

      1. one thing for sure Kluivert has made the right decision whether it was forced on to him or he had no other choices. Eredivisie to Serie A is a good transition. not to big and not too small either. Lamela, Marquinhos,Miralem,Digne, PjaniC,Nainggolan,Rüdiger are just some names who went through Roma to become household names which they are today. all these names certainly hit their peak at Roma and hopefully Kluivert will reach the same before making the next big move.

  2. Just going back to the CL final, if liverpool sit back and wait on Mane and Salah to pounce on losse ball, they will be in for a suprise.they need to take the game to real like they did vs Man city. Zidanes tatics is quiet easy to project. Vazquez and Asensio are two trumph cards which he always uses in the second half with the opposition fading. Liverpool needs to address this especially in the midfield with Wijnaldum, Milner and henderson, if they start.usually madrid start with two attacking midfielders and when they wanna play more defensive Kovoic usually comes in to to partner Casmeiro in the central midfield.I must say the workrate of kroos, Casmeiro, modric is quiet phenomenal.if this trio are on song, they will make life miserable. On the other hand for Liverpool, the defense for madrid often crumbles in high tempo game and this is where Mane and Salaha need to sieze every inch of opporunity and bury it on first sight. If given opportunity on the other hand Ronaldo will be decisive.

  3. Cannt wait to see final…i really wish Deligt signs with liverpool as that would a great help for NT and Deligt in personal…he can learn from Virgil and co…
    if not he should play for spurs…no plastic clubs like Mancity or Real madrid or Chelsea..

  4. Great piece Jan, the “Gegenpress” it sounds simple but in actual fact it requires a really fit and committed playing group to execute well, with the understanding of when to go and when to sit.
    I hope Liverpool can do it, I have a soft spot for them and I really don’t want to see Ronaldo parading around like the king of the world.
    The WC starts soon , without Oranje unfortunately but I’m still looking forward to watching the tournament, I have a feeling Brasil will be hard to beat this time, they are in similar form to when we made the final in SA.
    So who do you think will win it?

    1. I would say Brazil minus neymar has a better chance of wining than with Neymar playing. Coutinho has a good chemistry with Firmino and If neymar starts, coutinho will be forced to go on the right which is not strong hold. The last La liga game for Barcelona vs Real Sociedead, coutinho showed his killer instict when he is playing on that left side and cutting in on his right. Unfortunately coutinho and they will always cancel each other out if they play together on wing and centre repectively and for me coutinho is more more a team player than neymar.

      Being said this I also agree the squad they have assembled thi

  5. i really Wish Wijnaldum wins CL with pool…An astonishing personality for young dutch players..
    He was down to earth since as a teenger in Feynoord,choose PSV and stayed brilliantly there ,then moved to Midtable club ,,he was there best player in that season…then to pool…radual growth,consistent in career,
    Though he had some bad games for NT,think this was due to strootman and klassen ,Klassen could not finish and strootman was busy with backpasses etc…Now with Propper and Van de beek Gini will be better used in NT…with mercuriosuly unselfish Depay and Babel as finishers….
    Go Gini….Go Gini get the CL….from plastic club madrid..

  6. U21s had their first win over Bolivia U21. Both Lammers and Bacuna with a double. Bacuna continues to impress me and hopefully he continues to mature at groningen next season.
    Dilrosun and Kadioglu made their debut for the orange while kluivert remained on the bench.

    While the u21s prefered to go on south america tour , England u21 who are next up for Jong orange in the euro qualifers prefereed to play friendly with germany and drew 2-2. Not sure if playing with teams like Bolivia will have any effect on their overall performance. Zivkovic is notable exclusion.

        1. Lucky…. Why you do think Bale never started. I would admit Iscos return from injury was timely but given the depth that Zidane had it was always going to be tatical and salah injury pretty much played to it.liverpool absolutely had no impact player on the bench and when salah got injured the liverpool midfielders were jus left with only Mane upfront to deal with. Milner, wijnaldum and henderson are all versatile midfilders and thats how Klopp has been moulding them. All of them lack that clincial aspect and this this is where they missed a true no 10 and also Ox (though he is not no 10) but his penetrating runs and shot on goal was always influential as Mane, salah and firmino would always pounce on the rebound.

          Maybe another day for liverpool and klopp.

          1. I would also say here klopps decsion not to rotate the front three to some extent backfired here especially when you look at Salahs injury. He has stuck with the front three for almost all season apart from some late camoes for solanke and Ings and some FA games where he used other players. I mean if you look at Madrid, if Ronaldo would have gotten injured they had Bale, Vazquez and Asensio all sitting on the bench whom are all established players at RM or have been part of Zidanes rotation through out the season.liverpool had solanke on the bench as back up striker with very little playing time this season.

            Im absloutely sure Klopp would have taken note of this and will add more depth next season.

      1. I would say GK and good and Clincal no 10 who can shift the workload off mane and salah and plus Ox can always shift to the wing.he was a good investment by klopp. Nabil fekir of lyon is one name that has been heavily linked to liverpool.

  7. I think WIjnaldum played his usual game. Good and energetic in midfield, doing what Klopp wanted of him. Nothing special.

    Liverpool needs at least 4 top signings to keep on competing and Klopp needs a plan B when things don’t work.

    Obviously, he needs a decent goal keeper… That has been said sooo many times now.

    He needs another top central defender.

    A replacement for Coutinho (Fekir for instance).

    And at least one top forward who can stir things up coming from the bench.

    Salah not being rotated enough has nothing to do with the injury he got in the finals.

    IT was a cynical wrestle move by Ramos. Locking his arm in and landing on him with his full weight.

    Maybe not on purpose but bad anyway. Should have been a free kick.

    1. I meant rotation to compensate for unforeseen circumstances when it occurs.plan B part as you mentioned. Realistically you dont realize this until it happens and for Klopp it would have jus another day in office if not for injury. But then again when it comes to finals it boils down to everything. Players, coach, depth in the squad, tatic, referee and I will add lady luck.

      1. On another part it was klopp who personally signed Karius from Maniz and relegated Mignolet to bench and after this game his this particular signing will always be remebered as a rotten potatoe. He is a good GK but the freebeez he gave was little too much.

  8. Depay-promes

    Wijnaldum-van de beek- vilhena

    Van aanholt- tete
    de ligt- de vrij-van dijk


    That line up wwould crush Italy and Slovakia and would have a decent shot at winning the world cup. Shame that Netherlands aren’t in it

    1. Im not sure about Slovakia but Roberto Mancini is also building the team around some up and coming young players. They wont be a walk over park. If you follow serie A and know the players then you will know players like Daniele Baselli Bryan Cristante , Lorenzo Pellegrini , Domenico Berardi Federico Chiesa, Matteo Politano, Simone Verdi, mattia caldara have come on the back of a very good seadon for their respective teams.Add to this they have better depth in thr squad currently to that of the dutch and as as well as positional players.

      Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Donnarumma (AC Milan), Mattia Perin (Genoa), Salvatore Sirigu (Torino).

      Defenders: Leonardo Bonucci (AC Milan), Mattia Caldara (Atalanta), Domenico Criscito (Zenit St. Petersburg), Danilo D’Ambrosio (Inter Milan), Mattia De Sciglio (Juventus), Emerson Palmieri (Chelsea), Alessio Romagnoli (AC Milan), Daniele Rugani (Juventus), Davide Zappacosta (Chelsea).

      Midfielders: Daniele Baselli (Torino), Giacomo Bonaventura (AC Milan), Bryan Cristante (Atalanta), Alessandro Florenzi (Roma), Jorginho (Napoli), Rolando Mandragora (Crotone), Claudio Marchisio (Juventus), Lorenzo Pellegrini (Roma).

      Forwards: Mario Balotelli (Nice), Andrea Belotti (Torino), Domenico Berardi (Sassuolo), Federico Bernardeschi (Juventus), Federico Chiesa (Fiorentina), Ciro Immobile (Lazio), Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli), Matteo Politano (Sassuolo), Simone Verdi (Bologna), Simone Zaza (Valencia).

  9. IMO the British media hyped up Liverpool too much before the match. As a neutral, not being a fan of either team, I picked Madrid to win the game. Liverpool are a very good side and on their day, they can beat the best teams. However, the team needs critical upgrades at key positions. IMO, Madrid was the favorite just based on their roster, experience and winning record.

    Salah’s exit clearly affected Liverpool’s chances. The players were affected mentally and were forced to play a more defensive formation the rest of the game.
    Karius was exposed. He is clearly not a champions league caliber player. He lost his concentration which is one of the most important thing for a goalkeeper.

    As far as transfers, I agree with Jan. Liverpool MUST spend money. They already have Keita coming in. They absolutely need to buy a goalkeeper. According to the rumors, negotiations with Fekir are advanced. The guy is a very good player. I don’t know how other teams are not after him. He is flying under the radar or he must have told his agent he only wants to go to Liverpool.
    They definitely need a defender. De ligt would be great but I’m hearing Tottenham and maybe Barcelona are the ones seriously after him. Liverpool and Arsenal should jump in. I also agree they need another decent forward who can give Salah a break every now and then.

    I feel bad for VVD and Wijnaldum. This definitely was a good learning experience just getting this far. Now they know what it takes to get over the hump and win a final. They will be back stronger and also be more thirsty to win which is ultimately good for Oranje.

    1. Madrid was ahead in polls too with alot of lengendary names also predicting Madrid to win the final. I think this is the same scenario as in the WC where the best starting 11 plus three best subs wins the game.hard lessons learned for klopp and Liverpool. It was evident when zidane came to shake klopps hand after the final whistle, no eye contact and any liverpool players having sex after this game would have been nightmare for the their girlsfriend or wife. Imagine that bitterness, harshness and guilt turning emotions into actions.

  10. Hans hateboer could be on his way to Dortmund after 15 million pounds bid was submitted for his transfer from Atalanta.if this goes through it will be another success story of those players who worked their way from the bottom and reached the top.

    On the other side Rick Karsdorp will go out on loan to Beskitas.

    1. Also PSV has finally decided to release Sam lammers.he practically jus wasted this season sitting on the bench.VVV Velno is all set to sign him.

      1. @Wilson, I thought I read a few days ago that PSV would allow Lammers to go out on loan, not an outright release. Did something change?

        Re CL finals: Can’t win a final giving up two fluke goals. Only Ramos knows whether he was trying to hurt Salah (which I doubt). I think, after looking at the play a few times, he made sure he made sure to pull him to the ground to make absolutely certain that Salah didn’t get by him, or would not be in a position to set a quick restart. I also think that as they were going to ground, he took the opportunity to make it more physical than it needed to be, to punish Salah a little bit physically. You would expect that from a CD at that level in that type of game. But the referee is supposed to issue at least a yellow for reckless disregard. Where was it? Its the old RM double standard. Putting it another way, had Lovren done the same to Benzema or Ronaldo, the card would have been out. Now do I think that a yellow card is a fair trade for losing Salah? Absolutely not. But there is supposed to be some sanction, some acknowledgement of the cynicism of the play, and yellow makes Ramos a little more wary for the remaining 60 minutes or so.

        1. you read it right. sparta were interested to loan him when the transfer window opened in January but PSV were reluctant to release as Luuk was rumored to be heading to Mexico which never eventuated and then Locadias departure to Brighton and Hove meant they needed a backup with Romero still not ready.

          but yeah you are are correct, he will be loaned out initially.

  11. http://outsideoftheboot.com/2018/05/28/eredivisie-2017-18-u-22-young-players-team-of-the-season.

    I must say here Kevin Diks had a very good second half season at Feyenoord and that is one reason why his name is there. I remember Dumfries had a super start when the season began but faded out as the season went on.this was also evident in u21s when Diks got the nod over dumfries who has been regular starter there. also he had a good outings vs Boliva u21. Diks jus needs to improve on his defensive game and looking at his performance vs Bolivia he should get the nod vs England u21 in the next qualifiers.

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