Jürgen Klopp has said it is more difficult for a central defender at Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City than at other Premier League teams as he warned his players to prepare for another physical test at Watford on Monday.
Liverpool head to Vicarage Road in a Champions League qualifying position but needing a response to last Sunday’s home defeat by Crystal Palace, their first loss in eight matches. Sam Allardyce, the Palace manager, deliberately targeted Liverpool’s susceptibility at set pieces and space behind their full-backs in the 2-1 win, claiming Klopp’s style left Dejan Lovren and Joël Matip exposed in the heart of defence.
The Liverpool manager accepts defenders have a difficult task given the offensive nature of his team but counter-pressing, if executed correctly, should provide adequate protection. He explained: “If you defend deep then you have a lot of legs and help around, that’s how it is. The first goal last week, this is not an excuse, but it can happen with a misjudgment and a counterattack. A centre-half for a top team is playing with a lot of space at the back. That’s how Tottenham act, how City act and sometimes how Arsenal act. Manchester United are for sure a bit different.
“You have to involve a lot of players in offensive things usually, you cannot be offensive with just two players in a counterattack when there are already eight from the other team in their own half or box. So of course it is more difficult. If we go for a centre-half we need to know how he acts in big spaces, but on the other side centre-halves can feel pretty alone in certain moments if we don’t react the right way after losing the ball. That is why counter-pressing is a pretty useful skill.”
Klopp claimed the best is yet to come from Lovren after the Croatia international signed a new four-year contract last week but the German is keen to reinforce in central defence this summer, with Southampton’s Virgil van Dijk the leading target.
The Liverpool manager added: “I saw a lot of centre-halves, that is how it is. We cannot go for a centre-half from Bayern Munich, for example – they have similar problems to us – but you have to imagine how a defender will react in different situations. All clubs defend in some moments high. It is about being football smart and they have to make the right decision in the right moment, stepping back and all that stuff.
“For example, Palace’s second goal was after a set piece but it came after we lost the ball in the buildup. If the defender steps back in this moment then for a few seconds there could be help from somewhere. It was two wrong decisions in one situation. But defending high is not a problem, it is only a different job.”
Adam Lallana is in contention for his first appearance since 26 March, having recovered from a thigh injury suffered on England duty. “We have had a lot of physical games in the last few weeks with a lot of challenges and we know we need to be ready for this game,” said Klopp, whose team have faced Palace, West Bromwich Albion and Stoke City in their past three matches.