What Fabinho and Liverpool’s defensive line do when the team press

If we requested you to consider Liverpool’s urgent beneath Jurgen Klopp, what image would spring to thoughts?

I’ll hazard a guess that it is considered one of their attacking gamers chasing down an opposition defender or a goalkeeper — suppose Sadio Mane on Zack Steffen in final season’s FA Cup semi-final or Ederson’s composure beneath strain from Diogo Jota in the league sport at the Etihad.

But that is only one facet of Liverpool’s urgent machine, and additional again on the pitch there are many different shifting components which are simply as important.

This piece makes an attempt to shine a light-weight on the much less glamorous components of the Liverpool press…


Our consideration is usually distracted by the motion of Liverpool’s entrance three, their extra attack-minded midfielders or their flying full-backs. According to FBref, when it involves the variety of pressures in the attacking third final season, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson ranked fifth and sixth out of all Premier League defenders that performed greater than 900 minutes…

… and first and third when it comes to share of strain in the attacking third.

There are instances when Liverpool’s urgent scheme is centered on Fabinho urgent the opponent’s No. 6 (as was the case towards Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in 2019-20), however when both of the full-backs is pushing as much as press, Fabinho stays behind to cowl them.

Here’s an instance towards Villarreal. Mohamed Salah is conserving tabs on Villarreal’s left center-back Pau Torres, which implies Alexander-Arnold is the one pushing ahead to press Villarreal’s left-back Pervis Estupinan. Behind the Liverpool right-back, Fabinho is masking Alexander-Arnold and marking Francis Coquelin.

And this is an instance from final season’s FA Cup semi-final towards Manchester City. The slender press from Liverpool’s entrance three forces Steffen to go vast to Oleksandr Zinchenko…

… which is the set off for Alexander-Arnold to pounce. This time, although, Zinchenko wins the header and flicks it behind Alexander-Arnold…

… and that is the place Fabinho is positioned to cowl for the right-back and win the ball again for Liverpool.

And this is Liverpool at dwelling to Tottenham. Again, Salah’s slender urgent function means it is Alexander-Arnold who must push as much as press…

… and once more it is Fabinho who’s masking behind him. Ben Davies tries to search out Son Heung-min in the house behind Liverpool’s right-back…

… however Fabinho’s proactiveness when it comes to masking Alexander-Arnold places him in a superb place to intercept the ball from Son.

Covering Liverpool’s proper facet throughout the urgent part is considered one of Fabinho’s principal duties with out the ball, however he additionally covers the left facet when wanted. Like right here towards Inter Milan, Liverpool’s press forces Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic to go vast in direction of Denzel Dumfries…

… which is the set off for Robertson to push ahead, as Fabinho is already shifting again to cowl even earlier than Dumfries wins the header…

… so when the ball falls behind Robertson, Fabinho is in the proper place, beating Arturo Vidal to the ball and stopping Inter’s assault.

Liverpool use Fabinho as a security web in the vast areas in case the press is bypassed. Klopp’s facet additionally defend themselves by shifting the defensive line in direction of the facet they’re aiming to press from.

So, when Liverpool are planning to press from their left facet, akin to in the instance under towards Southampton, their right-back Joe Gomez begins shifting inside earlier than the press has begun — and even earlier than the Southampton right-sided center-back Jack Stephens has taken a contact…

… and as the play develops on the far facet, Gomez remains to be shifting inside the pitch and the Liverpool left-back Kostas Tsimikas pushes ahead to place himself able the place he can press both Mohamed Elyounoussi or Kyle Walker-Peters, who’s by the touchline. The ball reaches the latter after a neat Southampton passing mixture…

… however Tsimikas is in his face with a number of Liverpool teammates close by, which forces Southampton to move the ball again earlier than kicking it out for a throw-in.

Now, the essential half right here is how Liverpool’s defensive line has shifted throughout to cowl for Tsimikas as the ball reaches Walker-Peters. Ibrahima Konate is already in the left-back house, with Joel Matip central and Gomez close to the heart circle.

There’s one other instance of this in the Inter sport at San Siro. Robertson is means up the area urgent Dumfries, who goes lengthy behind each Robertson and the masking Fabinho…

… however Virgil van Dijk is there to win the header. Again, Liverpool’s defensive line has shifted throughout to be in the proper place to cowl for the superior full-back, shifting into one thing akin to a again three.

On the proper facet, the state of affairs is equivalent every time Alexander-Arnold pushes ahead to assist Salah press and the opponent goes lengthy to bypass the press…

… the Liverpool proper centre-back, Konate on this instance towards City, is there to cowl for Alexander-Arnold…

… and the complete defensive line has shifted throughout, with the left-back Robertson tucking inside.

Those strategies — Fabinho shifting out vast and the defensive line shuffling throughout to the facet the team is urgent from — assist defend towards lengthy passes into the vast areas, so what about central lengthy balls?

Klopp’s facet are identified for enjoying a excessive offside line, however that is not the case when opponents play lengthy central balls from deep following a Liverpool ahead press. Instead, they drop behind the aerial duel in anticipation of the second ball. Take this instance towards Norwich City — Angus Gunn performs a ball in direction of the heart circle due to the Liverpool press…

… and as Gomez is ready to struggle for the aerial ball, Konate drops to cowl as a substitute of pushing up…

Gomez wins the header however he misplaced the aerial duel, Konate was there to contest the second ball.

This strategy is finest illustrated of their Champions League sport away to Porto. The excessive strain from the ahead line forces Porto’s goalkeeper Diogo Costa to go lengthy…

… and whereas the ball is in the air, Matip units himself up for the header. But preserve your eyes on the remainder of the defensive line. James Milner, filling in at right-back, will drop subsequent to Van Dijk, as will Robertson…

… forming a again three behind Matip to contest the second ball in case he loses the header.

This is what occurred towards Benfica. The Liverpool forwards pressure the opponent into an extended clearance up the center…

… which Matip is getting ready to assault with Konate and Gomez dropping to cowl. Matip loses the aerial duel…

… and so does Konate, however Gomez’s earlier motion places him able to win the third ball and cease Benfica’s assault.

Against AC Milan, an extended ball from Franck Kessie units up the aerial duel between Konate and Zlatan Ibrahimovic…

… and that is the set off for Nathaniel Phillips and Tsimikas to drop…

… so when Ibrahimovic wins the header, they’re there to cowl.

Inside Liverpool’s urgent machine, the defensive line and Fabinho are simply as essential as the entrance three and the different midfielders.

While the focus may be on the intense hassling and harrying of the attacking gamers, the cogs at the again assist all of it work.

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