Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp will quickly have placed his side’s form at Anfield near the top of his to-do list since taking over at the club.
Since his arrival at the club in early October, the Reds have played three times in the Premier League at Anfield and have come away with four points.
A draw against Southampton in his first league outing at home was a disappointment for the German. His side went 1-0 ahead thanks to a fine header by Christian Benteke with just over ten minutes to go. But they were made to rue missed chances as Sadio Mane salvaged a late point for Ronald Koeman’s side.
The next home game was a 2-1 loss against Crystal Palace, who are fast becoming a bogey team for the Reds, thanks to a couple of defensive errors. Poor defending allowed Palace to open the scoring before a late header by boyhood Red Scott Dann sealed the points after Simon Mignolet palmed the ball towards the defender.
The latest home game did bring Klopp his first win at Anfield since becoming boss, but it was far from a convincing display and it was decided thanks to a penalty by James Milner. The lack of creativity and chances will have been a disappointment for the former Borussia Dortmund boss. The points most certainly will not have been, however.
Klopp has also overseen three cup games at Anfield since taking the reigns from Brendan Rodgers. A disappointing 1-1 draw with Russian side Rubin Kazan was Klopp’s very first game in charge of Liverpool at home. The Reds could not build on Emre Can’s equaliser despite Kazan being down to ten men for an hour.
A deserved 1-0 win over Premiership strugglers Bournemouth in the League Cup followed as Nathaniel Clyne grabbed his first goal for the club at the Anfield Road End early on. But despite a fine performance from Roberto Firmino, the one goal was all that could be mustered by a dominant Reds’ performance.
Klopp’s most recent home game at Anfield in cup competition was the 2-1 win over Bordeaux on Thursday. After going 1-0 down to the French side following Mignolet’s inexplicable game of keep-ball, the Reds rallied back to snatch the win and gain qualification into the knockout round. Again, like the Swansea game, a Milner penalty was required to open the scoring. Benteke did slam home a fine finish to seal the win, but the conversion of possession into goals wasn’t there.
That means that Klopp’s record at Anfield so far reads:
Played 6 (3 league, 3 cup)
Won 3 (1 league, 2 cup)
Drawn 2 (1 league, 1 cup)
Lost 1 (1 league)
For 7 (3 league, 4 cup)
A 5 (3 league, 2 cup)
It represents a more than solid start in terms of results for Klopp, but his side’s inability to make the breakthrough will definitely be on his agenda.
On the flipside, Klopp has instilled an exciting style of play away from Anfield and the results have been excellent.
A 3-1 win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge was the first sign that Klopp was getting his message and enthusiasm through to his inherited players. Philippe Coutinho returned to form spectacularly with two well taken goals and Benteke also got himself on the scoresheet away from Anfield for the second time following his spectacular volley against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Klopp’s first game in charge of Liverpool was at White Hart Lane against an in-form Tottenham side. A 0-0 draw was a good result under the circumstances and the defence instantly looked more secure under their new manager’s instruction.
Mamadou Sakho was thriving under Klopp, but the Frenchman suffered an injury in the loss against Palace and will be hoping to return sometime over Christmas. Dejan Lovren has come into the side since and has looked a more solid and reliable defender. The Croatian has spoken positively about Klopp’s impact both on him personally and the squad. Martin Skrtel too has looked an improved player under the German. Alberto Moreno looks to be sparking a good relationship with his new manager too.
The win at Chelsea was followed up with a 1-0 victory in Russia against Kazan. Jordon Ibe grabbed his first goal for the club with a well-taken strike during what was his best display since breaking into the side.
A 4-1 win over title favourites Manchester City was Klopp’s finest away day and also his best game so far as his side looked to have understood his system and tactics implicitly. Shortly after the half hour Brazilian duo Coutinho and Firmino had already sealed the points for Liverpool. Some mesmerising counter-attacking saw the Reds 3-0 up with the duo notching a goal each. A well-taken Sergio Aguero goal shortly before half-time wasn’t enough to rattle Klopp’s men and Martin Skrtel slammed home the fourth to put the game beyond any doubt in the second half.
Many fans have likened the performance to Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund side, who took German and European football by storm with a gegenpressing system that blew away many top sides. Liverpool looked very much in that mould as they took apart the league leaders on their own patch. It was comfortably the most impressive the Reds have looked since coming two points off the title in 2013/14.
The balance of play and expectations of the fixtures at Stamford Bridge at the Etihad have played entirely into Klopp’s hands as his sides blew away last season’s top two. The pace and fluidity of the breakaway play in those two wins showed the side at their best thanks to their finest attributes. The constant hassling and chasing down of opposition players in possession is very effective and has reaped results.
But home games are not played in such a fashion.
At Anfield Liverpool are expected to dominate possession and teams often arrive with the plan of sitting deep and trying to counter the Reds themselves – essentially play them at their own game. A key difference is that they don’t press Liverpool as much as the Reds do to their hosts when on the road.
Sides have allowed Liverpool to have the ball at Anfield because they aren’t as adept at making the breakthrough in such circumstances. Klopp’s side look better when they are moving forward quickly and aren’t relying on a more subtle brand of build-up play.
For the Reds to make a change to their goalscoring threat at home, the likes of Coutinho, Firmino, Lallana and Ibe need to make more of an impact than they have so far this season. Better chance creation and incision is needed, but these players tend to fare better counter attacking and it shows in the results.
A fit Daniel Sturridge would make an impact on the situation and that has already been proven to a degree this season. The twenty-six year old has only featured twice at home in the league so far, but his second game showcased exactly what the Reds have been missing. He scored two very well worked and taken goals in a 3-2 win over Aston Villa.
But his fitness has not been relied upon and a cameo against Swansea remains the only minutes he’s managed to play since Klopp took over. The German will be very keen for the striker to regain fitness and keep it. He is by far Liverpool’s best finisher and his goalscoring record sits up there with the best around the Premier League.
Coutinho also performs better when he has Sturridge ahead of him at Anfield. The two have more of an understanding that any other attacking duo, which is understandable given that they arrived together and are the two most talented players in the squad.
With January just over a month away and the chance for Klopp to make his first signings as Liverpool boss, the lack of conviction at home will surely play a part in the selection of targets.