Jurgen Klopp's reign as Liverpool manager began with a 0-0 draw against Tottenham at White Hart Lane. While a goalless scoreline might not hint at anything too dramatic, the statistics reveal the early evidence of Klopp's impact on the team's approach...
Having lost three senior strikers and with limited time in which to work with his remaining players, there was an understandable urge to downplay expectations after the initial excitement. "Everything would be better if we'd worked together for six weeks," said Jurgen Klopp in his first press conference. But there was enough in this Liverpool performance to add fuel to the optimism.
"For sure, we want to look different," added Klopp on Thursday. "That's what I expect." And there were signs of that in Liverpool's energetic opening. Mauricio Pochettino's Tottenham not only outran their opponents more than any Premier League side last season but they'd also covered more ground than the other team in every game this year. Not on Saturday. Not against Klopp's Liverpool.
According to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index, Spurs had outrun Manchester City and Swansea by a combined total of over 19 kilometres in their previous two games but instead Liverpool ran 1.2km more than the home side. Spurs looked uncomfortable with the pressing in the early stages, losing possession frequently in their own half as James Milner, Adam Lallana and Philippe Coutinho were all eager to put the yards in to close down.
James Milner played narrow when Liverpool did not have the ball but was asked to drive wide when they countered. He covered 13.1km and made 82 sprints - both more than anyone else on the pitch.
Liverpool ran 116.0km at White Hart Lane - a season high for them and almost 10km up on their previous effort. They also showed the intensity of their work, making a season's best 614 sprints as a team - 140 more than their previous average for the campaign. If a 0-0 scoreline didn't exactly scream exciting new dawn, Klopp at least got a response from his players.
While Brendan Rodgers was much-maligned for his frequent use of the word 'character' in describing his players, Klopp is also entitled to be pleased with the way his team stuck to their task rather than fade after the early onslaught and the disappointment of Divock Origi's near miss when the Belgian hit the underside of the crossbar. He'd clarified this message by giving the example of their recent fragility against Aston Villa.
There had been some panic when Villa equalised at Anfield and Klopp wanted to avoid this. His opening address had proved prophetic. "It's very important that making a goal in the first few minutes is not the only way to feel free in a game because 0-0 is an absolutely normal result," said Klopp. "It always starts with 0-0 so it's okay.
"You can try and try and then you will find a way if you are patient enough to wait for the next situation rather than think 'Oh God, it was like this last week'. That's a feeling I want to give the players; that they can trust in themselves." He added: "If we can be organised after this short time, this is what we have to train in this moment. It's not allowed to think only about offensive things."
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A goalless draw against what he described as a "well-tuned" Spurs side represents a solid start. With more firepower available, the rest could come. But for now, Liverpool fans - and Klopp himself - can be content with the fact that Saturday's showing suggests that the players are listening and the manager is already having an impact on how his side plays. That's not bad for a week's work.