With Klopp claiming Atlético should be playing a better brand of football, is he starting to show the strain?
It was all so promising at Anfield for the Liverpool fans on 94 minutes.
Chasing the solitary goal they needed to progress to the next round of the Champions League on Tuesday Night, you could see the relief in Klopp and around the ground when Roberto Firmino finally scored to put the reds ahead on aggregate for the first time in this last 16 tie.
But only 3 minutes later, joy had turned to despair.
Marcos Llorente capitalised on some poor goalkeeping from Adrian after his poor kick went straight to João Felix, who in turn fed the substitute to put Atlei ahead on Away goals. Fast forward to the end of the game and Diego Simeone’s side advanced to the next round of the competition. It’s easy to point the finger at the stand in keeper, but in reality, Liverpool did not take their chances and they were well and truly sucker-punched in extra time.
“I don’t understand with the quality they have the football they play. They could have played proper football but they stand deep and have counter attacks”.
Klopp said these comments in the aftermath of the game when he was clearly still gutted about the result. He did later concede in the same interview that maybe he was simply being a “bad loser”, but for me, this goes to show how ill prepared Liverpool were for this game, and that the arrogance he and his team have developed this season mean that he needs to be able to change his approach in these sorts of games.
Anyone who knows anything about football will tell you exactly how Atlético play. 4-4-2, with a massively defensive approach to the game. They will stifle you; slow the game down. Commit fouls in key areas. Klopp even had the first game in Madrid as a clue to how Simeone would approach this – Liverpool failing to even register a shot on target in that game was a big indicator in my book about the fact Liverpool should change their approach to the game.
But Klopp’s arrogance was his downfall.
I compare this to Arsène Wenger in his Arsenal heyday. He was always the manager who thought that eventually, domination of possession as passing teams off the park would eventually lead to a victory. More often than not, it comes off. It never did for Wenger, though. He never won a Champions League – a regret I’m sure he still has to this day.
Klopp is a superb manager. He’s likeable, improves the players he has and usually adds a massive amount of quality to his squad when necessary. His team will win the league this year because they’ve been the best by a country mile. But in Europe, I still feel he has a lot to learn.
If you look at the statistics from the game, it would be easy to say Liverpool should have won. But Atlético were clinical. They were patient, compact and I personally enjoyed watching them counterattack and put Liverpool to the sword in the closing stages.
Luck – yes, luck – played a big part in Atletico’s victory. Liverpool had their chances to win and to keep the hopes of retaining the Champions League alive. However, it was also a tactical masterclass from Simeone. It reminded me massively of Liverpool vs Chelsea in 2014, with the infamous Gerrard slip. When you compare the stats, they match up almost perfectly. Granted, Klopp wasn’t in charge then, it was Rodgers – but the philosophy of football was very similar. Possession, pass, try break down a resolute defence. Fail. Lose.
Below: Statistics from recent game against Atlético (Courtesy of bbc.com/sport)
Below: Compare those stats above with these, statistics from the Liverpool v Chelsea game in 2014 that saw Mourinho get the better of Brendan Rodgers (Courtesy of bbc.com/sport)
Klopp needs to stop thinking that amazing football always wins you games. More often than not, it does. But sometimes, you come undone. It’s time he learnt that lesson. Maybe now he will.