Jurgen Klopp has used a 4-3-3 system for the majority of his time at Liverpool and for the most part it has been very successful. However, this season it has been far less effective.
With all the injuries Liverpool have faced, there is no surprise that it has impacted Liverpool’s performances throughout the campaign and made the formation slightly unmanageable with the current personal available to Klopp.
To compensate for the lack of form from individual players, Liverpool could switch to a different formation to adjust to the strengths of the 11 that are currently sent out to play.
For example, Roberto Firmino has become a Liverpool legend there is no questioning his commitment and overall contribution to the club’s success, but there have been doubts that he is starting to become ineffective as the false forward. With his current injury side-lining him for a period of time, there is even more of a reason to switch the system that was essentially built around his false nine role.
With many options available to Klopp, I look at what the best fit could be for this Liverpool team and how they could set up for the remainder of the campaign.
This formation is something that the Reds have been most likely to switch to. At times Liverpool have altered during the game to fix a problematic area and thus have switched to this formation on the fly, with one midfielder pushing further forward.
Mohamed Salah could play as a lone striker getting him closer to goal and giving him more opportunities to take advantage of, something – that until the RB Leipzig games – the team have really struggled with as of late.
It also allows Thiago to play further forward, being the creative playmaker that he was purchased for, whilst it also gives Diogo Jota time to get some serious minutes under his belt in his preferred wide role.
The 4-2-3-1 also adds a deeper line in midfield to protect the back four and gives free rein to the front four to attack and full backs to push on and support as they often do.
This formation isn’t as straight forward as a switch to the previously explained 4-2-3-1 and will need a more serious shake up.
Sadio Mané and Salah would operate as the two centre forwards, therefore playing a narrower game than they are naturally used to. Despite being highly successful in the wide areas for a number of years now, this season has seen especially Mané struggle, with teams adjusting to nullify the pair. This formation would give them a simpler brief and game plan to apply on matchday.
The 4-4-2, however only has two midfielders in the centre circle, meaning some central players may have to play out wide, but with players like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Curtis Jones and Naby Keïta, they are all well more than capable of doing the job.
It also allows the naturally wider individuals – such as Xherdan Shaqiri and Diogo Jota – the freedom on the left and right sides to create major chances for their striking duo.
The full backs may not be given as much freedom in this system, but if it is tweaked to a 4-2-2-2 or a ‘magic box’ and the wingers come in side, it could work effectively.
Similar to the 4-4-2 the 4-1-2-1-2 or the ‘diamond’ may be something that could suit Liverpool’s immense midfield talent.
This system – which has been use in the past by Klopp – would return Fabinho to the base of the midfield and allow him to do what he does best, breaking up play and steadying the ship.
This formation would give Thiago the freedom to advance, with the Spanish international and Wijnaldum or Jones accompanying him on the left or right-hand side of the diamond.
At the tip, would be Jota, Shaqiri or Firmino (if he is fit). The player tasked to play in this position would be able to come deep to assist the midfield when required, whilst when on the attack this player would join the forwards in their efforts.
Like in previous formations, the same idea applies for Mané and Salah, as they could act as the two vocal points from the front. Having the midfield narrow would work nicely for the full backs, as the space created in this layout would allow them to bomb forward at every opportunity, knowing they have cover from the sitting Fabinho should the other team break with them out of position.
The 3-5-2 is a major change from the norm for this Reds team. Obviously, this formation would mean three central defenders at the back. This could allow Ben Davies to make his Reds debut, as he would slot in on the left side of the three.
The full-backs can play as wing-backs, starting them further up and given them more room to get crosses into the box – with Alexander-Arnold and Robertson familiar with these systems due to their experiences with their respective national teams. When defending, the pair then can slot back into defence, in what would become a fixed back five.
Salah and Mané once again would operate as the two strikers with an attacking midfielder behind them to support, whilst a further two midfielders would sit behind the CAM to provide further attacking and defensive stability.
This formation could be seen as a little defensive for Liverpool’s and Klopp’s liking but it may need to be done to help grind out some tough results and get some significant points on the board.
This is fairly similar to Liverpool’s current 4-3-3 but will allow more width and support from the wingbacks and an extra man in central defence.
Wijnaldum and Thiago would operate as box-to-box midfielders. Because of the flexibility within this formation for midfielders, these two players could easily be interchanged with any of the midfield options at Klopp’s disposal.
Salah and Mané would play in their regular roles, but a focus on coming inside as much as possible to support the striker, whilst getting closer to goal. This striker would likely be Diogo Jota, as his previous experience in this formation at Wolves proving valuable should this change happen. Once again, the nature of this formation will allow a lot of interchangeable forward movement, with front three free to swap amongst themselves.
Nathaniel Phillips has played extremely well since his introduction into the side and playing him at the centre of the three defenders could be an effective move due to his attacking nature, whilst the other defenders playing alongside would simply fill in behind him just in case the ball beats him.
That said, the more mobile Fabinho and Kabak could also be given licence to get forward and operate as overlapping centre backs, which has been used as a tactic in recent seasons notably by Sheffield United in their successful 2019/20 Premier League campaign.
Liverpool have proven they need to be more versatile in their tactics this season and the 4-3-3 they currently employ isn’t working domestically at the minute. Klopp and his team need to formulate a new plan of attack in the Premier League, making some drastic changes in the process.
If the change of formation comes along, this would give the Reds a new look which could disorientate the opposition and throw any game plan they might have had out of the window from the first whistle. It is something to think about with the final third of the season coming up and the Reds currently languishing in the lower part of the top half of the table.
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