Occasionally soccer schedule computers throw up matches that seem too good to be true. A Jürgen Klopp homecoming to Dortmund for example, or a Liverpool vs. Manchester United clash or Real Madrid-Barcelona Clasico in Europe. How convenient was it that Liverpool started their league campaign this year against Stoke City, the side that thrashed them 5-1 towards the end of last season’s disappointing denouement.
Regardless of narrative, Liverpool have had an interesting week of games — playing Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield on Saturday before traveling to Germany four days later and taking on Borussia Dortmund at the Westfallenstadion. Aside from the fact that Dortmund and Spurs are second in their respective leagues and were always likely to pose a serious challenge, what was interesting about the matches was that Tottenham and Dortmund play exactly how a good, or seriously good Liverpool side under Klopp would play.
Tottenham have the best defense in England, despite not being a team that monopolizes possession. They commit the third most fouls per game, make the fourth most tackles, and the eighth most interceptions, speaking to the ferocity of their pressing game. As they’ve gotten more and more familiar with Mauricio Pochettino’s training methods and playing style, they’ve also been pressing faster and harder. No other top team runs as much.
Everybody watching the game on Saturday would have been surprised that only two goals were scored, even if they were goals of the highest quality, especially Harry Kane’s. Tottenham took 18 shots, Liverpool 15. The actions flowed rapidly from end to end, with Liverpool conceding possession to negate Tottenham’s pressing ability and careening around the pitch to make 29 tackles, six more than their season average.
And Liverpool created chances in a manner Tottenham would have been proud of, hustling the back line through Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana, winning the ball and then either running forward at pace or exploiting the high line through the speed of Daniel Sturridge. Twice quick through balls presented very good chances for Sturridge who was unable to stick them away.
Removing the lens of the result and the lack of finishing on both sides should leave Liverpool with lots of positives. Their offensive plan is starting to come together as they get more and more players back from injury, lots more of their shooting chances are coming from winning the ball high up the pitch and they are making smarter decisions with the ball after winning a tackle, something Klopp pleaded for after his first game in charge (also against Tottenham in North London).