I think that we are all at the point of letting this season go, or at least the Premier League title defence.
Liverpool have been a shell of themselves, hollowed out by a persistent injury bug that has plagued the club since their tie with Everton in October. Yet there is still hope. A recent win over RB Leipzig has us all wondering if this season can still be salvaged with the biggest trophy in club football.
The Reds are famous for pulling off the impossible on the continent. Based on current form and with such a large injury list, winning the Champions League seems a tall order. We all understand, however, that a change in the way we play is almost certainly key to seeing this come to fruition.
The issue Jürgen Klopp now faces is the current lack of chance creation and an inability to put the ball in the back of the net. Liverpool have struggled going forward since their seven-goal romp over Palace, only managing a further 11 goals in as many Premier League games – eight of which came in three games.
It is easy to say that they just need to throw more bodies at the balls that are being put into the area, but Klopp also knows his team has looked vulnerable to the counter-attack. So how does the boss increase his team’s attacking output without putting his makeshift defence to the sword?
The key could lie in Roberto Firmino.
There are several factors that play into this idea. One of which is the return of Diogo Jota. Liverpool have looked tame going forward since the Portuguese winger was ruled out in December. His darting runs and clinical finishing gave an already potent front three an extra edge, and his form even prompted Klopp into a formation change for the first time in years.
He made his long-awaited return against Chelsea, and started for the first time in months against Fulham. Both games were disappointing defeats for the team, but on each occasion Jota looked like the man most likely to do something for his team.
The next situation revolves around Gini Wijnaldum. With his future with the club still up in the air, the Dutchman to his credit, has still been a consummate professional in the way he has continued to put in performances for the club. But it would be a mistake to wait until summer to bed in a replacement for him in the team.
Liverpool have to begin their process of filling in roles that have been left open by injury and players moving on now. This would allow them to get a head start on making sure that they are able to get back to the top of the Premier League next year.
The last thing that has to come into play is the Firmino himself. What has always amazed me about the Brazilian is his willingness to put the club and its goals ahead of any perceptions of him made by fans or the media. That is why fans should be eternally grateful to the Brazilian and understand that, although he is not scoring 20 goals a season, he is one of the biggest reasons that the club has reached the heights it has.
He could once again be set to sacrifice for the benefit of the club with a move out of the front three and into the midfield – and it could benefit both parties massively.Embed from Getty Images
Liverpool, as proven in recent months, are far too dependent of the front three for goals and their full-backs to provide key chances. Midfielders in Klopp’s system have always been the workhorses of the side, putting in performances that stats cannot register. But the emphasis is changing, and the acquisition of Thiago in summer was a shift into a new playing style that allows the midfield to be a more creative force.
Having watched Thiago play earlier in the season with a stronger Liverpool side it was easy to see why this was the case. Teams could no longer sit back and try to absorb the pressure by sitting 10 men behind the ball and dealing with the crosses the full-backs were putting in. The mere presence of the Spaniard caused teams to play further out of their area and not only opened up the balls in from wings but an avenue through the middle of the pitch.
So why not double down on this and move a player with an outstanding work rate and endless amounts of creative flair into that midfield rotation? The bonus of this is it would allow Liverpool to save spending on another midfielder and put that money into an area that actually needs it this summer.
It is not hard to imagine Firmino doing the majority of what Wijnaldum does defensively for the side whilst bringing a more consistent attacking threat into play. He could also shift back into the front three if he were needed as a result of injury or a simple change in tactics from game to game.
And now is the perfect time to try this out.
The reason Firmino has been so successful under Klopp is his ability to adapt and pop up with some of the biggest goals in the club’s recent history. If the Brazilian were to take to this role effectively and Liverpool went on to continue to be a dominant presence in English and European football, the Brazilian would undoubtedly be in the conversation as one of the greatest swiss army knives to set foot on a football pitch.
Liverpool are in the midst of a top four battle that is currently slipping away from them, and a tactical change like this could help the Reds salvage something from the remainder of the season. Its time for the Reds to start swinging with everything they have.
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