Liverpool could not implement Jurgen Klopp's plan - Joey Barton

By Joey BartonMOTD2 pundit
Match of the Day 2 analysis

Liverpool lacked their usual intensity in Sunday's surprise 2-0 defeat at Newcastle because Jurgen Klopp did not pick a team that could implement his gameplan.

Liverpool's starting line-up vs Newcastle
Liverpool lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation against Newcastle, with Christian Benteke leading their attack

With Newcastle in such poor form and so nervy, on top of the way his side have been counter-attacking so well of late, I thought beforehand that it would be a game that would play into Klopp's hands.

But the Reds were never on the front foot high up the pitch in the same way they were against, say, Manchester City when they won 4-1 at the Etihad Stadium last month.

In that game Liverpool's forwards were putting City's centre-halves and full-backs under constant pressure and setting traps for them whenever they were on the ball.

Against Newcastle, in contrast, they allowed the home team to slowly grow into the game and the Magpies went on to win it convincingly.

The Magpies were the first team to run further and make more sprints than Liverpool in a Premier League game since Klopp took charge, but matching the Reds' work-rate was not the only reason they won.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp
Liverpool's defeat at St James' Park was their first in six away matches under Klopp, and only his second in 12 games as Reds boss

'Liverpool lacked intensity up front'

Liverpool's basic stats against Newcastle - their total distance covered and number of sprints - were typical of the kind of figures we have seen in some of their impressive wins under Klopp, but something was clearly missing from their performance, and it started up front.

Liverpool in the Premier League under Klopp
OppositionResultDistance covered (km)Sprints
Tottenham (a)D 0-0113.5621
Southampton (h)D 1-1114.5559
Chelsea (a)W 3-1115.1497
C Palace (h)L 1-2110.9527
Man City (a)W 4-1117.4625
Swansea (h)W 1-0108.9542
Newcastle (a)L 0-2116.5579

Klopp clearly had a plan, and a reason, for going with Christian Benteke to lead his attack, as opposed to the front three he had against City when he did not field a recognised striker.

That was always going to mean a drop in the amount of high intensity pressing his team were able to do from the front, because Benteke is not really that kind of player.

Liverpool striker Christian Benteke
Benteke had made the fewest touches of any Liverpool outfield player (31) when he was replaced by Adam Lallana after 62 minutes. He had one shot, which was off target - Liverpool did not have a shot on target until the 89th minute

Take Benteke out and replace him with another attacking midfielder and you are automatically going to get more intensity high up the pitch.

There was another significant difference in midfield at St James' Park, with Emre Can missing because of suspension.

That meant Klopp had a midfield of Joe Allen and Lucas Leiva, who are both more like holding players, compared to Can, who is far more dynamic and operates box-to-box.

I am not saying Benteke - or Allen and Lucas - were totally to blame for Liverpool's defeat but together they were contributing factors, and I think Klopp got his team wrong this time.

Lucas and Allen's touches for Liverpool vs Newcastle
Lucas LeivaJoe Allen
Lucas Leiva and Joe Allen's touches vs Newcastle
Between them, Lucas (102) and Allen (78) had 180 touches against Newcastle, but only three of them were inside the Newcastle area, all by Allen

'It will take 8-12 months to apply Klopp's stamp'

Sunday's defeat showed Klopp is still trying to work out the strengths and weaknesses of the players in his squad, and finding out who can fit into his gameplan.

He made six changes from Wednesday's 6-1 Capital One Cup win at Southampton, and he is obviously giving all of his players an opportunity, which is a positive thing. I think the reason he did not seem too down after losing to Newcastle was that he realises it is part of the process.

Game was not the biggest fun - Klopp

It will probably be about eight to 12 months, and at least a couple of transfer windows, before he really puts a stamp on this team.

I was talking to a number of Liverpool fans before the Newcastle game and their feelings seem to change all the time about what they can achieve this season - one week they are a work in progress, the next they are back in the big time.

It is too soon to get carried away. There have been some really encouraging signs and glimpses of what Klopp is capable of but there have also been blips - like Sunday - where you are reminded he is only two months into the job.

Joey Barton was speaking to BBC Sport's Chris Bevan.