Liverpool should consider reviving a formation they tried for one game last season in a 2-1 win. The Reds are currently struggling to make things work.
Four home defeats on the bounce, two Premier League wins in 2021. Things are bad at Liverpool right now.
They’re sliding down the table and rarely look right on the pitch. The latter is, arguably, the bigger problem.
Liverpool just can’t get their gameplan right and there’s an obvious reason why – injuries. Their hugely successful 4-3-3 was built on having elite, athletic centre-backs and they’re gone.
The midfield, too, relied on having a holding player shield the defence and create a base for the other two midfielders to run around. Well, with Fabinho and Jordan Henderson in defence, they don’t have that.
Add Roberto Firmino’s form to that. He’s a fundamental part of the system but can’t get it together right now.
The easy answer, then, is to change the system. Try something new with the players who are available and see if it corrects things.
And with that in mind, we think revisiting a plan from last season could work.
One and done
Liverpool hosted Genk in the Champions League last season and Jurgen Klopp tried something different.
He played four midfielders, effectively. Fabinho, Gini Wijnaldum, Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain all started. Divock Origi played left-wing and Mohamed Salah right-wing.
What really made it different, as we detailed after the game here, was how the midfielders shaped up. Oxlade-Chamberlain was more advanced than others but spent most of his game in midfield.
Similarly, Wijnaldum had more of a licence to roam than Fabinho or Keita. The latter two, instead, provided a two-man shield in defence. It meant the quartet were often in a square.
With no striker, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Wijnaldum were able to burst forward at will, knowing they had that shield behind them.
Both players scored in a 2-1 win that Liverpool utterly dominated. The Reds had over 70 per cent possession and 27 shots.
59 per cent of those shots came from inside Genk’s area, too. This wasn’t a case of firing from range.
So the current Liverpool side struggle to control the midfield and aren’t getting enough out of their striker. This should fix both.
It creates a simpler, safer midfield with set assignments. Two players worry about keeping things solid and creating a base for attacks. The other two have more freedom to attack space going forward and lead presses.
The forwards can still attack space in the middle as no striker takes it up. That suits both Sadio Mane and Salah.
And speaking of Mane – he didn’t play against Genk. Nor did Andy Robertson. The formation delivered a win without Liverpool having their first-choice left flank.
It can work better, then. There’s potential, here, and it’s just a case of setting up that midfield.
For us, we imagine Thiago and Wijnaldum could be the base. Then the front two is a choice of Oxlade-Chamberlain, Keita and Curtis Jones.
Now, it lacks a true holding midfielder but we’d argue that’s far more of a problem with just three midfielders on the pitch. With four, Liverpool can assign more defensive duties to a pair, rather than a sole figure.
We think this could really work, if Liverpool and Klopp want a change. We don’t yet know that they do – but this should be near the top of the list just in case.