Half-time: 0-0. Full-time: 4-0. This was perhaps the most obvious example yet. It was one amplified by the Reds’ second-half ruthlessness, but the recent victory over the Saints evidenced just how much difference the work of the likes of Peter Krawietz during the interval can make. Jürgen Klopp was tellingly quick to publicly praise his long-term colleague’s work post-match, too.
It is inevitably easy to underestimate — and, in turn, underuse — half-time. The 15 minutes of comparative tranquility within the raucousness that so often is a football match.
The most logical time to briefly switch off, it might seem? It is, after all, a crucial period of contained rest and recovery ahead of the second 45 to come.
Yet this, of course, makes it all the more reasonable to take the approach that this is one of the very best times to switch on.
It’s not chaos here. It’s not 100mph. It is, therefore, a perfect opportunity to stop and think. To assess, analyse and act.
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We shouldn’t kid ourselves — all elite level teams presumably look to do all that in at least some shape or form during the break nowadays. Though Liverpool do appear especially, noticeably effective in this respect.
Krawietz — nicknamed ‘The Eye’ by Klopp — is generally believed to lead a considerable portion of the half-time process. One of his specialities is video analysis and, as Dan Morgan’s recent Liverpool.com article cites: ‘The assistant usually disappears down the tunnel on around 40 minutes to prepare what he’s seen.’
Suggested improvements, tactical tweaks and opposition areas that could be exploited in the second-period tend to be the focus of the clips. Klopp highlighted the benefits of such work in his comments following the four-goal second-half showing against Ralph Hasenhüttl’s men.
Speaking to LFCTV, the German said: “So we had to change a few football things. Pete [Krawietz] found three really good situations where we could show what we are doing wrong.
“If we do that right then immediately it’s more difficult for Southampton. That’s the first thing what we have to make sure, that they cannot wins the balls in the situations where we gave the balls away.”
This was followed by the 52-year-old stating in his press conference: “So that’s why we had the problems in the first-half, because we lost the balls in the wrong moment.
“We had to change 2-3 things, most importantly we had to change the involvement of Fabinho. Switch the side with him, pass the ball there — football things. And then we started rolling, if you want.
“When we had that kind of counter-attack and Oxlade with a sensational goal but I think I liked the second-half already much more until that goal so what we did then was just really good.
“We played much calmer, used Fabinho better, with this positioning we used all the midfielders better, used our full-backs better, had better direction. Yeah so it was just a better game and in the end we won it.”
It was indeed noticeable how much less the Reds surrendered possession in the kind of areas that had allowed the south coast side several chances to attack the back line in an entertaining but mixed opening 45 for the hosts.
Fewer second-balls were lost and, when in possession, swift direct passes or precise, intricate, relatively low-risk combinations provided Klopp’s side with a more effective route to overcoming the visitors’ press.
Confidence, of course, should also be recognised as a factor. Few things can boost performance like the adrenaline rush that comes with a goal and simply playing well. This did, though, have the look of a more measured and informed performance all-round following the break.
Undoubtedly supported by those around him, Krawietz appears likely to have represented observer and informer in chief here.
A pattern that is no one-off. The Reds have often been noticeably effective in the second-half — and its early minutes in particular — in recent times.
The post half-time peppering of the Manchester United goal perhaps represents one of the most blatant recent examples of a potentially thoughtful 15 minutes in the dressing room.
While the 2-0 victory at Cardiff in April 2019 may just offer the clearest single moment of benefit.
Georginio Wijnaldum had noticed during the first-half that he was consistently unmarked at corners and the players and coaches were able to put in place a plan at half-time to capitalise on that.
It led directly to the Dutchman’s 57th minute opener as he hammered home Trent Alexander-Arnold’s deliberately low, pulled-back delivery.
While that was player-led, it remains one of the very clearest displays of Liverpool’s half-time proactivity.
Another example of a marginal gain. Another example of Klopp and his charges looking to squeeze as much as possible out of the resources and time they have available.
As it proved against Southampton, the plan will be for it to continue to make the difference when required.