Liverpool boss Jürgen Klopp has spent time with the majority of his squad in Dubai working on a variety of things. But Andy Robertson has pinpointed one in particular.
Liverpool has become synonymous with intensity over the past few seasons, but there is no doubt that there has been a distinct lack of that in the opening months of the campaign.
That, though, is something that the Reds squad is entirely aware of, and something that they have spent the World Cup break working on improving.
Some stars remain on holiday after the tournament, Ibrahima Konaté could yet start the final (though he missed France’s most recent training session through illness), and Luis Díaz has canceled out the positive of him being back from injury by suffering another setback.
But those who have been present in Dubai have been working on getting back the trait that they have lacked the most often during the beginning of the season — and the one that sees them create the most opportunities to score.
“We’ve been working a lot on pressing, counter-pressing, and choosing our moments because in games we’ve not done that enough at times and in some games, we’ve sort of half-pressed,” Robertson explained in an exclusive interview with the ECHO in Dubai.
“That is the worst thing you can do because if you go into it and you’re not 100 percent that’s when teams can pick you off. We’ve done that in a few games this season.
“But then again, in other games, we’ve been excellent at it. Manchester City, Ajax, Tottenham; we’ve been looking at all the good games where the pressing came from. We’ve been so good [generally] at sitting in our block, picking our moments, and knowing when to press. And if we’ve lost the ball, we have reacted so quickly.”
Pressing has long been Jürgen Klopp’s favored playmaker but the German has seen his side become lethargic this season. More than anything, that has been down to the lack of legs and options in the center of the pitch, so perhaps more than any training, the break should be a boost.
Just the rest and the chance — at least for now — of having a fit Naby Keïta to work with should bolster numbers if nothing else.
“I think that’s what people would say if you were to ask Liverpool fans or fans of other clubs, ‘how do you describe Liverpool in the last five years?’ I think the answer would be the press offensively, as it’s been so good,” Robertson continued.
“At times it’s not been good enough this season, so it’s important we try and get that impulse back and get that part of our game to the maximum consistently.
“At times we’ve done it well but it’s about being able to make sure we’re all pressing at the same time and on the same page and we can sit back when it’s the right moment. That is where this week has been beneficial. We’ve worked on it this week and we will be ready for the season to start again.”
The timings might now have been reset for those who are a part of the training camp in Dubai — the opening goal, scored by Fábio Carvalho, against Lyon earlier in the week would suggest a step in the right direction.
But the real test is whether that holds up for the players physically. The biggest issue for Liverpool so far this season has appeared to be being unable to run as hard as they used to rather than being unable to coordinate those runs correctly.
Either way, if Liverpool can find a way of getting their best playmaker to return consistently, then that would be a significant step in the right direction with the second part of the season just days away.