Sunday, January 29, 2023

Why Klopp Has To Start With This Midfielder When Liverpool Take On Stoke City

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Amit Mishra
Former Editor at The 4th Official. Liverpool and Schalke make my life miserable.

It’s a crucial phase for Liverpool as they have a few big games coming up in upcoming weeks. The clash against Stoke City might not be that big a fixture, but they’ll face Manchester City after that and then, the games will simply keep coming considering the Reds are in four competitions.

Pep Guardiola and Jürgen Klopp had many skirmishes (tactically) when the two were in charge of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund respectively and expect things to liven up when the two take the touchline at Anfield on New Years’ Eve.

Manchester City have had more problems of the two as it’s Guardiola’s first taste of English football compared to Klopp who joined last year. The philosophy is yet to be accepted fully and defensive issues have haunted the side. However, Liverpool have a few issues of their own. They too have been fragile defensively. The philosophies of the two managers relies a lot on defending on the front, so naturally, it can’t be perfect all the time and it’s easy to find loopholes at the back.

Klopp has used a 4-3-3 setup this season and the three in the middle have shown tremendous appetite for pressing, which is Klopp’s blueprint. Jordan Henderson and Adam Lallana are regulars in two of the three-man midfield. While Henderson plays the deepest, Lallana is responsible for the creativity when the team goes forward. Emre Can, when fit, is more or less the other.

Can’s recent injury gave Gini Wijnaldum a string of games and the Dutchman has impressed. The former PSV Eindhoven star has cut his attacking instincts to offer more muscle in midfield which has made his game less shiny. Lest we forget, he was a player who was Newcastle’s top goal-getter last season with 11 Premier League strikes.

In fact, Wijnaldum is more of a natural goal-scorer from midfield and frequently broke the 10-goal mark while he was playing in Netherlands, so it’s a bit of a surprise how well he has fitted in the slightly deeper role. What he does possess is the engine, which has helped him at Merseyside. Having said that, with Can fit now, it’s likely the German is going to get the nod against Manchester City.

A lot will depend on the game against Stoke City. Starting Can in the midfield to give him some game time to be prepared for the game against Guardiola’s side makes more sense. If Liverpool are able to see out Stoke by the hour mark, Klopp has the option of taking him off and preserving him for the Stoke game.

Can’s defensive stats this season are better than Gini’s, which is why he’d be the better option against a City team who only know one way of playing; attack. It’s not too different from the way Klopp plays, who admitted (Source: Das Reboot, by Raphael Honigstein) that Pep’s setup at Barcelona was an inspiration behind his famous heavy-metal football at Westfalenstadion.

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