The crescendo with which the Reds have romped from limbo to a four match winning streak, culminating in a disciplined, tactical and quality victory over Chelsea is nothing short of astonishing. Yet taking a closer look with a more detailed perspective, perhaps this turning of the tide is not as surprising as one would be lead to believe.
There are three fundamental steps in this revolution and sudden resurgence of the Reds: the dismissal of Roy Hodgson, the appointment of Kenny Dalglish, and the addition of Steve Clarke. We did away with Hodgsons style of play, Kenny brought back the passion and desire, and Clarke set to ring the tactical changes which we had been lacking for ages….even in the final days of Rafa’s reign.
So Kenny came in and immediately Agger and Kelly were given starting berths, and kept them. Konchesky was put on the back burner, Johnson was given the added responsibility of playing on his unnatural left side and the team started to move the ball around, keeping possession and adding to the tempo of the match game after game. Then we were introduced to a game-plan that surprised many and terrified others. We went from a traditional 4-4-2 (which in our case looked more like a 4-4-1-1) to an ‘outrageous’ 3-4-2-1. The game against Stoke proved the experiment could work, and then the match with Chelsea was a resounding confirmation!
Now I follow the Italian Serie A almost as much as I do the Premier League, and there is one team that plays this style of game: Napoli play with three centre backs, two fullbacks placed on the half way line, two midfielders, one attacking midfielder just behind the forwards, and Cavani and Lavezzi as a tandem attacking line (which will probably be our case when our two newest additions are fielded together). Napoli is the only team to opt for this system, and unsurprisingly, they are currently second in the Serie A just a few points off AC Milan who are momentarily leading the pack.
I will not enter into the merit of why this system has worked even if we hit the ground running in adopting it. But there is no doubt that this tactical change has had huge benefits, one of which is that we’ve managed to keep four clean sheets in a row. However, the fact that we are tighter at the back, wider in our play, more committed and with a higher all round work-rate, and the possibility of multiple players having a shot at goal is all part and parcel of the master plan. Congrats Steve Clarke!
I will not say we will make the top four, I don’t feel confident enough to make such proclamations, no because I don’t believe in our play, no because I think we don’t have the quality, but just because we have had so many disappointments in the past few seasons, that it will take me some time to be an outright optimist. Yet, now there is light at the end of the tunnel…..!
I do not even want to think who Kenny will drop out of last Sunday’s starting eleven to accommodate both Suarez and Carroll: thinking about it is mind boggling. What my gut is telling me now is that Liverpool are on their way to become a feared side. We are starting to command respect. Until a few weeks ago we held no respect from any team that played against us, everyone took us on for the kill.
On a final note, and as a special thought dedicated to King Kenny, I smile every time we score and see him celebrate, because the way he does it is exactly the same way he used to do it when he was our idol and scored countless goals for the Reds! We love ya Kenny!