Jurgen Klopp — I Love It (feat. Liverpool’s press)
“Yeah the first goal he (Sadio Mane) scored……I…I…I…love it!”
Jurgen Klopp was lost for words after the game when talking about Mane’s first goal and Liverpool’s second against Manchester City in the semi-final of the FA Cup.
It wasn’t the most beautiful goal, but it completed the set. The three Liverpool goals on the day represent three major features of this side. The first came from a corner kick, the third originated from a quick switch of play from the right side to the left side, and the one in question was a result of the pressing.
“Acceleration of Sadio. The desire to get there…..pfff. That was really, really great.”
The acceleration and the desire to be there wasn’t only from Sadio. It was from the whole Liverpool team. And that didn’t only force Zack Steffen into an error, it also hindered City’s build up.
Liverpool were focused on closing the central area of the pitch to force City’s center backs and the double pivot into failing in the pressing trap. The pressing scheme Liverpool used saw Luis Diaz and Mohamed Salah more times than not positioned in-between the edges of the penalty box. Behind them were Thiago and Naby Keita whose tasks mainly focused on marking City’s double pivot or one half of the double pivot, as well as picking up any City player trying to drop centrally to assist the build up. Meanwhile, centering the pressing scheme upfront for Liverpool was Mane who marked one of the double pivot…..
……until an opportunity arose to press Steffen. One of the reasons Salah and Diaz were positioned inside the edges of the penalty area, was to make Steffen think twice before playing the ball to his nearest passing options in John Stones and Nathan Ake.
Mane led the press by initially pressing Fernandinho or Bernardo Silva, as Salah and Diaz positioned themselves to be ready to cancel out Ake and Stones as passing options, with Thiago or Keita in behind to pick up the second half of City’s double pivot. The idea was to force the ball backwards towards Steffen…..
…….and that was the pressing trigger. However, in this example Mane isn’t moving up to press Steffen. The reason is that Mane realized he’s too far, so he waited while signaling for Thiago to pick up Bernardo Silva.
Salah as well was far, meaning that Ake could receive the ball comfortably from Steffen. The Egyptian’s reaction wasn’t to press Ake directly….
…..but passively by blocking his progressive passing option in Oleksandr Zinchenko. All that while Mane was still marking Fernandinho.
Now Ake’s only pass was to go back towards Steffen — knowing that Diaz is in position to press Stones on the far side, and the pressing trigger was activated again….
…..this time though the Liverpool players were close, and Mane rushed up towards Steffen while putting Fernandinho in his cover shadow so the goalkeeper can’t play a pass to his captain. As for the other options, they were blocked as well. Diaz’s positioning cancels out Stones, while Thiago was alert to Mane’s initial signal and moved up to be near Bernardo Silva.
Steffen went long, but Andy Robertson was ready as the left back moved up to contest the aerial ball with Joao Cancelo. The result? Throw-in for Liverpool.
This was the theme throughout. Diaz and Salah central to make a pass into Stones or Ake hard to digest. Mane lingering behind one of the double pivot — Bernardo Silva in this case……
….before making an angled run to press Steffen while blocking the passing lane into Bernardo Silva. Steffen then had to go wide to the full backs….
…..because the other half of the double pivot and any other City player dropping — Fernandinho and Jack Grealish in this case — were marked by Thiago and Keita.
And the time the floated pass into the full backs took in the air, provided Liverpool’s full backs time to move up and press….
…..and in case that didn’t work, the safety net of Fabinho was always there.
Here’s another example. At first, Mane is pressing Fernandinho while Keita is on Bernardo Silva’s heels. Fernandinho plays the ball backwards to Ake….
…..who then plays back to Steffen. The important thing here is where Mane’s looking, to his left rather than straight to know where Fernandinho is….
…so that he angles his run to block the passing lane into Fernandinho while pressing Steffen. Once again Diaz and Salah are in the correct positions to make sure Stones and Ake are taken out. All this forces Steffen into another long pass….
….which Robertson wins again and Liverpool regain possession. Near the center of the picture, you can also see Keita close to Bernardo Silva.
Liverpool’s front line didn’t rush the press and waited for the pressing trigger — a backwards pass from Ake or Stones into Steffen — to pounce. When that pass wasn’t available, they waited for City to circulate the ball….
…..blocking their progressive options like here with Salah, Keita and Mane blocking the passing options of Zinchenko, Fernandinho and Bernardo Silva respectively for Ake. Forcing him to trigger the press by a back pass towards Steffen….
…..and that’s when Mane harries towards the keeper while blocking the passing lane into the nearest midfielder from the double pivot. Next to him, Diaz is making movement towards Stones, to force Steffen into the floating pass towards Cancelo…..
….which provides time for Robertson to move up, and win it in the air for the umpteenth time with Thiago nearby to regain the second ball.
City were unable to play from the smothering press and to add salt to the wound, it was the press that made it 2–0 after 17 minutes.
Leading up to the goal, you can see that every Liverpool player is ready to do his task in this pressing scheme. Thiago and Keita have got their eyes on Gabriel and Jack Grealish who are dropping centrally to provide progressive passing options, Diaz and Salah are focused on pressing the nearest wide options within the edge of the penalty box, despite that being Bernardo Silva and Fernandinho, and Mane as always is lighting the pressing torch by moving towards the central ball carrier, Stones this time.
Once Stones goes back to Steffen, Salah knows that he has to leave Fernandinho and start moving towards Ake to block that option for Steffen. That’s because Mane is the one who’ll block the Fernandinho option by putting him in his cover shadow while moving towards Steffen. As for Stones….
…..Diaz was in position to press him in case Steffen played that pass, but not sticking to the City center back because Bernardo Silva was free as well. Before Mane fires up Wembley by scoring the second, it’s notable where Liverpool’s full backs are, moving up the field to be in position to win the aerial duel in case Steffen plays a long pass wide.
Often teams are praised for their coordination in possession, where one pass is the trigger for a certain run, or when defending in a mid to low block where one movement leads to the block translating across to block a gap.
This was total cohesion in a different phase from Liverpool. The pressing was relentless, and more importantly it was coordinated so that City were always forced wide where Liverpool were prepared to react.
Klopp crashed City’s build up. He doesn’t care. He loves it!