Is this life after Buvac?

Jurgen Klopp has built his whole reputation on his instantly recognisable ‘Gegenpressing’ style of play. He achieved great success at Dortmund winning two league titles and toppling the behemoth of German football that is Bayern Munich in the process, with a fraction of their budget. He also took that team on a thrilling ride to the Champions League final, reminiscent of our own campaign of last season.

When he arrived at the reds he transformed a team that had turned stale under Rodgers with his style of play and while he didn’t have the squad at that time to properly implement his style we still, almost overnight, became much better to watch, carried a far greater attacking threat and made it to two finals. He followed this up with some shrewd transfer business, back to back top four finishes and that memorable run to the Champions League final. All seemed rosy until out of the blue the news broke that Klopp’s trusted lieutenant of seventeen years, Zeljko Buvac had left his position at the club, albeit temporarily according to reports but we now know he will not be returning to his post. James Pearce of The Echo reported in a Q&A session with fans recently that lawyers are involved and that is what has delayed the announcement.

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Buvac was often referred to as ‘The brain’ in the managerial setup but with a clear change in approach this year, is it possible that Klopp’s famed ‘heavy metal football’ was really all down to Buvac?

Klopp is a centre back to trade and building on a solid defence makes sense but we seemed so close to perfection last year after Van Dijk’s arrival. We ran out of legs and numbers by the time we got to Kiev but it seemed to me that some shrewd signings in the transfer market to boost the squad and we’d be right there, a terrifying prospect for anyone in world football. We made said shrewd signings (at least on paper) and West Ham on the first game of the season we seemed to have picked right up where we left off. I’d never felt so optimistic about our chances of lifting the Premier League.

Since then however, we’ve adopted a much more defensive approach. Our attackers are badly struggling for form and while City are sweeping aside all the lesser teams, we have been labouring past them and in some cases, nicking a goal and parking the bus!

I don’t want to be overly critical and how can I be when we’ve made our best ever start to a Premier League campaign but I just don’t understand completely abandoning the approach that has taken us so close to glory, unless that is, we can no longer implement it properly without Buvac.

In recent years, what has let us down is throwing away two and three goal leads because we couldn’t defend but our defensive issues were almost always individual mistakes. We’ve never conceded a lot of chances under Klopp but almost every one we did concede resulted in a goal but the signings of Van Dijk,  Robbo and Alisson, along with the emergence of Trent and Gomez, our defence has been transformed. Does anyone think our current defence couldn’t see out a three goal lead?

I understand not wanting to burn our players out, as perhaps they have in recent seasons but our increased squad depth and massively improved defence should negate the problems that have plagued us in previous years. Last season we would regularly score three goals before half time. With our new defence, that would effectively constitute a half off as it did when we played Southampton this year so surely if we want to conserve energy, just blitz teams in the first half as we have in the last couple of years but now we have the defensive nous to just shut up shop in the second half and conserve our energy.

As I said, it’s difficult to be too critical given our points tally but anyone who has watched all our games this season would have to agree that we look a shadow of ourselves in an attacking sense. Hopefully this is down to individual form rather than the change of approach we’ve obviously adopted but I fear that without Buvac at Klopp’s side, we may have seen the last of the famed ‘heavy metal football’.
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