Liverpool's change of shape brings back fluidity in attack and solidarity at the back
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 04: (THE SUN OUT. THE SUN ON SUNDAY OUT) Diogo Jota of Liverpool with Luis Diaz of Liverpool in action during the UEFA Champions League group A match between Liverpool FC and Rangers FC at Anfield on October 04, 2022 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

"Sometimes you have to change things obviously and it worked out for us tonight." Jurgen Klopp knew that Liverpool needed to reinvent themselves after a poor run of form, seeing the Red's stuck in 9th place. This season he has persisted with the same old 4-3-3 which has worked wonders in the past but with key player's engines slowly running out of fuel as they continue to age, a formation change and a switch of roles was needed to bring back the unpredictability, solidarity and free flowing football which put Liverpool back on the map in the first place. 

Klopp abandoned the tried and tested 4-3-3 formation in favour of a 4-4-2/ 4-2-3-1 hybrid.

One key element of this switch up was the build up play. Instead of the usual 2-3 build up with Virgil Van Dijk and Joel Matip sitting deepest, they were joined by Trent Alexander-Arnold forming a back three in possession. This allowed the Red's to progress the ball smoothly and cover all bases. Trent was allowed room to bomb forward if he was given the space by the Rangers frontline but when he was pressed by Ryan Kent in particular who overcommitted, he was able to bypass the press with a precise through ball to get out and carve open the Rangers backline, like the chance he created for Mohamed Salah in the first half. 

This change of shape seemed to really benefit Alexander-Arnold. He was still able to find his usual attacking positions on the right and drift into midfield but this time he was offered more protection which he has sorely missed. 

Despite the formation being perceived as more attacking due to the additional forward, it meant that Trent could be given more support with Jordan Henderson dropping deeper and Mohamed Salah tucking in on the right.

"We went back to a bit of a more basic 4-4-2 and played it really well. We shifted across the pitch really well, made it compact, they couldn't play through us, they were playing a lot of long balls and we were picking up the second balls."

"The change of tactics defiantly helped us today, so we will see what happens going forward" he told BT Sport after the game.

 

Another player who seemed to benefit from the switch up was Captain, Jordan Henderson who played as a deep-lying playmaker. He created two excellent chances from deep, clipping a precise over the top pass to Darwin Nunez who was unlucky not to convert. Playing in a deeper midfield pivot forced him to stay in position in the middle of the park rather than drift to the right-wing which he has been guilty of in the past.

Henderson being locked in position successfully enabled Liverpool to defend transitions with ease- an area which has been Liverpool's downfall this season and has been ever since the departure of Gini Wijnaldum.

This also allowed the Red's to dominate the ball and control the game from the first whistle as Henderson and Thiago were not bursting from box to box, reducing the chances of the game becoming frantic and adding an element of calmness and safety. Despite playing with one less midfielder, the midfield looked the most compact it has been all season, albeit against a weak opposition. The forwards playing more narrow, with the full backs playing wider helped add to the compactness and the constant interchanging added a sense of unpredictability.

The change made the Red's more fluid going forward with Diogo Jota showing his creative side, playing four key passes- the most he's played all season. The 4-2-3-1 enabled the Portugal international to play between the lines and roam free, almost Firmino like. Jota and Nunez often interchanged, consistently finding space to play off each other and this payed off when Nunez was fouled by Ben Davies outside the box, leading to the opener. 

Despite not getting on the scoresheet, Nunez looked threatening all game, with his movement unsettling the Rangers backline. The sheer amount of chances that fell to his feet should still be considered a positive even if he did not bury them. The goals will come and this system could bring the best out of him.

Judging by Klopp's post-match comments, it looks like this system is here to stay and could represent another evolution for the Red's. 

Sunday's visit to the Emirates will be the real test and if the system continues to flourish, it could turn out to be a real masterstroke.

 

 

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