Liverpool can’t follow their usual plan this summer and it creates an awkward situation. Jurgen Klopp has some serious thinking to do.
Liverpool have revolved around one area of their team over the last few years – the front three. Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane.
They’ve been electric for years, taking over the world as the best forward line around. The trio have delivered the biggest trophies and a level of attacking football no one could match.
No wonder, then, that Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp built their team around them.
The trio itself is very simple. Firmino starts as a centre-forward but drops dep and pulls out wide. That drags defenders around and creates space for two rapid wingers to run into.
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It means every side if vulnerable to a Liverpool counter-attack. They’ve always got that link man in Firmino and they’ve always got at least one direct pass over the top.
Teams started to sit back very deep, then. They’d limit space and suddenly, the plan doesn’t work. There was only space out wide, really, for crosses.
Thus Liverpool designed a system that made them dangerous form crosses. The full-backs would push on and consistently put high-quality balls into the box.
That left space behind them, though, so Klopp uses a workman-like midfield that consistently stops counter-attacks. It doesn’t matter that the creativity isn’t really there from midfield as Firmino likes to link play anyway.
And last but not least, being so high up the pitch necessitates centre-backs and a goalkeeper who can handle it. Liverpool certainly have that.
It’s all worked wonderfully. Until 2021.
A new Liverpool plan
Injuries, fatigue, ‘figured out’ – there are several reasons why the current Liverpool aren’t quite as good as the last few years. They’ve combined to ruin the overall plan.
Liverpool’s front-three aren’t anywhere near as sharp as previous years. The midfield can’t cover properly. The defence struggles badly with missing players and misfits.
So where do Klopp and co. go from here? Usually, you’d double down on the front-three and find ways to supplement it. That’s been the go-to for years now.
We’re not sure Liverpool can afford to do that, however. For one, Salah is the only reliable part of it right now. You’re effectively going all-in on one player if you continue to build around the forwards.
But then there’s the bigger issue – they’ll all be 30 within 18 months. Liverpool simply can’t build their long-term future around that trio.
And if that is the case, where do Liverpool go from here? Is this the time to start breaking it all up? They’re not playing well, after all.
That’s the big question as Liverpool plan their summer. The front-three blueprint doesn’t really work anymore and that may necessitate a total rethink.