Jack Hallows analyses Jürgen Klopp’s options ahead of the Southampton fixture this weekend and where the returning Adam Lallana will likely fit into the XI.
The return of Adam Lallana is a timely boost for Jürgen Klopp’s men but it provides the German with a rare but welcome selection headache going into Liverpool’s final three fixtures of the season.
Lucas Leiva has been key in the Reds recent victories with his shielding presence in front of the back four negating teams’ ability to hurt the Reds on the counter attack in the same way that they had done back in January/February while three assists in his last five games haven’t hurt either.
So, what are Klopp’s options going into the final three fixtures?
Switch to a fluid 3-5-2?
Essentially the formation that won Liverpool the game against Stoke. Start one of Origi or Sturridge – given Origi’s recent form I’d probably side with Sturridge for now – up top with Firmino and play Philippe Coutinho in behind to form the front three.
Nathaniel Clyne and James Milner would provide the width as wing backs, flanking Gini Wijnaldum and Emre Can in the midfield while Lucas, Matip and Lovren would make up the back three.
Despite a change in system, this option would see the least change in personnel for Klopp’s starting XI but it creates one glaring issue: there’s no room for Adam Lallana.
Honestly, in this system, he doesn’t and that’s an issue. When he’s fit he needs to be on the field with his quick feet, ability to move the ball quickly, added goal threat and leadership abilities all imperative to the Reds being able to play their best football and more importantly, keep their heads.
Lallana in the front three
With Coutinho returning to training this week, Klopp could turn to a front three of Coutinho, Lallana and Firmino.
While Lallana struggled to provide the same impact from a right/left wing position in Coutinho’s absence earlier this season, this front three had a lot of success last season in the 4-3-2-1 system that put Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United to the sword throughout the season and also put three past Arsenal at Anfield last January.
This would allow Klopp to continue fielding the midfield three of Lucas, Can and Wijnaldum that has been working so well of late and ensure Lallana gets on the pitch without sacrificing any of the defensive solidarity that Lucas has recently helped to provide.
This would also allow Roberto Firmino to play in the false nine role, giving him more time on the ball through the centre in what is essentially his best position.
Lallana in the midfield, Lucas sacrificed
Of course, Klopp could opt to continue with Firmino on the right, Coutinho on the left and one of Sturridge/Origi – probably Origi – up top. This would mean Lallana slots into his favoured position in the midfield, Emre Can drops back into the number six role and Lucas drops to the bench.
This is probably the most likely option to be fair but it does come with its own issues. Firmino is still sacrificed out wide while Lucas has been superb screening the back four in recent fixtures, not only for his defensive abilities but he’s also assisted two match winning goals and another against Everton.
Emre has been superb of late but his passing range isn’t quite as impressive as Lucas’ is and the Brazilian’s ability to play through balls from deep is a quality that Can doesn’t quite possess yet. For me though, this is the most likely option that will Jürgen Klopp pick and it’s the one I think I’d go for if I was him as well.
Predicted XI: Mignolet, Clyne, Matip, Lovren, Milner, Can, Wijnaldum, Lallana, Firmino, Origi, Coutinho