Liverpool Jurgen Klopp says the introduction of VAR will not change the way his side defends, with their high line remaining pivotal to their style. The Reds’ pressing game is built on firm foundations, with Virgil van Dijk pushing the defence up in a bid to squeeze the play and prevent the opposition from breaking out.
Van Dijk’s pace gives his side an extra insurance policy, while that is doubled when Joe Gomez partners him in central defence. The pair dovetailed well for long periods last season and the agile Joel Matip did not let anyone down when deputising for Gomez during injury, excelling in the Champions League final.
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Matip looks set to continue on Saturday against Southampton, partnering Van Dijk as the Dutchman heads back to his former club, with Gomez playing at right-back. With Andy Robertson on the left, it is a pacey unit and their ability to cover back if the offside trap does not pay off provides an extra dimension, especially if Alisson is sweeping up behind.
The introduction of VAR has the potential to give defenders extra protection as an efficient offside trap could all but rule out being caught on the counter-attack.
Things almost didn’t work out in Wednesday’s Super Cup though as both of Chelsea’s goals came from situations where previously the play may have been brought back.
Some coaches could be persuaded to push their defenders further up the field in the hope their positive approach can catch opponents’ wrong side of the line. If so, the VAR officials will notify the referee and a potential goal could be chalked off, especially with the game often stopping at the hint off offside.
Klopp clearly does not fall into this camp though, especially as his team already play with a high line and have hardly been watertight, conceding in all three of their matches this term.
Rather than adapt to suit a specific rule, the boss says his team will continue with their method of defending as it works best with their style of play.
“We don’t defend higher than we did before,” he told reporters. “We use the situations. Using the offside line is always part of defending. “Chelsea scored twice after offside situations. That would have been offside in the good old times. We know VAR is in there now so now each offside decision will be settled.
“We don’t defend ten yards higher, that’s not how it is.”