Analysis: Defensive Stability Stood Out In Liverpool’s Win Over Watford


Liverpool commanded their position of third place in the Premier League by defeating Watford 1-0 away to Vicarage Road in a game that didn’t have many chances but the one that counted was enough to win any game of football.

Jurgen Klopp did not make alterations to his side that was defeated by Palace last week, the return of Adam Lallana and Daniel Sturridge bolstered the bench but weren’t fit enough to take part from the first whistle.

Mazzarri, on the other hand, started with a back 5 with deeper wingbacks who defend first, 3 central midfielders, two physical strikers in Niang and Deeney to trouble the Liverpool backline.

The game started in a pattern that was expected by many viewers, Watford sitting back soaking up the pressure and looking to hit Liverpool on the counter with physicality and directness of Deeney and Niang.

Liverpool played football, passed it around but were slow in switching the play and getting fullbacks 1 v 1 against opposition wingbacks. Slow passing in front of the last line made it easy for the home side to put bodies and defend the width of their penalty box.

The goal came in a spectacular fashion just before half-time when Firmino dropped a bit deeper as shown in the image above which created space for No. 8 Can to make the run in the gap between central defender Prodl and wingback Amrabat, Lucas found the German with a clipped angled ball, but the finish to that move with an overhead volley was from the top drawer which was fitting to unlock any defence.

The second half started with Watford trying to play a bit higher which suited Liverpool more as there were spaces in midfield for the front three to exploit. Both Lovren and Matip had a specific plan to thwart the danger of Deeney and Niang which was impressive. One of the two went first to attack the high ball, knock down was defended by a combination of the other and Lucas helping out.

One of the two went first to attack the high ball as shown in the image above, it was Lovren most of the time who initiated the first challenge. The knock down was defended by a combination of Matip and Lucas helping out. This is one good way of nullifying the physical threat of the opposition, here the help of a defensive midfielder tracking any midfield run is important.

The other thing in this system is that the first defender should not allow the striker to take control of the high ball and turn, if he does that then the defensive team is short in numbers with one of their central defenders out of the game. Lovren did his job perfectly most of the time, if not winning then at least engaging one of the strikers which helped Matip in a big way.

Watford were disciplined defensively overall and didn’t create many chances to come back in the game, but then came the set piece in the final moments when Cleverly crossed towards the far post and somehow Prodl found himself with space and time, Austrian international rattled the bar from the resulting effort much to the relief of Liverpool and Klopp.

But, it was another moment of panic and poor marking from the Reds which has deprived them before against physical teams who rely on set pieces. How on earth was one of the taller centre-backs free in the opposition box just baffled everyone.

There are many things that need sorting out for Klopp and his men, they struggled to break down a deep defence once again. Defending was much better other than that set piece situation which reminded us of the fact that Liverpool are still susceptible in defending crosses. Special mention to goalkeeper Mignolet who has done well recently in crossing situations, better marking in set pieces will make defensive side of things look good for the reds.



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