Some people will see Liverpool’s fightback to beat Crystal Palace as further evidence of the ‘Jurgen Klopp effect’, but on this occasion I think it had as much to do with them getting a bit lucky.
According to their own records, Sunday’s 2-1 win at Selhurst Park was the first time in the Reds’ 124-year history they have come back from a goal down to win with 10 men.
That is a great achievement, but Klopp’s hand was forced because his side were a goal and a man down with half an hour left, and he had to gamble.
It looks good because it came off but, if Palace keeper Alex McCarthy had not slipped to gift them an equaliser, I did not see Liverpool scoring at all.
Roberto Firmino celebrates after scoring Liverpool’s equaliser
Roberto Firmino’s goal at Selhurst Park means he has scored or assisted more Premier League goals in 2016 than any other player (7 goals, 4 assists)
Until then, they had been very ordinary. They did not even manage a shot on target until the 65th minute and, after they had been so good against Manchester City on Wednesday, it was a performance that summed up their inconsistent season.
Sometimes in football you just get a break, and that slip was Liverpool’s.
At that point, Palace panicked. They made another costly mistake with the stoppage-time penalty that saw Liverpool score their winner but it was their poor game management that contributed to their own downfall as much as Klopp’s tactics.
What did Klopp do?
The average position of Liverpool’s players (where they touched the ball) before James Milner was sent off on 62 minutes
WITH 11 MEN: Liverpool’s 4-2-3-1 formation, with James Milner, Roberto Firmino and Adam Lallana operating behind lone striker Divock Origi, had given them limited success
Klopp had made an attacking substitution on 61 minutes, bringing on Philippe Coutinho for full-back Jon Flanagan, with the intention of switching James Milner to full-back.
Seconds later, Milner was shown a second yellow card.
Klopp switched from a 4-2-3-1 formation to a 3-4-2 shape, with Dejan Lovren being asked to play on the right of their defence, and the whole team pressed Palace high up the pitch.
They were taking a big chance because their three-man defence did not have much cover, but the thinking was ‘we might as well get beaten 2-0 by trying to get something out of the match’.
The average position of Liverpool’s players (where they touched the ball) after James Milner was sent off on 62 minutes
WITH 10 MEN: Lovren has to cover centre-half and the right flank – other than the back three, Jordan Henderson and Emre Can were Liverpool’s only defensive-minded players
Why did it work?
Klopp said afterwards his side helped to force McCarthy’s mistake because they were pressing so high up the pitch – but I did not see that.
A keeper probably has to deal with about a dozen back-passes like that in every game and, even under pressure, a slip and a mis-kick is very rare.
The worst thing about it was the way Palace reacted. They suddenly looked very nervous and that just encouraged Liverpool.