Liverpool suffered yet another injury setback on Saturday. It’s one that could force Jurgen Klopp into a drastic change.
The one saving grace for Liverpool was that time could heal things. Time would bring back defenders, who could then push Jordan Henderson into midfield again.
After all, the captain has lost one Premier League game in two years when starting in midfield. Liverpool are, unquestionably, a better team with him there.
And so the Reds were waiting. Their midfield has made little sense over the last two months but time would fix that.
All Liverpool had to do was tide things over until Henderson was back to sure things up. No need to change the shape or the system – we’ll play through the pain and things will recover soon.
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It wasn’t easy. Thiago and Gini Wijnaldum have regularly played alongside one other player. It’s Liverpool’s usual midfield three but with a twist – no one is any good in the holding role.
Usually, Liverpool have one player sit at the base of midfield and the other two move around them. That could mean drifting wide to cover full-backs, it could mean pushing on towards the opposition box, it could be as simple as leading the press.
But right now, Thiago and Wijnaldum almost rotate the duty. They are often on top of one another or out of position – neither are naturals at holding.
Thus Liverpool are worse as a result. The midfield struggles to control games and it’s too easy to find pockets of space amongst them.
In fact, it took Everton two minutes to find that space at Anfield.
Liverpool, of course, have another problem, though – their waiting time is extended. They have a new injury setback and it’s going to complicate things.
Henderson went off injured against Everton. Jurgen Klopp says “it doesn’t look good”.
If he’s out for any significant period of time, Liverpool will have to change up that midfield. Significantly, too.
No one can play the holding role adequately and that means you have to try something different. The midfield collapses without anyone doing that.
The easy answer is to play a two. Have two players flat in midfield, with neither straying too far. Each one naturally covers the other.
This might work in a 4-2-4 if Liverpool are feeling adventurous. A safer option might be a 4-2-3-1.
It would require a no.10 to play in front of two midfielders. For us, we’d go with Wijnaldum and Thiago as the two, with Curtis Jones in front.
Let’s see if the Scouser can shine without defensive duties and link the attack.
We think this is the best option. Klopp can’t continue with the midfield three as they’re just not working. No £20m captain on the horizon makes it a fools errand.
It’s time for something drastic. A new midfield shape would be just that. It might even rejuvenate this lacklustre Liverpool.