By Mayank Gupta
What a performance against Man City! Still browsing through the dictionary to appropriately describe my feelings. The closest I come to a word is ambivalent and elated joy. Continuing from my blog 2 weeks ago to the next formation of LFC in the upcoming season, I am going to give my take on the 4 – 4 – 2 formation.
In my understanding from the various internet resources and rumors site for the website, many of us are asking for new CBs.
The role of the CBs in this system is to hold the line tightly and mark the number 9 of the opponent team. If 1 CB marks the no. 9 tightly, then the other CB tries to restrict movement and space for the other forward. This system works best when the other team plays 2 CFs or a player behind the striker (VDV for Crouch). Understanding must be extremely good else the other striker can exploit the space left by the tight marking.
Else, when you want to hold the line, the players must be close and quick enough to overcome the agility and quick pace of the opposite forwards.
As I previously stated, we do not need another CB. Skrtel seems to be robust and an ever dying servant of the team. He is the only player for Liverpool who has played in all the league games this season from the start. Besides, he has a great understanding with Carragher and Agger as his partners in this position. However, it is with Kyrgiakos where the problems arise in the CB pairing. But, in the squad we have players like Kelly (he is a CB although he has been deployed so far at RB only), Ayala and Wilson. I find it statistically improbably that at one point in time we will not have 4 CB from the possible 7 available. (including Krygiakos or his replacement).
For RB position, I prefer both Johnson and Kelly. Johnson has a natural ability to cross the ball and a fierce shot, so many of us want him to play at RW. Furthermore, his dribbling skills give him an added advantage as this permits him to drift inside towards the box. Kelly has raw pace and good crosses that provide him with ample time to cover back. As good as it maybe for defensive attributes, in a 4 – 4 – 2, I prefer a RB who can cramp the opponent defense and midfield in the box providing them little or no men forward for a quick counter on the 2 CBs. With a cross the players are more stretched leading to efficient tic-tac football or a quick counter attack where the defense could be outnumbered and risks a yellow card (in case of Kelly crossing from the wings). Most importantly, the full backs do not have as much influence on width in this system as this is natural 2 wings system who do the crossing.
We all know very plainly unless Aurelio miraculously overcomes his injury woes, there is a dire need of LB. I would prefer a LB similar to Kelly’s display this season on RB. This is mainly because many teams in the EPL have a very good and quick RW. (Nani for Man Utd., Lennon for Spurs, Adam Johnson for City, etc.) Such quick wingers on the opposition right flanks imperatively ask for a quick LB, a person who delivers the cross and runs back to only stop when he hears the crowd exalts in joy for the goal. Any guesses here?
Hopefully, Insua does come back and regains his fitness as he is also a perfect fit for a 4 – 4 – 2 where the full backs do not have to go forward quite a lot. In extreme circumstances we have already observed how good Johnson becomes at this position because of his restricted forward moment. Such a positioning with Johnson allows Aurelio to play forward along the line and deliver those menacing crosses inside the box for which we love him. (This cannot be a long term solution as Aurelio’s fitness is as reliable as the English weather).
When it comes to midfield, KK must be getting a real headache. For a DM, we have Lucas Leiva and Jay Spearing. Both of them are excellent players who can break an opponents play quickly. However, it is their scarcity in passing option that makes it a major concern for me. The ability to put that 40 yards pass on the flanks or the ball over the last line of opposition defense is an absolute must for a DM here. Javier Mascherano was a good tackler but never could put that ball away to change pressure into an attack. Hence, Charlie Adam (or even Chris Brunt of the first half of the season) is a must buy for me. The Scot can distribute the ball to any nook and corner from his feet at any range. It would be really useful in a natural wing system to stretch the opponent defense by sending the ball to the natural wingers. (I prefer only 1 DM in this position)
For the attacking midfielder we have our very own Steven Gerrard, Raul Meireles and Jonjo Shelvey. All 3 are class lads. One is a future legend, another a hero in the making and the last a great player in making. As tradition asks, the forthcoming legend must make way for a prospective hero and both must nourish the future player under their tutelage. If I were KK, I would not worry a lot here. We have seen what a player Raul Meireles is in this position. Stevie has injury concerns and has slowed down these days. Hence, I would start Raul Meireles as he is fast and quick and has the vision to run in those vacant spaces left in the wake of the opponents’ defense to slash in those amazing volleys. However, if he is unable to influence a game, bring on Stevie at 60 mins who will as always have respect from all of us and will give us the 30 mins of Istanbul again and again or the 14 mins of Napoli. Jonjo Shelvey can learn from the heroes and gradually be molded into a world-class player. Besides, both Meireles and Stevie have a good understanding with Lucas and hence, all the more reason and time for Shelvey to learn from the masters.
For the 2 wings, there is a huge amount of players being linked and talked about. However, ideally I would buy for RW with Glen Johnson as RB, someone like Maxi Rodriguez hard working attitude who can cross a ball. (Many would suggest Kuyt as hard working, but sorry I do not recollect a lot of images with Kuyt in our own penalty area). Maxi is hard working and a good player who will track back to cover up his back. However, he does not have the natural ability of a winger that is only possessed by certain wingers to put a cross that can split the defense. Aurelio has this ability to put a nice cross in the box that can break any defenses. With Kelly as RW the ideal package for me would be Adam Johnson as Kelly would do the covering back. Can we get him is the bigger question?
On the left wing, it is a simple choice of a player who can cut inside or make the crosses. The linked names – Ashely Young and Sylvain Marveaux both – seem to be a good choice although Marveaux prefers to move in and not cross which would be a bad thing with Caroll as no. 9. The LW is one of those positions in the world of football which if mastered makes you a living legend. (Bale, Figo, Ronaldo, etc.) The left half of the pitch is the major concern for LFC in the past 2 seasons that have to yet be mastered. However, a scarcity of natural left footed players makes it extremely difficult to be fulfilled completely.
As for the 2 forwards, they need to play for, with and off each other. Strectching defenses for each others’ run, making spaces for tic-tac movements and most importantly creating spaces allowing the midfielders to barge in their wake. Caroll and Suarez are the ideal for this with Kuyt and N’gog (who can only learn from Suarez).
Hence, I do not think we need an overhaul of the team or even the squad, our squad is as good as anyone only lacking width. Next season we should be bold enough to accept Stevie starting on the bench and back KK in this decision.
PS – Goalkeeper, no worries, after watching Reina as a mere spectator again today, I am pretty sure even my grandmother can be a good keeper for LFC next season if KK remains in charge.