Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

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Liverpool’s death by vertical passes

May 16, 2023 — For most teams, it’s death by passes, but for Liverpool, it’s death by vertical passes. Any chance they got against Leicester, it was vertical over the top.

Liverpool’s identity is speed and verticality, and it plays right into Leicester’s weakness that I identified two months ago.

Leicester don’t commit everyone back to defend. They lose the ball, and then leave the back-four to defend against six Liverpool players.

2v1s frequently formed on the far-side.

Figure 1.1 - Alisson kicks the ball over Leicester City's back-line. 2v1 on the far-side.
<img src=https://i.imgur.com/92mQkjp.jpg"">
Figure 1.2 - Luis Diaz heads the ball down to Henderson.
Figure 1.3 - Mohamed Salah clips the perfect ball to Curtis Jones, who is free on the back post.

Liverpool is too clinical a team to leave a man that free on the back post. Leicester contracts and Liverpool swiftly capitalizes.

Figure 1.4 - Curtis Jones scores.

Not only did Liverpool have a high volume of progressive passes, but their passes were varied in terms of location and distance.

Figure 2.1 - Clusters of progressive pass attempts from @markrstats.

Liverpool only capitalized on that one vertical progressive pass for the first goal. Their second goal came from consecutive passes on the ground, but the same far-side 2v1 overload occurred.

Figure 3.1 - Ibrahima Konate passes to Jordan Henderson, who is free. 2v1 forms on the far-side.
Figure 3.2 - As Jordan Henderson plays the ball to Cody Gakpo, Curtis Jones drags a defender infield, leaving Luis Diaz free.
Figure 3.3 - Mohamed Salah passes to Curtis Jones. He turns, shoots, and scores.

Curtis Jones’ finish was superb, that of a center-forward, not a midfielder—clinical.

I love the way Luis Diaz recognized the overload and held his run to allow the space to open on the back post.

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