After defeat to Manchester United and Arsenal, here is why it’s time to change the system.
Liverpool’s change in fortune in recent months has very much been down to the 3-4-3 formation Brendan Rodgers has implemented.
It has allowed Rodgers to get his best attacking and technical players on the pitch while also being able to provide a more convincing and solid defence.
This formation has only seen the Reds defeated twice in the calendar year within the Barclays Premier League.
There’s no questioning all the positives it has brought and how it has been able to turn Liverpool’s season around, the only concern Rodgers has now is, opposition teams are starting to learn how to set up and play against it.
The formation hasn’t looked anywhere near as effective in recent weeks. Matches against Blackburn in the FA Cup, Swansea, Manchester United and Arsenal in the league have shown it might be time for a change.
Brendan Rodgers deserves the plaudits. After a very difficult start to the season for the players and the fans, to get the team within reach of the four shows what a quality manager he is. Despite our top four chances looking unrealistic, the man still deserves credit.
Looking back at last season we saw numerous formations implemented from Rodgers but the most exciting and personally my favourite was the 4-4-2 diamond. We have had a slight look at it this season as well. It was used against Tottenham back at White Hart Lane where Liverpool played impressively and with intent which saw them come away 3-0 winners.
Even with the change to the 3-4-3 over the recent months, there has still been a real lack of cutting edge whether it was with shooting or just simply completing a pass to put someone through.
Purely focussing on putting the ball in the back of the net, this formation would see Daniel Sturridge and Mario Balotelli be the two strikers. We haven’t really had the opportunity to see Sturridge and Balotelli as a partnership due to a series of issues. Daniel Sturridge’s movement and Mario Balotelli’s physical presence has the ability to win games for Liverpool. It’s clear neither of them look as if they enjoy playing as a striker all up top by themselves which is all the more reason to return back to this formation.
Moving into the midfield, the most obvious candidate to play at the point of the diamond is Raheem Sterling. For me this is one of Sterling’s best positions and suits him down to the ground. It allows him to drift in behind defenders and create chaos for the opposition. It’s been evident Raheem Sterling has not been able to get the room and freedom playing as the main striker for majority of the season. By playing in behind the two strikers we will start to see more of the Raheem Sterling we have become accustomed to over the last 18 months.
The two midfielders just in front of the holding midfielder are crucial in this system. Jordan Henderson and Philippe Coutinho are the two obvious players that slot into those positions. The position Jordan Henderson takes up in this formation allows him to be that box-to-box midfielder we all know he is. As with Philippe Coutinho, his flair and intelligence gives him an automatic edge over Joe Allen in this position. Having two strikers in front of Coutinho will give him the opportunity to thread balls through and open up defences.
Looking slightly further down the pitch, the holding midfielder has to be Lucas Leiva. Steven Gerrard played this role for Liverpool last season. Despite Lucas not having the passing range Gerrard has, he is more defensively solid and that is what this position is asking of the player. They need to be able to protect their two centre-backs and Lucas certainly does that.
Despite Gerrard’s time at Liverpool coming to an end, his ability to play in that holding role and controlling the game shouldn’t be underestimated. It can still be a very handy option to have if required.
Liverpool’s defending has improved out of sight with numerous clean sheets since moving to three at the back. Although conceding six goals combined against Manchester United and Arsenal might suggest it might be time to try four at the back again.
Obviously with Martin Skrtel and Emre Can suspended this won’t be the back four against Blackburn, but going forward I would like to see Emre Can and Alberto Moreno as the full-backs whilst Martin Skrtel and Mamadou Sakho are the centre-backs. The system is different to what has brought us so much success defensively, but all three centre-backs (Can, Skrtel, Sakho) that played in the back three are still out on the pitch. With the same personnel, it might help build a solid back four going forward.
With still the FA Cup to fight for and still numerous games left in the league, a change of formation looks a must.
Over the recent weeks we have looked too predictable and having the same formation for a good couple of months has given teams time to adapt. With a change of formation we can add an element of surprise back into our game. The players have shown a real understanding to the 3-4-3 and the 4-4-2 diamond which gives us the ability to change for certain games and even within games. Just because I’m suggesting we go back to the 4-4-2 diamond does not mean we should abandon the 3-4-3 completely. It remains important that the 3-4-3 is still an option due to the success that it has been able to bring us.