Will 3-4-3 Work For Rodgers At Anfield?

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By Live Sport

Brendan Rodgers is expected to adapt his fluid passing style from Swansea to Liverpool. At Swansea, Rodgers found success with a combination of 4-3-3 and 3-4-3 approaches. Based on pressing, possession, and positional intelligence, Rodgers’ style made Swansea one of the surprise packages of last season. Whether or not Rodgers can adapt a 3-4-3 and a 4-3-3 system to Liverpool will depend on whether the former can represent a consistent attacking threat, particularly given the new demands on Liverpool to retain possession and work the ball out much better from the back.

Rodgers’ Tactics

Rodgers’ Swansea tactics were influenced by Barcelona and Spain, as well as from his time as a coach working at Chelsea under Mourinho’s possession and width based 4-3-3. The 4-3-3 tactic used by Rodgers at Swansea depended on a more conventional back four, with attacking wing backs covering a central midfield three diamond, and a front three of inside forwards and a central striker. The 3-4-3, which Rodgers experimented with once Swansea were assured of escaping relegation, is a variation on the 4-3-3 that pushes up the wing-backs, and plays with a more withdrawn, ball playing defensive midfielder to screen a high line of centre backs.

Swansea predominantly used a 4-3-3 for defensive cover, with the 3-4-3 used as an experiment. The latter tactic was most significantly deployed by Barcelona last year as a version of a 4-3-3 with a higher back line, a withdrawn, ball playing midfielder, and more advanced wing backs. Rodgers has promoted both the values of a 4-3-3, and the experiment of a 3-4-3 as a more adventurous tactic able to potentially swamp opponents in the Premier League in midfield with pressing and quick passing.

He has, however, argued for a more fluid seven ‘lines’ or zones or possession from a sweeping goalkeeper through to the front three, with each zone dependent on playing neat triangles of possession and creating angles. Barcelona and Spain have made this tiki taka approach the core of their play over the past five years.

3-4-3 or 4-3-3 for Liverpool?

The main challenge for Rodgers at Liverpool will be to adjust the side’s philosophy after a season and a half of sometimes attractive, but direct football under Dalglish. During his time at the club, Dalglish opted for wide men like Maxi and Downing, but often struggled to take chances and dominate against less technically able sides. In terms of the 3-4-3 and 4-3-3 system, more pressure will be placed on Reina to play the ball out from his box, meaning that a back two or three will have to push forward to press a high line.

Martin Skrtel will likely continue to play as a more out and out centre back, with Daniel Agger charged with more creative duties. If playing with a third centre back, or more typically a deep defensive midfielder, Lucas Leiva or Henderson will be the most obvious choice to be able to cover the back and act as a screen for the midfield. In terms of attacking wing backs that can double up as more withdrawn full backs, Johnson and Enrique seem to be the automatic choices. Martin Kelly could also slot into that role.

Further upfield, a fit Lucas will be invaluable if he can retain the ball and be the first point for building attacks. The important question, then, becomes whether Gerrard will be deployed as a more attacking midfielder, likely to be the case in a 4-3-3, or as a central midfielder focused on keeping possession alongside either Henderson or Adam.

If considered, Joe Cole could also slot into this role, which is still the biggest gap in terms of Rodgers’ adaptation of his Swansea tactics – the arrival of Joe Allen from Swansea could also provide a like for like change. Rodgers has more options for a front three, with Suarez likely to drift out wide, with either Carroll, Borini or Bellamy acting as inside forwards. Carroll’s future is uncertain, so Suarez could act as Liverpool’s out and out striker, with new signing Borini, who played under Rodgers at Swansea, providing width.

Overall, then, Rodgers has the challenge of adapting a tactical strategy that typically takes years of training to get right. Rodgers will also arguably opt for a 4-3-3, rather than a 3-4-3 to begin with, given the still uncertain state of Liverpool’s midfield. Questions also remain over whether Stewart Downing and a returning Joe Cole have a place in Rodgers’ plans, as well as whether another striker will be needed.

Joe Dakin is a Football blogger for Live Sport, where you can get instant access to the latest TV listings for over 35 different sports including all Live Football on TV, with all Liverpool matches during 2012-13.


  1. Joe,

    I think Brendan Rodgers will use 4-3-3 as his first choice formation. If the current squad player will stay and no addition to the team, he will put Reina, as first choice keeper. Johnson, Skrtel, Agger and Enrique as regular back four. Lucas will be play in front of the back four to give more freedom to Gerrard and Shelvy to dictate the game. Yes, Gerrard and Shelvy!!! For the trio attacker, he will choose Suarez, Borini and Downing without any rigid position for the three of them.

  2. I think Rogers would employ 4-3-3 and as it goes on he might change that formation but my fear for him now is as we are loosing part of d core of the team could come back to hunt us.Already we have lost two senior players in Kuyt and Maxi and we are about to loose Bellamy which was an important player for us last season,So is likelihood of allowing Agger to go though it would be monetarily advantages but we are not a selling club are we?When a new Manager steps into a new football club its especially for the manager to maintain the core and nucleus of the team then as time goes on mayb in couple of months the new manager can start moving some players on I soppose Rogers should have been familiar with such when he managed Reading Football club he tried to make radical changes and it did cost him his job I hope that would not re-occur to him especially with higher expectation at Liverpool Fc.One other point again is the reluctance of the Board to back Rogers with Money maybe its down to how Kenny spent ridiculously on averaged players or the Board are being cautious of spending or they are out of Money remains to be seen.If I were Rogers I would keep Carrol now,get a decent money on Agger though it might hunt him especiaLly with whom he would replace Agger with maybe he has the same quality as him remains to be seen..Well time is ticking as we are edging closer to the transfer deadline so as we are about to start premier league campaign in a weeks time..I m gonna keep my fingers crossed

  3. For my money Rodgers will not destablise the defensive back line enormously. four in defence is erring on the side of caution perhaps yet given the regular set two solid CBs and two decent wing backs serve both defensive/offensive purposes. Lucas and adam central try Gerrard on the right. Sterling left attack mid, Borini CF Suarez just to the right. This pans out as 433 and flows in the shape B. Rodgers has suggested. With Reina in goal a sweeper keeper system can be deployed. Depending on the flow of play goals scored positional advantage: Caroll on for enrique, Sterling goes wider Johnson drops back and youve got 343. Cant go wrong

  4. 3-4-3 or 4-3-3, it will work for Liverpool. Most important in these formations are players must be fit, technically good at holding and passing the ball and have pace to win back the ball when you misplace a pass. At Anfield Liverpool can play 3-4-3 and away 4-3-3. With Pepe back both systems will work well. The Liverpool defenders are now comfortable with their passing knowing that the keeper is also involved. All the defenders have to do is make a monkey out of opposition forwards. Most of the time at Anfield it is one forward to deal with. So holding possession at the back is quite easy. Cara seems to have improved his game lately , by not hoofing ball up most of the time. Pepe is good with the ball at his feet and can play short passes or make some long puns if need be. Is previous Barca training will come handy now. As for the wingbacks, they must work hard to attack and also run back quickly when ball is lost in the attacking third. Enrique is great going forward but his final ball is poor. If he corrects that aspect of his game under Branden, his place in the Spanish national squad is assured. If Bellers is leaving another winger is needed urgently. Don’t think Joe Cole will last the season with his injury concerns returning aka Michael Owen style. Sterling has shown more promise in the three friendliest as compared to Cole. Liverpool should let Joe Cole go on loan and pay half his wages and bring in a more reliable loan player with his remaining wages. Why is Livpool always straddled with injured players? Aurelio, Carroll, Aqualani, Owen, Degen, Cole … the list goes on. Looks like one player is always signed by Liverpool to be the lab rat for the medical team to work on for the whole season.

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