How Liverpool took responsibility from Jurgen Klopp to “adapt” to in-game problems

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Jordan Henderson has explained how Liverpool have learned to “adapt” to situations in-game without the help of Jurgen Klopp, particularly against sides in a low block.

It has been a problem for the Reds on a number of occasions; due to their overwhelming attacking and counter-attacking play, opponents will often sit back and defend in numbers.

The likes of Burnley, Brighton and Man United have made habit of it in recent years, to varying degrees of success, as the only way to stop Klopp’s rampant side.

But as Liverpool have gained more maturity on the pitch, they have been able to navigate these issues—and have done so without the player widely regarded as the one best-placed to pick locks, Philippe Coutinho.

Speaking to Rio Ferdinand for The Locker Room, Henderson detailed his approach in possession, and how he aims to “find where the space is”—which he believes is a common approach for the Reds.

“We go through so many different tactical plays, whether that be buildup, mid-third, final third, that will depend on your position,” he said when asked what his outlook is when receiving the ball.

“A lot of the time over the past few years I’ve played a little bit deeper as a No. 6, which I’ve had to learn a little bit better, then as a No. 8 a little bit further forwards, so my role changes within the team.

NORWICH, ENGLAND - Saturday, February 15, 2020: Liverpool's captain Jordan Henderson during the FA Premier League match between Norwich City FC and Liverpool FC at Carrow Road. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“If I know I’ve got a little bit of time to get my head up and have a look, or I’ve already scanned and had a look at what’s around me before I receive the ball, I’m basically looking to find where the space is.

“Whether that will be a switch or a bounce first time, or in behind, I’m always trying to look at the opposition, and where the space is within the game.

“That’s something we’ve done really well as a team and found, especially with teams in a low block, you need to find a solution.

“It’s working that out within the game, because you can work on something all week and a team can change formation, they can change personnel, they can change the approach to the game.

“You need to be able to adapt in the game and you need to be able to find solutions and work it out.

“I think I’ve improved on that over time and known where the space is or where the spare man might be.

“Whether that’s to feet with Firmino dropping in, or maybe Mo and Sadio in behind, or maybe switching it wide to the full-backs, it’s just always trying to find that solution to break teams down.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 29, 2019: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp celebrates with captain Jordan Henderson after the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Wolverhampton Wanderers FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 1-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Klopp and his assistants play a crucial role in spotting ways around these difficult tactical battles, and they certainly deserve credit for moulding Liverpool into a multi-faceted side.

But Henderson went on to explain how the Reds have been able to go above the manager and find these solutions on their own, as there are many occasions in-game when it is not possible to consult him.

“You’ve got to try and do that within the game on the pitch,” he continued.

“Sometimes you haven’t got time to speak to the manager or the coaching staff at half-time, or you might not be able to hear from the sidelines when you’re in the game.

“So I think we’ve done that really well as a team, actually, in certain games, to adapt to the type of game it is, to find the solutions and find the way that we need to win.

“But obviously a lot of that does come down from the manager, whether that will be on the sideline or at half-time, letting us know basically what the solutions are.”

It is a testament to the intelligence and character of the squad Klopp has built that they are able to absorb the information given to them and solve problems on their own.

This has clearly been key to them finding that extra control this season, with Liverpool now more comfortable in all manner of scenarios.

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