Jurgen Klopp admits he considered new roles for his full-backs this season. Ultimately, he decided against it.
This season forced Jurgen Klopp to think outside of the box. Not quite from day one but certainly from the moment Joe Gomez needed surgery.
That put him on the sidelines with Virgil van Dijk, leaving Liverpool with only Joel Matip as a recognised centre-back. And Matip couldn’t stay fit.
He was in and out of the team anyway but he, too, needed surgery eventually. The Cameroonian is now out for the season.
Klopp primarily dealt with it all by using centre-midfielders in defence. Fabinho has played virtually the entire season there, while Jordan Henderson has spent 2021 there so far.
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But the boss says he didn’t just consider them for the covering job. Klopp also thought about his full-backs, Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold.
“With our two full-backs, I thought about [playing them as a centre-back] once or twice but in the end, I didn’t do it,” Klopp said, per the Liverpool Echo.
“The thing is that losing the centre-halves that you usually play with changes the complete structure of the game.
“It changes everything. It changes the build-up, the formation, how to protect the team, everything. So you have to build a team in this position for how you can defend and that changes on who you have to play there.
“That is one thing we have had to change constantly. The other thing that is pretty stable for us is how our full-backs play and perform.
“So changing that too changes the structure of how you perform on the wings too, so that is a double change. That is probably the reason why we haven’t done it.”
What RTK has to say
There are several reasons not to go down this road, in all truth. But Klopp is absolutely right – doing so would have weakened the wings, too.
His current plan weakened the midfield, of course. The depth there is stronger, though. While it was weaker, the depth mitigated the damage.
That wouldn’t have happened at full-back. Especially with Kostas Tsimikas effectively being a ghost – we do frequently forget he exists.
Then there’s the other reason – Robertson and Alexander-Arnold would be terrible centre-backs. Maybe the Scot could work okay in a three but the Scouser, certainly, isn’t a centre-back.
We’d rather see him in midfield, really.
So we think Klopp made the right choice here for a variety of reasons. A Robertson/Alexander-Arnold double act at centre-back isn’t something we need to see.