Embracing the Chaos: How Pep and Klopp Have Torn Up Conventional Tactical Wisdom

Between August 2021 and the same month two years later, Liverpool and Chelsea played each other seven times – all seven of them ending in a draw, with four 0-0 stalemates thrown in for good measure. So Liverpool’s 4-1 thrashing of the Blues at the end of January not only marked the end of an unlikely streak, it also confirmed that the links in the chain had been broken – this is not a Reds attack that Chelsea were able to keep at bay.


Last season at Anfield or not, Jurgen Klopp is desperate to end Liverpool’s short but frustrating wait for silverware in 2023/24. To do so, he’s embraced the kind of chaos that is almost impossible to play against when it comes off…


Predicting the Unpredictable


In an increasingly chaotic age, football is supposed to offer some semblance of consistency and predictability. Manchester City are the best team in England, with the football betting odds confirming as much by making Pep Guardiola’s men the 8/11 favourites for the Premier League title ahead of Liverpool (2/1) and Arsenal (15/2).


But those odds have lengthened since the summer, while Arsenal’s title chances have been downgraded – perhaps the uniformity and predictability of Mikel Arteta’s tactics is working against them. What’s interesting about Liverpool 2.0 under Klopp is that many observers know how they’re going to play. Trent Alexander-Arnold, principally, is around to roam from right back into midfield, with (usually) Ibrahima Konate sliding over from central defence to provide cover and either the right-sided central midfielder, or Mo Salah as the right winger, providing width in an attacking sense.



But that’s not to say that knowing what’s coming is the same as being able to stop it. Chelsea, who had improved defensively since Christmas, were steamrollered – the Reds raining down 28 shots on the Londoners’ goal and winning eight corners, despite the possession count reading 50-50. Klopp’s agents of chaos are eschewing ball retention for rapid verticality, sending players scurrying forward in a humanoid take on the Red Arrows.


Liverpool are vulnerable to counter attacks down their right-hand side, but their head coach doesn’t mind. He’s embraced the chaos, and all tactical rational has gone out of the window.


Control Freak


One of the secrets of Pep’s success as a head coach, be it at Barcelona, Bayern or now Manchester City, is his ability to control games of football – ensuring the action unfolds on his terms. Possession and overloads are just of the contributors of that sense of control, but it would be fair to say that City’s relative travails in 2023/24 have come about as a consequence of chaos creeping into their game. They’re still dominating possession of the ball and the goals are still flowing, but Pep’s carefully plotted traps – designed to stem opposition counter-attacks in the bud – are being outmanoeuvred and out-thought.



At the start of February, they are conceding goals at a rate of 1.14 per 90 minutes – compare and contrast that to 0.86 in 2022/23 and 0.68 in 2021/22. It’s clear that City’s defensive chaos is working out rather less well for them than Liverpool’s attacking anarchy is for the Reds. Could that be a major contributing factor when the Premier League trophy is handed out in May?