When all else fails – attack!

"My centre is giving way, my right is retreating, situation excellent, I am attacking."

IT was WWI general Ferdinand Foch to whom that quote is attributed way back in 1914. But it might just as easily have come from the lips of Jurgen Klopp in 2017. Or Pep Guardiola.

It's not the first time it's been used in this column, as nothing better illustrates Liverpool's approach on the football field these past couple of seasons.

Indeed, as the only EPL club not to win their opening Champions League match this week, they were labelled a 'laughing stock' by none other than Roy Keane. Although we reach for that Mancunian salt shaker when viewing his rush to harsh judgment, Klopp will ignore it at his peril.

In the 2-2 draw with Seville, Liverpool played some scintillating stuff at times and for which even one-eyed Keano gave credit, but he was predictably merciless about the silliness of their defending.

"I think they have enough to get through the group," he added, "but later on against Real Madrid and all the big boys, they'll be laughing at Liverpool."

Klopp admitted that it would take more than one player to fix the rickety rearguard, but at least there was no hangover from Saturday's 5-0 drubbing as they tore into formidable opponents.

The German got that part of his management right only for another howler by Dejan Lovren to take the wind out of Liverpool's sails. But the lack of understanding at the back cannot be helped by his constant switching of the keeper, and after Simon Mignolet was the only Red not to hang his head in shame at the Etihad, it was a surprise to see Loris Karius in goal.

Rio Ferdinand probably put it best: "You've got to build relationships with players on the pitch," he said. "The two centre halves and the goalkeepers - that's a triangle. I had it with Edwin Van Der Sar and it became telepathic. You don't get that chopping and changing."

Still, even these Devils had to admire the Red tide that threatened to engulf Seville early on – and may have done so had Roberto Firmino's pen been on target. Should Liverpool fail to reach the knockout phase that will be seen as where it went wrong.

It gave the visitors a lift and instead of coasting with a two-goal cushion, the home side endured an unnecessarily nervy second half and surrendered two points. But it could have been worse.

Although both fullbacks pose a threat going forward and are not lacking in courage, there is a touch of the foolhardy about them. Joe Gomez duly got his marching orders at the death but Alberto Moreno had been asking for his all night.

As it is, with Nathaniel Clyne out for the year, the fullback stocks are looking threadbare. Andrew Robertson is, like Moreno, a left-footer so with only Trent Alexander-Arnold to come in, we can expect James Milner to be making a start soon.

At least Philippe Coutinho was reintroduced to the fold with a warm reception. There's nowhere like Anfield for believing you get what you wish for and just as the Kop stood to a man, as if willing the introduction of safe-standing, the whole crowd seemed to be willing the Brazilian to stay.

He will certainly add creativity and it is beginning to look as if Klopp's battle plan is similar to General Foch's and Guardiola's.

Klopp did try very hard – too hard at first – to sign Virgil van Dijk while Pep made a late stab for Jonny Evans. But it seems that when these very stubborn and single-minded managers can't get the men they want, they don't bother with alternative players – they just come up with an alternative game plan: to score more goals than they let in.

City were superb again going forward against an overwhelmed and outclassed Feyenoord and even managed to keep a clean sheet. But as Keano suggested, it won't work against Real Madrid and other big boys.

It was a generally comfortable start by this unusually bloated contingent of English clubs, with a 18-3 scoreline in their favour. And besides Liverpool, only Spurs were involved in a real contest.

At least they got the Wembley monkey off their backs, even if they needed a major reffing oversight to do so. The sturdiness of their defence coupled with Harry Kane's eye for goal suggests they can make an impression on the tournament this time.

Chelsea and Manchester United strolled through but United may finally appreciate Pogba's value now that he'll be missing for a few weeks. The arrival of Nemanja Matic had released the Frenchman's attacking prowess and no one else is in his class. They will still push over most teams but, as Mourinho insists, will be "second tier" in this tournament.

Still glittering at the top end are Barcelona – against all expectations. They whacked Juventus, are top of La Liga and have yet to concede a goal. Not bad for a club riven by politics and supposedly in deep crisis. Of course, the enduring magnificence of Lionel Messi is the prime reason.

So there, too, it looks as if it's back to the best method of defence being attack. It may have worked in 1914, but at the sharp end of the 2017/18 Champions League, you fear the consequences. Still, it means fans could be in for a feast in both England and Spain.

** Bob will be signing copies of his latest book Living The Dream at Ronnie Q's, 32, Jalan Telawi 2, Bangsar Baru, 59100 Kuala Lumpur, from 6.30pm on Sunday, September 17 before the Chelsea-Arsenal match.