Harry Redknapp was very fond of saying “Football is a simple game” when he initially took over from Juande Ramos and when he reflected on Andrea Villas Boas’s reign. Player chemistry on the pitch is key to any successful team, go back through the ages and any successful team has partnerships on the pitch in various positions.
The partnership that is taking the Premier League by storm is the Riyad Mahrez, Jamie Vardy partnership. Each knows what the others thoughts and movements are going to be, almost on a telepathic level. The other partnership that is excelling is the Dele Alli and Harry Kane partnership.
Liverpool lack any kind of partnerships on the pitch, and there is no discernible chemistry between their players. Liverpool teams of the past had Ian St John and Roger Hunt, Kenny Dalglish and Ian Rush, Lawrenson and Hanson, Hyppia and Henchoz, the list goes on. In the current team there is not a single partnership worthy of praise. Roberto Firmino and Phil Coutinho have shown glimpses of a partnership but their time on the pitch has been hindered by injuries. The pair have played through the U19’s, U20’s and U21’s, the various ages, for the Brazil national team so one would expect some chemistry.
Mauricio Pochettino at Spurs has done a very interesting thing re-uniting three players who played together at Ajax, Vertonghen, Alderweireld and Christian Eriksen. These three players have won two Eredivisie Leagues together and the equivalent of the FA Cup at Ajax. Vertonghen left and Alderweireld and Eriksen won a third league title. 3 out of the 11 players fielded by Spurs 27% of the team have an intricate knowledge of each other’s play and runs forged over 4/5 years. Add to that the blossoming Alli and Kane relationship and it is no surprise Tottenham are where they are.
Liverpool by comparison appear to be a disjointed team, arguably Tiago Llori and Lucas Leiva looked more composed than any of the other centre back pairings and Lucas is a midfielder. None of Lovren, Skrtel, Sakho or Toure have forged a partnership or an understanding in 18 months. In Midfield the same can be said of Can, Milner and Henderson, there is no understanding or relationship being forged and developed, there doesn’t seem any signs of improvement of them playing together in the 25th game of the Premier League season, 40 games in total over the season.
One could argue the youngsters playing against Exeter in two games and against West Ham in two games have shown more fluidity and understanding than the first eleven has in the Premier League.
Either full back Clyne or Moreno has not forged a relationship with his centre backs, if you think of the great full backs of the Liverpool past they had outstanding relationships with their centre backs.
As Gerrard/Torres or Gerrard/Suarez has shown in the recent past a single telepathic relationship can catapult a team very far. Mahrez and Vardy and Kane and Alli’s partnerships have yielded in excess of twelve goals. Those twelve goals are the difference between where Liverpool sit now in 9th and the Champions League places.
Even the teams around them, Gerard Deulofeu has 7 assists to Romelu Lukaku, have shown the benefit of players’ on field chemistry. Klopps’ close season work has to be to get this fluency of chemistry with his on field first eleven which is severely lacking and is a huge reason for their inconsistency.
Alex Ferguson weathered the storm with huge criticism of DeGea, Evra and Vidic when they first arrived. He allowed the relationship and chemistry between his back four to grow and Klopp has to do a similar thing. Fergie played DeGea, Evra and Vidic through huge criticism early doors and their performances yielded huge benefits after that.
The first port of call of any new manager is to make your team hard to beat, upon that foundation can the attacking prowess be built. In order to rid Liverpool of the anxiety they play with Klopp has to improve the on field chemistry of his team. Even 2-0 up against a relegation threatened Sunderland at home in the 76th minute there is anxiety in Liverpool’s play. Partnerships need to be built across the pitch in order to restore a degree of fortitude and resilience hitherto lacking in Liverpool’s play.