It’s important to avoid interpreting the outcome of any football friendly too broadly
This is especially true in the Dubai Super Cup, where the competition’s rules allow for the possibility of a team effectively winning or losing a match twice.
Liverpool experienced this on Sunday. In the regular-time match, Lyon defeated them 3-1, and for good measure, they also lost the subsequent penalty shootout 5-3. The Reds’ ambitions for 2022–23 can be put on hold in light of this result, but the way Jurgen Klopp’s team scored its goal needs to start happening more frequently.
Almost every time the Liverpool manager conducts a press conference, he comes up with remarkable soundbites. But perhaps his most significant quote was when he said, “No playmaker in the world can be as excellent as a good counter-pressing situation.” Against Lyon, the Reds eloquently demonstrated their argument.
With a goal within the first 40 seconds, Fabio Carvalho put the finishing touches on the play. But he also played a vital part in the build-up. The goal deserved a thorough analysis because it was so flawlessly “Klopp.”
Liverpool players surrounded Lyon when they were in control just within their own half, forcing them to retreat. Due to intense pressure from Harvey Elliott, defensive midfielder Thiago Mendes passed the ball to Sinaly Diomande. Elliott kept moving in his direction, but a running Carvalho joined him in pursuit. The Reds were hunting in packs, as were all the top predators.
The Lyon center-back was only able to pass directly to Roberto Firmino due to severely constrained passing angles. Castello Lukeba touched the ball after the Brazilian passed it to Mohamed Salah, but Carvalho eventually scored. The former Fulham kid did a great job because after assisting his team in gaining control, he ran into space to make sure they could make a move.
Diogo Jota and Luis Diaz’s injuries could give Carvalho additional opportunities to play on the left side of Liverpool’s attack. The goal indicates that he can contribute there, and after the game, he stressed the value of regaining possession in risky situations.
“We want to resume pushing the way the club pressed last season, which was very effective in games and led to many opportunities being created, according to Carvalho. “Pressure-wise, we haven’t quite been at the level this year, but that is something we’ve been working on and will continue to work on. We’ll hopefully be back to our best soon.”
Carvalho’s claim that Liverpool’s counter-press has become less effective since last season is supported by data from Opta Analyst. The Reds have 154 high turnovers after 14 games in 2021–2022, which are open play sequences that start no more than 40 meters from the opponent’s goal. With one for every 5.5 mistakes and two every game, they produced 28 shots, and three of them resulted in goals (against Watford, Manchester United and Arsenal).
Each of those numbers has fallen during this campaign. With their possession percentage down 0.8% from the previous year, Liverpool has had more opportunities to recover the ball thanks to the 123 turnovers they’ve caused in the final 40 meters of the field. They have committed 7.2 turnovers for every one of their 17 shots (1.2 per game), and their first goal of the season in this manner didn’t come until their final pre-World Cup match against Southampton.
It is not surprising that they have declined. Jota has played very little due to injury, Sadio Mane has left, and Darwin Nunez is still getting used to the side. A less successful press was inevitable when the formation variations that have happened were included. However, the first goal of the friendly against Lyon implies that it has returned, which will give Klopp great hope for the next six months of the season.