How to defend against the long ball

Jurgen Klopp after his side’s 1-1 draw at Old Trafford against Manchester United insisted that his side deserved all three points pointing to the fact that United resorted to “long ball tactics” in the second half to score the equaliser.

“[We were] the better side, played better football, had the best plan. We could’ve been a bit more clinical.

“In those last 20 minutes, Man United only [played] long balls. We would have deserved three points but now we take one.

Somehow in modern football, there is an inherent hostility towards teams who employ the long ball tactic. It may not be aesthetically pleasing as the counter attack or the tiki-taka, but at the end of the day, football is about winning. There are accusations of it being a trial and error method but isn’t everything about football not trail and error?

Managers should put aside this hatred towards the long ball and actually start working on actually defending this tactic. Gary Neville, in the below video explains on how teams can defend the long ball.

The way Liverpool play, they actually should be perfectly able to deal with long ball. Intense pressing combined with a high line negates the opposition’s ability to effectively play the long ball tactic. Liverpool in the game against United dropped way too deep in the last 15 minutes and their pressing levels also dropped off. Especially with United’s lack of pace in the forward areas with Rooney, Zlatan and Fellaini, Liverpool should have pushed higher up. Also when teams start playing long ball, opposition teams should move to a formation which is top heavy. Pushing the attacking players onto the opposition defence doesn’t allow time and space to play accurate long balls and with a high line, the second ball and the flick on can be managed more effectively with a covering defender.

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