Article by Mizgan Masani @mizgans
“We take a look as to how the new system is making the perfect use of the players Liverpool have at their disposal”
Liverpool are the new league leaders of the Premier League and have a chance go four points clear of Manchester City before the champions play Crystal Palace on Saturday.
In their previous two league games, Jurgen Klopp’s men thrashed Bournemouth and Manchester United. In both matches, the German fielded a slightly tweaked formation. This shape is predominantly deployed to accommodate the services of Naby Keita, Fabinho and the front line; with Xherdan Shaqiri/Sadio Mane playing similar roles in respective games.
Below we take a look at the formation in the tactics board and analyse the functioning of it with and without the ball:
As shown in the above image, the formation and personnel with which Liverpool started their last two league games. Keita is playing on the half-space in between the lines and also in line to exploit the space between a fullback and a centre-back. In possession, this gives a free license to Andy Robertson to make runs on the outside just because the opposition wide players, especially the retrieving attacker is keeping an eye the aforementioned Guinean midfielder.
On the other side, we have seen either of Mane or Shaqiri starting. Both of them hugged the touchline when required but cut inside to link up with Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah. This, in turn, opens up space for Nathaniel Clyne/James Milner to make forays up the pitch.
The good thing about this setup is it gives Firmino the freedom to roam across the front-line, make use of the smallest room given to him wherever possible. This is a frightening prospect for any defence because the Brazilian is a clever footballer and can link up at any place in and around the box to create a goal-scoring opportunity.
All those attacking movements help the midfield duo of Fabinho and Georginio Wijnaldum to control things in midfield. The former is more of a ball winner while the latter is there to cover the wide areas with fullbacks high, especially on the right-hand side.
The above explanation was all about the movements and roles each player performs in possession. Now, let us take a look at the shape of the team without the ball:
The above image shows us the defensive shape of this formation. The two wide attacking midfielders help their fullbacks, while Firmino is around the opposition defensive midfielder to not allow him to spread the balls easily. Salah is left alone up top engaging the centre-backs and ready to run the channel whenever the opportunity arises.
Hence, the 4-4-2/4-2-2-2 formation becomes more like a 4-4-1-1 or a 4-5-1 without the ball. It is compact and reactive to win the ball at every block. The two midfielders are close to each other, marking the runs of the midfielders and also looking to pinch the ball back and a counter-attack.
Right, so we have done with the tactical explanation of this new system under operation for Liverpool. Let us lastly take a look at the action points of some of the players in action.
Here are the action points of Naby Keita (vs Bournemouth and United), where most of his work in possession (green dots) have been in half-space or central. He has made ball recoveries (red dots) both as a wide midfielder and as a wide forward, helping out Robertson. Yellow dots show the areas where the Guinean has pressurized an opponent off the ball. (Analytics via Twelve Football)
This image shows Firmino’s action points from the two games. We talked about the Brazilian getting the free role behind Salah and the above depiction epitomises that to perfection. His pressing (yellow dots) and ball recovery points (red dots) are from a player who is eager to help the team out without possession.
We mentioned Wijnaldum’s actions on the ball to be all over the midfield, but without possession, he is more leaned towards the protecting the right-hand side of the defence, helping out either of James Milner/Nathaniel Clyne in these games. (as shown in the above image) (Red dots for ball recovery and yellow dots for pressing; green dots for passing)
The Dutchman’s midfield partner Fabinho is a proper defensive midfielder in the team. He dictates the middle line of the team. When he is well into the opposition half, the centre-backs are up towards the half-way line. The Brazilian has made ball recoveries all over the pitch and pressed on the left-hand side as expected.
Hence, we have discussed it all. The new formation and how it worked out in the two games it has been deployed so far. We saw the action points of certain players to depict how they operated against the Cherries and the Red Devils. If this is the best eleven Liverpool and Klopp can put out, the 4-4-2/4-2-2-2 is the best system for it!
Up the Reds!! #YNWA
Article by Mizgan Masani @mizgans
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