Improved Reds send out feelers about title

LONDON • Liverpool remain a work in progress but it is coming together promisingly.

During Jurgen Klopp's first campaign at Anfield the players adapted quickly to his high-energy, heavy-pressing system and regularly disrupted the opposition's passing.

But they only sporadically formulated quick, incisive attacking moves themselves.

This season things have improved significantly.

The pressing is still impressively efficient and remains an extremely useful way of creating chances, but Liverpool's passing interplay makes them a more complete attacking force.

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    Liverpool, with 24 goals in 10 matches, are the English Premier League's top scorers along with Manchester City.

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    For all their exploits up front, the Reds have been suspect at the back with just one clean sheet, the joint-second lowest in the league.

Their 69 shots on target this season is the most in the English Premier League.

The most impressive aspect of Saturday's 4-2 win at Crystal Palace was the manner in which they filled space dynamically.

This side feature various forwards who drift around - Philippe Coutinho, Adam Lallana, Sadio Mane. And with multiple players varying positions, there is a danger it will become congested in the centre, where they all prefer to play.

That was never a problem at Selhurst Park, with team-mates making a reverse run whenever a player drifted out of his natural zone.

The player who benefits most from all this movement is Coutinho. On paper the left-sided position does not particularly suit him, but the Brazilian is allowed to take up his preferred midfield positions, often finding space away from opponents.

At times, he controlled the game, in addition to providing some incisive passes in behind.

For all his talent, Coutinho has sometimes struggled to offer a consistent influence on games, but his form this season has been excellent.

Nevertheless it is impossible to ignore the Reds' defensive weakness.

Both centre-backs, Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip, are comfortable high up the pitch.

But, too often, they are simply found wanting in basic defensive situations.

The addition of the goalkeeper Loris Karius has not added any obvious authority at the back.

It used to be said great teams were built from the defence, but Klopp is taking a very different approach.

First, there was the impressive pressing high up the pitch. Next, there was the slick possession play and integrated movement.

But the defensive solidity required to win a title is yet to be witnessed.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 01, 2016, with the headline 'Improved Reds send out feelers about title'. Print Edition | Subscribe