Liverpool’s high-intensity pressing game has taken a noticeable backseat so far this season, owing to the added demands of the busiest fixture list in living memory.
The Reds are in the midst of a uniquely busy campaign, with a delayed start due to the COVID-19 pandemic and no relenting in terms of the schedule ensuring a new approach from Jurgen Klopp.
Klopp is rotating for almost every game, as injuries continue to take their toll as a result of an increased workload, while Liverpool’s gameplan itself has been altered, too.
The Athletic‘s Tom Worville has studied the change in pressing actions in Europe’s top five leagues over the past four seasons, with a dropoff in the Premier League, Bundesliga, Serie A and Ligue 1, while La Liga has stayed the same.
This is evident across the majority of the English top flight, with the percentage of opposition touches put under pressure in the middle and final thirds of the pitch dropping for almost every side.
Liverpool remain the side with the most pressures, but their percentage has dropped from 35 percent – equal to Man City – in 2019/20 to 30 percent so far this term.
They are now level with Chelsea‘s output from last season, with Frank Lampard’s side seeing the biggest decrease, from 30 percent to 20 percent.
Aston Villa are the only side to have been in the Premier League both last season and this whose pressing stats have increased, and only marginally so, from 20 percent to 24 percent.
On an individual level, Worville notes how Mohamed Salah was among the most frequently pressing forwards in last season’s Premier League, but both he and Roberto Firmino have decreased their intensity.
Conversely, however, Sadio Mane has boosted his work rate slightly, which may well be a tactical nuance of Klopp’s system, as the load is shared more evenly between his regular front three.
Worville explains that “the knock-on effect of a reduction in pressing is that teams have midfields now which are crammed with runners who aren’t overly technical,” which has arguably been true of Liverpool regardless of the season.
Jordan Henderson and Gini Wijnaldum have been Klopp’s most-used midfielders so far, while Curtis Jones is not far behind, with their industry and the focus on creativity from the flanks perhaps allowing the Reds to continue to thrive.
A change in Liverpool’s pressing approach should have been expected the season, but it is certainly interesting to see it detailed in numbers – and it would be no surprise to see a further drop at some stage later in the campaign.