???️ How Do Liverpool Deal With The Loss of Sadio Mane?

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After the recent run of form that Liverpool endured during a very sodden September, I thought that this international break could be a brilliant time for the Liverpool squad to regroup and come back stronger in October. It was going so well! It is never that easy though is it. The news of Sadio Mane’s hamstring injury last night was a massive blow. Especially in the knowledge that we are playing Manchester United at the weekend. The thought of Liverpool having to play NINE games without him made my heart sink and I’m sure many of you felt the same way. Without his pace and flair our attack can be fairly tepid based on last season’s performances and the same can be said for some of this season. Even with the arrival of more pace in the form of Mohammed Salah, Mane’s absence is still being felt. Now we have NINE games without him, including games against Manchester United, Chelsea, Spurs and crucial Champions League ties against Maribor and Spartak Moscow. We need to find a way to win, without our African Talisman. I have come up with three realistic possibilities that Liverpool could employ during this period. The ???last season’ method This one is fairly straightforward. We keep playing the same way as we have been this season, but simply swap out Mane for Coutinho. We still have a very potent front three and are able to maintain a consistency in midfield with Henderson, Winjaldum and Can, with Milner and Oxlade-Chamberlain rotating in and out of that midfield. The positives of playing this way is that the players will already be very familiar with the system, it has had success in the past mainly in the big games. However, the downside to this solution is that we must take Coutinho out of the midfield. He adds a large amount of creativity to the team and having him play in a deeper role I think is the best place for him in our team, when are squad is fully fit of course. Another thing to consider is that when Lallana returns to the team, he might be able to do the Coutinho role in the midfield. I think we miss Adam Lallana a lot more then we realise. Likely line-up with this formation: Mingolet, Trent, Matip, Lovren, Moreno Lallana/Winjaldum, Henderson, Can Salah, Firmino Coutinho     Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain This is very similar to the option above, but instead it gives a chance for our newest signing to get some game time. It would involve a straight swap into Mane’s position in the first XI. We bought him to be a backup player, to add depth to the squad and the main reason for having those players is for when situations like this come up. If the Ox wants to play for Liverpool and start games for us then it is up to him to take opportunities like this. This also allows Coutinho to stay in that deeper role that he has excelled in so far, yet it does put a lot of pressure on Chamberlain. A player who up to this point has not fully settled into the team and his performances on the pitch have been average at best. Likely line-up with this formation: Mingolet, Trent, Matip, Lovren, Moreno Can, Henderson, Coutinho Oxlade-Chamberlain, Firmino, Salah   “Tactical Flexibility” This option involves a bit of a shakeup. In pre-season Klopp said in an interview that he is looking for his team to show a lot more ???tactical flexibility’. Where has that been so far? In all our games we have stuck with the bog standard 4-3-3 that has worked yes but against the smaller teams we have found it quite difficult to break them down. Moreover, whether it is down to the formation or not we have been vulnerable at the back. Maybe we need a change. At the back end of last season, Mane was injured and we faced a few must win games to get a place in the top 4. A game that sticks out to me in that run was the 4-0 victory against West Ham, in this game we played a diamond formation and it worked very well all things considered. The starting XI that day was: Mignolet, Clyne, Matip, Lovren, Milner, Can, Winjaldum, Coutinho, Lallana, Sturridge and Origi. With the diamond it gave Coutinho license to roam behind the front two and create a lot of chances from deeper positions. Which he did to great effect, setting up Sturridge for the opening goal of the game. It let Emre Can sit in front of that defence and it helped us keep a clean sheet! A concept that seems foreign to us at the moment. The system also lets us line up with two strikers, up top down the middle. If you want to get the best out of Daniel Sturridge, I think he needs a striker partner and this is the way to do it! The main disadvantage to this formation, is that it likely means that Salah will either play out of position, or not at all. For a player that is in such great form, that feels like a waste of momentum. Likely line-up with this formation: Mingolet, Trent, Matip, Lovren, Moreno Henderson Can, Lallana/Oxlade-Chamberlain Coutinho Sturridge, Firmino   Personally, I think that Klopp more likely choosing one or both of the first two options rather than moving to the diamond formation. I remain hopeful though, maybe he will take it as a fantastic opportunity to show that tactical flexibility he called for in pre-season. I do hope so, watching Liverpool has been very predictable over the last month. Would be refreshing to see a change.   Article by Tom Culshaw  
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