On Sunday 20th December, Liverpool will face Watford at Vicarage Road, in hopefully a thrilling encounter. Watford are in fine form recently, winning their last 3 and lying 7th in the League, 1 point ahead of the Reds. Watford have been one of the surprise successes in this ongoing exciting Premier League season. They will look to make it a difficult afternoon for Liverpool, due to their strong defensive unit and the troublesome pair up top of Deeney and Ighalo.
However, supporters will of course be wandering how Liverpool will line up against the Hornets.
Liverpool have looked a more settled yet dangerous side since Jürgen Klopp has taken over as manager. Performances have been inconsistent, but at times Liverpool have looked a forced to be reckoned with. The most memorable performances have been the 3 away games to Chelsea, Man City and Southampton where we undoubtedly looked unstoppable.
Pressing, a large part of Klopp’s philosophy, looks to be prominent in the way Liverpool play. This has been successful particularly away from home, where most teams look to come out and play attacking football due to the expectation from their fans. This has been heavily exploited. Firstly, at Stamford Bridge, where Liverpool played with a false 9, this in some ways bamboozled Chelsea, as they were expecting Liverpool to start with a recognised number 9 (Christian Benteke). The mobility and interchangeability upfront for Liverpool, left Chelsea not knowing who to pick up and enabled the away side to dominate possession. Philippe Coutinho was hugely influential as he struck twice in the game that saw Liverpool punish the Champions 3-1.
This continued at City, again with the high intensity and hounds of Liverpool players around every Man City player when on the ball, making it impossible for City to keep possession for long. The front four of Philippe Coutinho, Adam Lallana, Roberto Firmino and James Milner was the undoing of Manchester City, as well as the strength and mobility of German midfielder Emre Can. Liverpool were 3-0 up in half an hour and arguably should’ve had more. For this to occur on a regular bases for Liverpool, everyone has to obtain a high level of mobility, to force the opposition to give up possession. Also the attacking players must have a high level of skill on the ball and a high level of movement off the ball.
This of course, happened at Southampton with Liverpool winning 6-1. The pace and movement upfront from Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi was the underlining theme that lead to Liverpool’s success.
Watford, usually line up with a 4-4-2, this has been tough to break with the 4 in midfield staying compact and the two strikers of Deeney and Ighalo prolific in front of goal.
However, this can be broken. The centre half’s of Miguel Britos and Craig Cathcart are strong and good in the air, but lack in pace. This is an area Klopp should look to exploit with mobility and intricacy. Watford’s midfield only contains two centre mids, Ben Watson and Etienne Capoue, this could allow Liverpool to dominate central areas . The pace of Nathaniel Clyne and Alberto Moreno out wide, will permit Liverpool to keep switching the play, and stretch the watford’s midfield four, this will then create gaps in central areas that the Reds can manoeuvre in.
Now looking how Liverpool should line up.
Simon Mignolet will most likely keep his place in goal for Liverpool. If Mamadou Sakho has returned to full fitness, he will take his place in central defence along side Martin Skrtel. Nathaniel Clyne and Alberto Moreno will provide Liverpool with plenty of width and attacking threat down the flanks.
In central midfield, Henderson and Can seem to be Klopp’s first choice, as they are typical box to box midfielders and provide immense physicality in the centre of the park. Henderson’s goal last week at Anfield, was exactly what Klopp would want from his midfielders, finding space within the box and finishing with great quality.
The topic for debate will be who will start in Liverpool’s front line. Philippe Coutinho has been instrumental for the Reds and will no doubt start this afternoon. Roberto Firmino has shown glimpses of his quality since arriving at Anfield but needs to improve massively to live up to his price tag. However, having said that, he seems to be most adept in the squad when Philippe Coutinho is playing alongside him. He also has been heavily involved when Liverpool have looked at their best and for that reason he should start this afternoon at Vicarage Road. Adam Lallana, again needing to live up to expectations, has been a front runner in Liverpool’s momentous victories away to Chelsea, Man City and Southampton. Therefore, he deserves to start for Liverpool. Finally, with the absent James Milner, it is in contention who will take his place. Jordan Ibe seems most likely as he has pace and power and will look to give Watford’s back line a handful of problems. The more defensive option would be Lucas Leiva, if Liverpool play three across the midfield. Divock Origi has been in fine form, but Liverpool should look to start the game with high pressing, movement and make it difficult for Watford. Origi could interfere with this tactic as he is a recognized number 9 and at times lacks intricacy which is much needed in Liverpool’s performance, particularly in early periods.
Line up- Adam Bogdan, Alberto Moreno, Mamadou Sakho, Martin Skrtel, Nathaniel Clyne, Jordan Henderson, Emre Can, Phili