Jurgen Klopp has come to terms with the reality that the methods with which he made Liverpool a European force are now far more widely available to Premier League rivals
As the echoes of heavy metal football grew fainter and Jurgen Klopp added the final pieces to mould the team to his requirements, a ruthless winning machine emerged to challenge for the greatest honours.
Pepijn Lijnders was quite right to describe Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane as “velociraptors in Jurassic Park” in October; opposition defences must have felt like they were under attack when Gegenpressing was in full swing.
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However, Liverpool have had to come to terms with the fact their methods are far more widely available in the current season compared to a few years ago.
The arrival of talented managers from the continent and further afield means there are Premier League teams in all areas of the table not afraid to go toe-to-toe with the apex predators.
Liverpool discovered this the hard way as they travelled to the south coast in early January and ran into a Southampton side brilliantly coached by Ralph Hasenhuttl, formerly in charge at RB Leipzig.
Danny Ings’ early strike for the Saints proved to be the difference and the hosts were good value for their victory, squeezing Liverpool with their unorthodox yet effective 4-2-2-2 set-up and limiting them to just one shot on target.
Although Liverpool avenged the loss by beating a leggy Southampton 2-0 in May, Hasenhuttl’s side clearly left a lasting impression on Klopp.
The German admitted his Reds were not good enough in their win over Porto on Wednesday and warned they will need to improve markedly if they are to avoid defeat as Southampton come calling this weekend.
Which line-up should Jurgen Klopp pick to face Southampton? Choose your XI below!
“We have to play even better on Saturday against Southampton because they are a proper pressing machine and they go really for it,” Klopp said in his post-match press conference. “We have to make sure that we are ready for that.”
The recognition of Southampton as a “pressing machine” is high praise coming from Klopp, a pioneer of intense, high-tempo football and one of its greatest implementors.
It also shows he will not underestimate the Saints amid Liverpool’s hectic fixture run, as he knows the slightest sense of fatigue or complacency could prove fatal.