Liverpool may have gotten a major warning in their Community Shield defeat to Arsenal. The Reds could need to finally change their successful attack.
Liverpool were very poor against Arsenal. Particularly in the first half. Jurgen Klopp’s team couldn’t get anything going offensively in that 45 and breaking through midfield proved remarkably difficult.
You can sum up their poor play with a stat. Sadio Mane managed around 30 touches in the first half – not a particularly large number. Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah couldn’t match it combined, though.
Liverpool could only get moving down their left flank, then. Firmino was absent and Salah ineffectual. So it’s no surprise that Klopp changed things up significantly in the second half.
The boss went 4-2-3-1. Firmino dropped back into a no.10 role, Salah took his central role, Mane took Salah’s spot on the right and Takumi Minamino came on to play from the left.
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In a flash, Liverpool looked more lively. Arsenal struggled to deal with the Reds’ attack and conceded an equaliser to Minamino. Firmino, who managed around 12 touches in the first half, finished the game with 35 despite going off with seven minutes to play.
Passing through midfield was far better. The movement was far better. Liverpool just look better.
There are a few potential reasons why Liverpool looked flat. The midfield wasn’t firing, Trent Alexander-Arnold was missing, it was the first game of the season etc.
But there are two worrying ones. The first is that Liverpool are predictable. They’ve used the same front three for nearly three years, after all, playing in largely the same way against every team.
It’s been hugely successful, of course, but eventually, teams will figure you out. This is the second time that Arsenal kept Liverpool at bay in two meetings, remember.
Honestly, that problem is inevitable. It will be one of the key reasons Liverpool reportedly wanted Timo Werner – and why we really hoped that one would happen.
The other worry is along the same lines, though. The front-three may just be burned out. They’ve played constantly over three years to enormous success. The sharpness just may not be there right now.
Again, it’s understandable. When you’re playing that much and winning, your drive will suffer. They’ve got to ‘go again’ but without the motivation of making history – they’ve already made it.
And so if they are tired, they’ll show it. We saw a definite turnaround in form after Liverpool confirmed the title – the 5-0 defeat to Manchester City showing that one off greatly – and these lacklustre performances may stick around for a little while.
The Community Shield defeat showed Klopp is willing to change things. The interest in Werner showed that, too, in truth. And it leaves Liverpool with two options.
They can try and buy their way out of it. Bring in an expensive new talent who can alter the way Liverpool play and keep everyone on their toes. But if they wouldn’t spend on Werner, it’s difficult to see who they would spend on.
There’s the option of hoping Divock Origi steps up or that Rhian Brewster can be the ‘new’ player. Both are gambles, though – hardly a reliable way to head into the season.
The third choice is to mix up the formation. The 4-2-3-1 from Saturday worked and we think there’s huge potential there. It’s a free way of doing things, brings in Minamino and makes them unpredictable.
After all, the 4-3-3 is still there. Having a second attacking system just makes Liverpool far more difficult to predict and deal with.
The defeat in the Community Shield was a warning that things might need to change. Fortunately, though, Liverpool should have ways to do that.