Liverpool 5-2 AS Roma: Klopp had solutions, but Liverpool proved their weak point

  • Roma had territorial domination during the first 30’
  • Liverpool were able to exploit De Rossi and Strootman’s positioning on defensive transition
  • Klopp had offensive solutions against 5men defence
  • Di Francesco switched to 4141 for the last 30’ and Liverpool stepped back
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Salah and Firmino teared apart Roma’s back5

(0’ – 30’) Liverpool recovers low / Roma settles in opposite side

Against Roma’s 3412, Liverpool settled up defensively as usual:

  • Firmino would be central, cutting relation with defensive midfield
  • Salah and Mané would have to cut the relation between CBs and Wing backs
  • CMs Milner and Oxlade-Chamberlain were ready to press De Rossi and Strootman on the pass time
  • The backline was low and cautious against Dzeko aerial play

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Liverpool’s usual pressing schema: Mané – Firmino – Salah have to isolate midfield and wingbacks from the center backs

Reds are used to cause trouble to opposition using this organisation. But Roma’s back 3 were able to play out from the back with efficiency with 7 players involved (3 CBs + [De Rossi – Strootman] + [2 high wingbacks] )

  • Firmino had two players to isolate (usually one) with De Rossi and Strootman, witch made his pressing less accurate and offered more solutions to Juan Jesus and Fazio to play out from the back
  • With this 3/5 defence, Florenzi and Kolarov were very high, Salah and Mané had to step back, and they offered a larger angle to the CBs to find a free man
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Roma’ s organisation to play out from the back (3+2 / 3+4) opens pass angles: When Liverpool’s central midfielder press De Rossi and Strootman, Kolarov is reached, whereas Salah was ready to press high on Juan Jesus

  • Even when the short play was too risky, direct play to Dzeko was efficient
  • Also because Liverpool’s backline is very low, and offered Roma a chance to get the first, as the second ball
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Liverpool’s back4 is low and cautious: Roma gain a lot of second balls when playing long to Dzeko

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Liverpool issues against Roma play out from the back:

  • Firmino has 2 players to isolate
  • Salah and Mané cannot press as high as they are used to with two high wingbacks
  • Dzeko threatens the defence with aerial quality and Roma wins second balls

Once the second balls were won, Giallorossi could create interesting cross situations with a 3v3 situation in the box [Nainggolan – Dzeko – Ünder] v [Van Djik – Lovren + opposite full back].

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Once again, Van Djik and Lovren stepped back and could contain Roma’s offensive animation and defending correctly on crosses, even though they gave up second balls.

Liverpool was recovering very low, and Mané was forced to step back against Florenzi’s offensive threat.

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Sadio Mané joins the low block as Roma settles in Liverpool’s side, whereas Moh Salah remains higher to exploit counter attacks.

At the time of handling Liverpool’s clearances, the back3 [J. Jesus – Manolas – Fazio] (+ De Rossi) enjoyed a clear numerical superiority against Salah and Firmino and could be in control of defensive transition.

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… Even though their positioning will then cause big troubles to Roma.

(30 – 45’) De Rossi – Strootmann and defensive transition

As they lined up with a back 3 and double pivot, Romanistas faced big troubles at the time they lost the ball, witch led to Liverpool’s momentum it the last 15’ of the first half, materialized by the opening goals of Mohamed Salah:

  • De Rossi and Strootman’s positioning – more or less on the same horizontal line – caused big troubles to the Italians, as they were both eliminated by vertical pass on Liverpool’s offensive transition

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  • Even when Di Francesco switched to 3142, with De Rossi as holding midfielder – supposed to give more control on the break – il capitano was still too high during offensive phase, and quickly eliminated from the ball-goal-axis by Liverpool’s athletic power

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  • When Roma was developing positional play in opposite side, Fazio and Juan Jesus were remaining very high, as they were modelling their positioning on Salah and Mané, hoping to prevent counter attack, and quickly counter-press them

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  • Problem: Salah, Firmino and Mané were reached back to the goal by the defence’s clearances, in a zone where it would have been too risky for the defenders to track them, at the risk of offering them 60m free in the back of the defence
  • Salah and Firmino could then turn around and make a difference on their first touch and create chaotic situations, leading the two opening goals

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(30 – 60’) Klopp’s offensive solutions against the 5men-defense

 As Di Francesco admitted after Roma’s remontada against Barça: he got inspired by Conte’s 3-4-3/5-4-1 at the time of switching strategy before the second leg of the quarterfinal.

During the defensive phase, Romanistas reproduced 2 typical movements of Chelsea’s Italian maestro:

  • Ball-side wing back goes up wide to press the ball holder, as the rest of the defence switch to a back4
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Chelsea’s high press in Camp Nou: Umtiti passes to Alba -> Moses goes up on the pass time and rest of the defence switch to a back4

  • If an offensive players drops back centrally, the nearest centre back chases him, as he’s covered by his 2 colleagues (above, Christensen is about to chase Suarez)
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Right center back Azpilicueta moves out of his zone to chase Iniesta and preventing him from turning around=>

  • Florenzi / Kolarov moving up was the signal for Liverpool to change rhythm and play vertical
  • Liverpool’s forwards movement were diverse in order to disorganize Roma’s Back3, willing to chase opponents when dropping backffff

In their offensive game plan, Reds used these defensive principles of Roma to create unbalance.At the time to play out from the back, they organized in some sort of asymmetrical back3. One wingback played higher, the other one as a 3rd center back.

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  • Florenzi / Kolarov moving up was the signal for Liverpool to change rhythm and play vertical

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  • Liverpool’s forwards movement were diverse in order to disorganize Roma’s Back3, willing to chase opponents when dropping back

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Even when Roma could control the depth – by stepping back, or thanks to the opposite fullback coming near – those long aerial trough balls would put them in difficult situations to handle the offensive transition in their own side.

Roma could contain this plan in low block, but totally lost balance when pressing high/middle block.

Kolarov went high on Alexander – Arnold, which would trigger the trough ball to Salah, leading to Liverpool’s 3rd and 4th goal.

Those (vertical) positional play phases could be confused with counter-attacks: If the roman fullback was “already” high up the pitch, Liverpool’s ball holder would not hesitate to immediately play vertical.

As it was the case on defensive transition phases, De Rossi was often caught too high and unable to control the ball holder in the center of the pitch.

Perotti – Gonalons – Schick – 4141

Di Francesco switched back to 4141 on the 68th minute after the 5th goal. Roma will then dominate the game, and materialize this momentum with 2 goals, and many chances.

  • Gonalons did a good performance, and fluidized the play out from the back, even though Roma’s high pressing was less intense in the last 30’ of the game
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Roma’s high pressing was less intense in the last 30’ of the game: Moh Salah drop’s Kolarov and Gonalons can reach him

  • With Dzeko – Strootman – Nainggolan – Schick – Perotti, Roma enjoyed a proper 5men frontline
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Kolarov reaches Perotti in the depth, while the 4 other offensive players attack the box

  • Nainggolan and Strootman could move forward, as they are used to in this system of play
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Strootman moves up in the left halfspace, whereas Perotti stretches the defence. His left footed cross will reach Nainggolan for the 2nd goal.

  • With Schick (1m90) as right winger, Romanistas could cross to the far post and create danger
  • Exploiting the tendency of the defence to step back, Giallorossi settled in opposite side by playing long, as they did in the first 30’ of the game. Schick’s centimetres were also helpful

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As seen in the beginning of the game, Liverpool’s midfield structure has a tendency be a bit flat. The midfield 3 is more willing to compensate on the flanks, than behind, to help the defence.

Roma will enjoy a lot of second balls on the crosses and it will create various chances, including Nainggolan’s one, before the 5-2 penalty.

Klopp prepared well – Di Francesco got things back on track

Once again, Jürgen Klopp proved his ability to provide solutions to his team, according to precise characteristics of opposition.

Offensively, defensively, and on a offensive transition, his unit had solutions to disorganize Roma’s 3412.

Nevertheless, the first 30’, as well as the last proved Reds’ tendency to step back too much, defend too low, and concede second balls to opposition. Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United used this to beat Liverpool in the Premier League.

Will the Dzeko – Schick partnership and this relative weak point of Liverpool be enough to turn things around in Roma?

Victor Lefaucheux



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