There’s an old saying, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat.” Let’s focus on the meaning of that phrase and overlook the two questions that raises, 1-Who skins cats, and 2-Why would you need to have more than one way to do it?
But that phrase is relevant to todays LFC, especially Jurgen Klopp and his tactics and player selections. Klopp is paid roughly seven million pounds more per year than I am to manage LFC, and his knowledge, past experiences and results in the game is probably worth more than that compared to mine. And everything I write here is tempered by that acknowledgement of our particular experiences. And I have faith in him to get us to the promised land. But like you, I do have some questions about how he does a couple things, and his reasoning behind it. In particular, two positions and four players that are used there.
The two positions are striker and left back.
The fact that they are often selected in diametrically opposed ways to their intended positions is what makes them perplexing. Taken alone, they aren’t as big of a deal. But when considered in concert with another it raises questions and frustration when the results don’t come (which the last two matches didn’t earn a result one would expect-Burnley, or one that was deserved-Spurs).
What I’m talking about is the main role of each position. The premise of the game is simple, score more goals then your opponent. So some players have defined roles to accomplish this overlying principle. The main role of the striker or forward is to score goals. The main role of the left back is to defend, or prevent goals.
I’m sorry if you feel like I’m explaining the game like I would to a four year old, but the idea is really that simple and makes for my confusion. It is said that ‘Genius is the ability to take the complicated and make it simple.’ So that is what I’m doing with this. I don’t want to out-think the room. I don’t need to be the smartest guy around when it comes to this. I just want the results.
So when looking at the striker position, we have one of the best goal scorers around (when fit) in Daniel Sturridge. He fulfills the strikers role of scoring better than anyone else on our team.
However, we continually play Roberto Firmino at this position. I like Firmino. He has some amazing games. But he also disappears entirely for large periods or entire games. And quite often he seems to have a poor touch or pass that causes him to have to defend as he’s given the ball away. It’s true he was our leading goal-scorer in the PL last year. But he only had 10 in league. Most of that was under Klopp and not Rodgers. But 10 to 15 goals even isn’t going to set the league afire. The primary reason for his selection seems to be that he is great at pressing, or ‘gegenpressing’ as has been termed. I understand the logic of defending from the front. From turning defense quickly into offense. What I don’t understand is selecting a striker because he is better at defense but poorer at offense. Especially when you visit our left back position.
Klopp has repeatedly defended Alberto Moreno. I like a manager sticking up for his squad in public (if the player isn’t an outright criminal) and trying to boost their confidence. But we’ve had a full summer for Klopp to do something. And it can quite rightly be said that Moreno cost us two cup finals with his poor defensive play. The irony of the one is that if he was better in the Europa Final, we’d be in the Champions League and maybe he’d demonstrated that we don’t need a better LB. But his poor play kept us out of the CL, making it so much tougher to find his replacement. How’s that for one of your all-time Catch-22s? But that reveals that Moreno didn’t just hit a bad stretch this August, we’ve known it. And while he supports Moreno publicly (why say you want someone better, and risk not getting him in?) he’s played a midfielder James Milner more often. Which only highlights the doubts of Moreno. And Saturday it bit us again. Even though Milner scored the penalty with a nice coolly taken shot, he is not a left back and was caught out for their equalizer. His defensive awareness and positioning are not of a standard of a top club in the Premier League, much less a Champions League team. But is his awareness is probably better than Moreno’s.
So why is Moreno selected? But he brings something to attack going forward. It’s been exposed over and over again though that he attacks at the expense of his defending. And to the club’s detriment. It leaves Lovren exposed, which gives his confidence and form a roller coaster ride. Worse yet, we seem to have plenty of options going forward with creativity and goals in them, that do we need a defender to attack? Because at the same time, we haven’t kept a clean sheet yet in the league and what looks to be our Achilles heel to prevent us from obtaining our goals this season is a leaky defense.
So once again I ask…Why do we prefer a striker who defends to a striker who scores, while at the same time preferring a defender who attacks to getting one who can defend?