SWANSEA CITY AFC
Sunday; November 29 2015; 16:15 GMT
Liverpool have won five and drawn two of their last seven meetings with Swansea City. With Garry Monk’s side in poor form, Jurgen Klopp will hope his team will win their third game in a row in all competitions. This is, however, their 3rd game in 9 days, and their performance saw a dip between the 4-1 demolition of Manchester City and the more even contest against Bordeaux FC that ended 2-1. Whether this was due to tired legs, or simply lesser motivation levels against an opponent perceived as being less challenging, or simply because of better tactics by the French side, is impossible to tell.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Liverpool FC enter this game as clear favorites. They have a few injury problems (Danny Ings, Joe Gomez, Jordan Henderson, Daniel Sturridge, Mamadou Sakho), but they have sufficient depth in the squad to cover for the absentees. The biggest miss will actually be due to suspension, with Lucas Leiva (who earned great praise from his manager recently) sitting out the game after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season. It is unclear whether Philippe Coutinho will be fit enough to start the game.
As they prepare for a visit from the Welsh team, the Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool FC story-line currently has a number of ongoing sub-plots:
Daniel Sturridge’s perpetual injury
Ita s a thigh strain. No, ita s a twisted knee. Wait, ita s a sore foot. Yes, thata s what it is.
Daniel Sturridge is injured. Again. Ita s hard enough for a player to sit out games due to injury, but ita s probably going to be worse than ever for Daniel as sympathy is slowly being replaced by resentment.
Klopp made a statement about the situation, where he implied that Sturridgea s problems were perhaps partially psychological, and not just purely physical. The statement really says it all:
a ..you have to learn what is serious pain or what is only pain.a – Jurgen Klopp
Jamie Carragher has added his voice to the matter. Being about as subtle as Klopp, the former Liverpool defender had this to say:
a The one thing I remember most of all from being his team-mate is that he had to feel 100 per cent right mentally and physically in order to play. The thing is, with professional football, ita s not often any player will take to the field 100 per cent fit. There is always a knock or something niggling and when that is the case, you just grit your teeth and get through it.a a Jamie Carragher
A rather harsh take on the situation by both men, and it wouldna t be surprising to see Liverpool fans turn on the striker unless the manager comes out in his defence sometime soon.
Firmino vs Benteke
Many had jumped to the conclusion that, being the player closest to Robert Lewandowski in his style of play, Christian Benteke would automatically become Jurgen Kloppa s first choice forward. But those who compare the two often fail to see just how complete a player Robert Lewandowski is, having much more to his game than just being big guy with a decent finish.
When Lewandowski joined Dortmund from the Polish League, where he was the leaguea s top scorer, Klopp played him in the number 10 position for his entire first season. While it was frustrating for him, the striker is the first to admit that it greatly improved his game. Klopp himself has stated that Benteke, while a “brilliant player”, has a long way to go in his development. There is no telling whether this development period will see him spending more time on the field or on the bench.
So Klopp now has two options: he can either play Benteke up front, who has more of a physical presence, and is the team’s best available finisher. Or he can play Roberto Firmino, whose finishing may not be as good as the Belgiana s, but has far better movement and creativity.
Ita s a decision that may be made easy if Philippe Coutinho isna t fully fit, as he will probably have to play Firmino in midfield to compensate for his compatriota s absence.
The suspended Lucas Leiva
Liverpool FC have scored 6 goals in their last two games, so the focus is understandably on their attack and how it might dismantle a struggling side like Swansea City. What is being overlooked is how a key component to this swagger is the attacking playersa confidence that they have a player behind them who will disrupt any counter-attacks if they do end up losing the ball. And that player is Lucas Leiva.
For those who do not rate the Brazilian highly, know this: he is the best tackler in the League. No, not the best out of all holding midfielders, but the best overall. He averages 5.3 tackles a game. Behind him is a defender, Patrick van Aanholt (Southampton), with 4.3. Amongst midfielders, his closest competition are Leicester Citya s Na Golo Kante and Tottenhama s Mousa Dembele, both averaging 4 tackles a game.
The Brazilian will be sorely missed; especially since neither Emre Can nor Joe Allen will provide nearly as much steel, averaging 1.8 and 1 tackles per game, respectively. This problem could be compounded by the fact that Sakho is still out with injury, and Simon Mignolet has had a howler in mid-week, making the defensive spine of the team look rather week.
Probable Starting Lineup (4-3-2-1): Mignolet (GK); Clyne, Skrtel, Lovren, Moreno; Milner, Allen, Can; Lallana, Firmino; Benteke
. Swansea City
The only player Garry Monk will be without for this match is Jonjo Shelvey, who will miss facing off against his former team due to suspension.
Going into a game where there are really very little expectations from Monka s side, he will have a few key issues to think about while planning his tactics:
Goal scoring woes
There was always a risk that the sale of Wilfried Bony would hamper the Swansa efficiency in front of goal. But there were hopes that Frenchman Bafetimbi Gomis would take the step-up and fill that gap. Unfortunately, hea s only managed 4 goals in 13 appearances this season.
Portugese forward Eder, a A?5 million signing from Braga, has made only one start (last week against Bournemouth), is yet to open his goal-scoring account. Goals this season have come mostly from midfielder Andre Ayew (6 goals), with Gylfi Sigurdsson (2) and Shelvey (1) also chipping in.
One of Gomis or Eder have to step up soon. Alternatively, Monk could consider playing either Ayew or Sigurdsson as a false No. 9. Not exactly an easy call to make, but desperate times call for desperate measures. And things are getting desperate, as 14th-placed Swansea City currently sit only five points above the relegation zone.
To Possess or not to possess
Swansea City, since the time of Brendan Rodgers, have built a reputation of being a team that likes to pass the ball. They general like to keep loads of possession, and like to be tidy with their passing. Even with their below par performances this season, their pass accuracy is still an impressive 82.6 per cent, behind only the two Manchester clubs and Arsenal. Of course, a lot of this passing ends up being in their own half, or around the half-way line.
Holding on to the ball may not be the best approach against a Jurgen Klopp side. The more your players pass the ball amongst themselves, the higher the chances that one of Kloppa s men will dispossess him and launch a counter attack.
The only team to defeat Liverpool under Jurgen Klopp has been Crystal Palace, and they merrily let Liverpool hog the possession. With a meager 37.5 per cent possession, they focused on keeping their defence tight, and making every counter-attack amount for something.
While they had only nine shots to Liverpoola s 22, their chances were more clear-cut, with Liverpool mostly taking shots from distance, or right into opposition defenders’ bodies. Both had 4 shots on target each, with Palace walking out 2-1 winners at Anfield.
Ita ll be hard for Monk to implement this, of course, with the club having built their philosophy over years. But he can consider playing Jack Cork over the more tidy but less threatening Leon Britton. Similarly, starting Gomis over Eder might make sense, as his superior aerial prowess means he will give his team an easy outlet when Liverpool press them.
Probable Starting Lineup (4-2-3-1): Fabianski (GK); Naughton, Fernandez, Williams, Taylor; Cork, Ki; Ayew, Sigurdsson, Montero; Gomis
- Liverpool have won just one of their last five Premier League games at Anfield (W1 D2 L2)
- Liverpool have made the most tackles in the top flight this season (315), while Swansea have attempted the fewest (190)
- Liverpool have scored at least 2 goals in their last 4 home matches against Swansea in all competitions
Player to watch out for
Simon Mignolet (Liverpool)
Simon Mignolet conceded a comical free kick against Bordeaux for hanging on to the ball too long, breaching the 6-second rule. His defence for this was:
a Unfortunately I waited just a bit too long and that can always happena – Simon Mignolet
For the record, he held on to it for over 20 seconds. Rather more than ‘a bit’. Last weekend, however, Mignolet made a number of key saves during the victory over Manchester City.
The outcome of the game could be decided by which version of Mignolet turns up. The assured shot stopper, capable of making some stellar saves. Or the awkward rookie who misses every cross he comes out for.
Liverpool 3-2 Swansea City
Always an exciting fixture, but it’s hard to see Swansea City and Garry Monk walking away with the points here. They have been woeful in front of goal, and leaky in defence. However, with the absence of Lucas Leiva and Mamadou Sakho, Liverpool aren’t exactly looking rock solid at the back either. If only Jonjo Shelvey were around, this fixture would have been even more unpredictable. He’s scored three goals in the last 4 fixtures between the two, though one of those was an own-goal.