herald

Monday 21 August 2017

No case for defence when Pep meets Klopp

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola. REUTERS
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola. REUTERS

The Etihad will not be a place for faint hearts tomorrow for those who like their football nicely balanced between the art of defending and the joy of attack.

Neither Pep Guardiola nor Jurgen Klopp pay any intention to defending and we've seen many examples of how much that has cost them this season.

Like Arsene Wenger, there is a gap in their knowledge of the game. Put simply, they don't know how to organise a defence.

Even basic defending is not a given with these men. Guardiola sailed through his time at Barcelona without ever having to worry about it. Firstly, he was lucky enough to have Carles Puyol, Eric Abidal and Gerard Pique, instinctively good defenders who also had attacking flair. Secondly, he had Messi, Xavi and Iniesta.

Wenger's best years came with George Graham's defence and Klopp had lads like Mats Hummels to man his backline at Dortmund.

I've been asked many times why it is that all three managers cannot see what everyone else can see and still defend their approach to the game.

I honestly think they simply do not see the world that way. They only see football moving forward and if it's not, there is something wrong.

The idea that they would do as Antonio Conte has done so well at Chelsea just never arises. They are eternal optimists and unwavering in their belief that they will score more than the opposition.

And if poor defending is the price to pay, so be it. I'm not even sure any of them would know what to do if you asked some to conduct some defensive drills in training.

This is at the heart of their problem. It may seem easy to assume that a manager who wants to play on the front foot should logically prepare for the inevitable moment when a team set-up to do so will hit on the counter.

But the way Klopp sees it, if he does that, he is no longer following his vision. Guardiola is the same and Wenger too.

It's a weakness, there's no doubt, unless you have players of such quality that the defenders you buy and pick have the right instincts and look after that side of the team automatically.

Right now, neither Klopp nor Guardiola have the quality to do that and that's why we have seen both Liverpool and Manchester concede so many goals.

In fact, this game could be an absolute goalfest and I wouldn't even try to predict how it will go.

City were awful against Monaco for all the reasons I've outlined above while Liverpool dug out a win against Burnley last weekend and should feel confident.

But you never really know from one week to the next with Klopp's team.

As I've said more than once, he has one trick and it's a great one when it works.

Promoted articles

Entertainment News