If a single tactical feature were to be used to define a manager, for Jurgen Klopp, it would certainly be the pressing or the counter-pressing tactics his teams are famous for. In this tactical analysis, we will be covering Klopp’s pressing evolution from his time at Dortmund until his current reign at Liverpool.
Gegenpressing is the best playmaker
To understand how Klopp’s teams press, we have to understand the concept of Gegenpressing or counter-pressing. Gegenpressing is a tactic in which a team, after losing possession of the ball, immediately attempts to win back possession, rather than falling back to regroup. The idea lying behind Gegenpressing or the counter-pressing is that the opposition is disorganised after the opposition lose the ball and this disorganisation can be exploited with a well-executed Gegenpressing.
During his time at Dortmund, he used 4-4-2/4-4-1-1 system, Dortmund would often build their play through one side of the pitch and defended in a very compact manner, their goal was to regain the possession almost immediately after losing the ball and shutting down the passing options for the oppositions.
In the image below, we see a Gegenpressing situation, Here yellow markers are used for Dortmund players and the blue markers are used for opposition players, we see that Dortmund have shut down all the passing options for the opposition and can intercept the next pass. This was a common play pattern in Klopp’s Dortmund.
At Dortmund, the goal was to quickly counter-attack after winning the ball as the opponent’s defence is disorganised, Dortmund would try to exploit this disorganisation. In the image below, we see an example of this, here Bayern’s center-back can only pass the ball to his goalkeeper.
As mentioned above Dortmund would often lined up in a narrow 4-4-2/4-4-1-1 system, they would often set up in a low to mid-block forcing the opponents to make mistakes and then exploit their disorganized shape. Below image highlights this situation, Here Dortmund lined up 4-4-1-1 system and the two strikers are used as the cover shadows to block the passes into the midfield.
In addition to this, Dortmund would start their press with certain triggers, A closed body shape of the receiving player could act as a trigger, Dortmund players would try to close him down and would try to shut down all the passing options. The below image highlights one more counter-pressing situation, Here Dortmund are pressing with 4 men, they won the ball back by shutting down the opponent’s passing options and immediately shifted from the defensive phase to the offensive phase.
Klopp Pressing Tactics at Liverpool
At Liverpool, Klopp has shifted his attention to increasing ball retention and possession. As Liverpool usually line up in a 4-3-3 formation, they often secure possession with horizontal passes. Liverpool press higher than Dortmund(During Klopp’s time at Dortmund), the center-forward mostly Roberto Firmino would act as a cover shadow, therefore blocking the passing option to the opponent’s holding midfielder, the two wingers(Mo.Salah and Sadio Mane) start the press by acting as the positional diagonals and forcing the center-back to play ball inside, the two midfielders mark the opponents two midfielders, thereby forcing the opponents to either go long or pass it on the flanks. The below images highlight this pressing concept.
In addition to this, Liverpool would sometimes, allow the opposition midfielder to receive the first pass and then start their press from different directions.
Fullbacks play a very important role in Klopp’s teams, At Liverpool one of the fullbacks(Trent Alex Arnold and Andy Robertson) joins the press together with the striker and the wingers. Thus Liverpool would often create a back-three line, Moreover if both the fullbacks are up during the pressing, then the defensive midfielder would drop in the defence so as to maintain a back three line.
In the image above, we see that Trent has joined the press with Salah and Firmino, forcing Dani Ceballos to make a mistake. At the same Robertson stayed back so that the counter-attack can be prevented. A principal that remained is, the wingers constantly track back and play a vital role during the defensive phase.
Gegenpressing still plays a vital role in Klopp’s tactics, although at Liverpool the pressing approach has become more proactive. At Dortmund, he was more focused on creating chances through counter-attacks.