Michael Baddeley discusses whether or not changing to a 3-4-2-1 formation could spark some life into Liverpool’s season.
Liverpool came strutting into the second half of the Premier League season in second place and full of confidence. In fact, we were comfortably in second place, four points ahead of Manchester City who we had just beaten 1-0. We also had an EFL Cup semi-final vs Southampton to look forward too as well as an FA Cup third round tie against Plymouth at home. Life was good to say the least.
A month down the line and look at us now, we are a complete mess. We now lie in fifth place, we are out of all cup competitions, we are deprived of all confidence, in the middle of a slump and face a very tough task to get top four. What has happened to us?
In typical Liverpool-style fashion, the fans have had a meltdown and have taken to social media platform to express their displeasure at current affairs and, to be quite honest, they every right too.
They’ve certainly taken no prisoners and fingers have been pointed at several people.. These accusations range from the owners all the way through to Carol the tea-lady at Melwood. That might be an exaggeration, but you get what I mean!
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Fans have several theories as to what’s gone wrong. No depth, no investment in January, Klopp being too stubborn, the players putting in disappointing and lethargic performances, the wrong players being picked. The list goes on and on.
But personally, I think it’s a few things combined. Signing nobody in January could have been a bad move, Gini Wijnaldum should be playing ahead of Emre Can, the players do look a bit tired, but what’s hurt us most is that we have been found out tactically. We have no ‘Plan B’ or another way to play.
It’s common knowledge that if you defend in numbers and are very compact then Liverpool will struggle to break you down. In fact, that has been the case for several years now and nothing has been done about it, but that’s a different story.
A lot of people claim we lack the motivation and have attitude problems when it comes to playing the so-called ‘small teams.’ The small sides like Burnley, Swansea, Hull, Bournemouth & Sunderland all took points off of us so you can see where they are coming from.
But if you look at these matches and stats then all these sides, with the exception of Bournemouth, sat back and packed out the defence as well as the middle of the park, thus stopping us from playing that free-flowing, heavy metal, attacking football that was so successful. Southampton and Man United aren’t small sides and they also did this against us and we couldn’t beat them either.
It’s obvious that teams are now going to replicate this approach when coming up against us so maybe it’s time to switch it up a little bit? We all know Klopp isn’t one to chop and change due to a little bit of bad form but something needs to change. After looking at Chelsea’s fortunes since their move to the 3-4-3 formation then maybe it is something that we should look at replicating?
At the moment we are in a similar situation that the London side were in before they switched it up a little bit. We both had or have a poor defence that constantly has the ability to go into self-destruct and undo all the good work the attackers have done.
Currently, we play with a back four and it’s just not good enough. It’s weak and way too submissive. Pretty much every team walks straight through us with minimal effort and it’s quite utterly pathetic.
Essentially, we would be playing with a back five as the two wing backs would be required to drop back when defending, this would obviously offer more protection for Mignolet or Karius, something which both need.
The wing-backs, Clyne and Milner, would be such a key part of the side as the balance of the side would rest on them. They’d need to have a great engine so that they could chip in with both attacking and defensive phases of play.
The addition of another centre-back could also help Lovren massively. Currently, he is seen as the one who makes the most errors and he could really wipe them out with someone else back there. Matip does seem to calm him down a little bit but adding maybe Gomez or Klavan to the side would settle him fully.
This is the one area that could potentially stop Liverpool from making the change. In a 3-4-3 you need two hard-working, box-to-box, battling midfielders to help the transition from defence to attack. Currently, we only have Henderson and Can who can do it. However, any Liverpool fan knows that a midfield two of Can and Hendo doesn’t work.
The other midfielders we possess could potentially ruin the system and cause an imbalance as they are more attacking than defensive. However, for the short term maybe Hendo and Wijnaldum would be the best two to go for.
It’d be really unfortunate for Lallana as has been brilliant all season, but football is a team game and sacrifices need to be made from time to time.
The front three has blown teams away all season. It’s unfortunate that they haven’t been able to play a full game together since the 0-0 at Southampton in November.
With wing-backs adding width to the team and occupying the fullbacks it would allow Mané and Coutinho to play in the half-space and create opportunities for Firmino up top.
Being able to play in the space would be able them to cause havoc. Mané would be able to use that blistering pace to run at defences and we all know how dangerous Phil is when he gets a yard or two of space.
To be honest, it’d be like the 3-4-2-1 we saw Rodgers turn to when things weren’t going our way in his last full season. But if it worked then why not change for the short term?
If you agree with Micky or would like to discuss his article, find him on Twitter.