Is it time for a System Change

System Change

Robbie Keane and Gareth Barry may be the 2 most likely new arrivals at Anfield over the next couple of weeks. However, at the start of the summer all the talk was about wingers joining the club, yet it has been eerily quiet since Rafa seemed to baulk at the asking price of Albert Riera.

Are Liverpool still looking for wingers or has the manager had a change of heart about the formation he may use this season? Second guessing Rafa is as we know a difficult job and he’s already said he probably won’t use just one formation, but I will try to examine the different options available to him.

4-3-3 (or interpretations of it)

This is the formation that Rafa used in the second half of last season. You could argue that it wasn’t a true 4-3-3 due to the deeper midfield role of Mascherano and the 2 wide players maybe more wingers than forwards but let’s not split hairs.

This is certainly still a formation that we would be able to use this year. Using 1 central striker is certainly likely if we don’t get Robbie Keane as Torres and Kuyt will be the only 2 first team out and out strikers in the squad. That’s assuming Voronin is sold which is looking likely (fingers crossed).

Those who have been excited by watching Daniel Pacheco in the pre-season friendlies should not get carried away as he’s unlikely to figure regularly in our team this year.

Last year the common strike force contained Babel on the left and Kuyt on the right, which was okay and even good at times. However, Kuyt (for all his excellent work rate) is not a wide player. He doesn’t have the skill or speed to cut in and go past defenders. He did a reasonable job in that position largely because of dogged determination.

Babel, as we all know is a player of enormous potential but also so frustrating at times. He has the pace to take on some defenders but not always the creative imagination nor the confidence to do so. His crossing also leaves a lot to be desired and so his best position, certainly at the moment appears to be as a support striker. His ability to turn and his shooting skills would support trying him more regularly in this role.

Verdict – I wouldn’t have thought this is going to be Rafa’s main position as surely he would have targeted a wide forward or at very least an out and out winger.

4-4-2

Used in the early part of last season, the standard 4-4-2 will usually be at least a backup formation to most managers, such is it’s familiarity with the players. The roles are well defined and it’s a lot easier to keep the shape in this one or revert to it halfway through a game if circumstances dictate.

I have some concerns about our ability to effectively employ this formation now, due to the distinct lack of wingers we have. Kewell has gone already, Rafa doesn’t seem to favour Pennant at all so he may be on his way, and we are left with Benayoun and Babel. There are other players who could play slightly out of position (Aurelio or Gerrard) or reserve team players (Anderson or Leto) but you have to imagine Rafa won’t rely on this.

A part of this formation that our squad does support is the strikers. Torres will be first choice striker with Kuyt as stand-in. Babel or hopefully Robbie Keane could easily play in the slightly deeper link role behind the striker.

Clearly our strength in depth in defence will mean that 4-4-2 will be very easy to adapt to as Degen and Dossena have now provided 3 options for both the full back roles.

Verdict – There will probably be times during matches when for a number of reasons we may revert to 4-4-2 but because of the lack of wide players I really don’t see how we can make this our number one formation

5-3-2

Three central defenders, 2 wing backs, 3 central midfielders and 2 strikers. Hang on that seems to fit in rather well with our players.

We certainly have 4 very good quality centre backs at Liverpool. Carragher and Skrtel were mostly very good last season. Agger is back from injury and we still have Sami Hyypia who covered excellently for Agger before Skrtel arrived. We also have Jack Hobbs who may feature a little more this season. It certainly seems a shame to play only 2 of these quality defenders and leave at least 2 out.

Wing backs are something that were all the fashion a few years ago but perhaps they are in Rafa’s thoughts again. He has made a big deal out of the attacking qualities of Degen and Dossena and perhaps with backup from Aurelio, Finnan (if he stays), Arbeloa and Insua, this may be something he is seriously thinking out. Dossena probably impressed more than Degen in the friendlies but let’s remember it is very early in their Liverpool career.

The wing backs will often bypass the midfielders, meaning that you won’t necessarily need traditional wingers but 3 good central midfielders. We know we have Gerrard, Mascherano and Alonso who are all first class. We also have Lucas and potentially Gareth Barry.

Although Barry is capable of playing on the left of midfield and even at left back I am sure that Rafa is planning to use him in the centre, where like Stevie G, he is at his most effective. Imagine at home a first choice central midfield of Gerrard, Alonso and Barry.

Perhaps away from home, a little more defensive minded he drops Alonso or Barry and plays Mascherano instead. This would allow Alonso to push forward and play those killer passes rather than be wasted in a defensive midfield role, something he can do but is not ideal for. Being made to play deeper has been a factor in his dip in form over the last 2 seasons where his creativity has been stifled at times.

Up front as we’ve already seen, 2 central strikers appear to fit very well with our players. It also allows Gerrard to be in a central but attacking midfield role with the ball in front of him, rather than playing as a support striker to Torres.

Whilst this worked at times very well last season it was predominantly when Gerrard played longer balls through from midfield to Torres up front rather than short passes when they were both attacking. Gerrard is clearly better running at players than with his back to goal holding the ball up.

Verdict – The heavy reliance on 2 unproven players (Degen and Dossena) worries me greatly but I think this formation (or a variation on it) will be Rafa’s first choice this year

14 comments on
Is it time for a System Change

  1. Don’t need Barry any more…the best formation, most balanced and pacy:
    4-2-3-1
    Reina
    Carra Agger Skrtel Dossena(depending on how he settles)
    Xabi Masch
    Gerrard Keane Babel
    Torres
    We’ve got plenty of firepower on the bench to back this up with Degen, Arbeloa, Finnan, Hyypia, Lucas, Yossi, Pennant, Kuyt, Ngog, Nemeth etc.

  2. 4-3-3 looks the best if barry is to be signed which now looks very probable it would look like-

    BABEL———-TORRES———-KEANE

    MASCHERANO——BARRY———–GERRARD

    AGGER———————————–DOSSENA
    SKRTEL————CARRAGHER
    REINA

  3. I think the 5-3-2 looks good and I would certainly agree with the views on who he would play, but I think with them not playing that system enough by far, I dont think Rafa has the time to be trying such a large change even with these new attacking fullbacks. I think maybe he is feeling the pressure to get the results in the Prem (of course though not the pressure that is always suggested in the press) which is why he has just paid 18m for Keane and would still like Barry, even though they are just into the peak years, they are proven in the Prem and need no time to adjust or improve. So would definately agree with your 4-3-3.

  4. 5-3-2 sounds very promising with
    GK – Reina
    CB – Carra, Skrtel, Agger
    WB – Degen/Arbeloa, Dossena/Aurellio
    CM – Mascherano (Defensive), Gerrard(Attacking), Alonso(Defensive)
    CF – Torres, Keane(sitting just off Torres)

    That would probably be playing to our strongest players.

  5. i think 4 3 3 is the answer but we are leaving it late to sign these two players they should be on pre season training to learn the liverpool way but again i think it will be a last minute thing

  6. Excellent analysis as always Nick, have to agree with you on every point there. It worries me too that we are heavily reliant on 2 unproven players, but as always IRWT.

  7. The 5 3 2 sounds a little negative and if they are to lift the epl trophy they must attack forcefully all the draws that may have been avoided cost them any chance last season.

  8. I’ve been banging the three centre half’s drum for weeks, if not months and have been severely criticised for expressing this opinion.

    I agree that It allows the inclusion of our best players, in their preferred position whilst creating a template that our squad players can simply slot into seamlessly, as and when required.

    I think would be a good option, certainly against teams out of the top 5/6.

  9. I always look out dfor your results when you play in Europe as I have respect for wht you archieved down the years and always wondered if Milan could have been that dominant if English clubs were not banned. I owuld have loved to see Barnes, Molby, Aldrige, Brucey, Beardsley, and Rushey against Baresi, Maldini, Gullit, Van Basten, and Rijkaard.

    However, you seem to have dropped standards in your dealings lately. The public boardroom spats, Rafa’s problems with the Yanks etc,his rant about not being told told to coach his team etc. Now it’s Barry and Keane. If a club has rejected an offer, I don’t think you should go public and say you are waiting for a response from the Villa, and or Spurs when they have told you the players are not for sale and Villa have a valuation on him. You clearly see what it has done to Barry.
    Now you guys are following the manager’s lead by even including them in a fantasy formation for next season. I don’t think you could get both of them. They Yanks, in my opinion are not convinced, and are not willing to dig deep as they are after a quick buck.

  10. Nice research. Personally, assuming if Barry and keane signs for Liverpool, 5-3-2 or 4-3-3 is my top 2 choices although rafa can rotate his players with no prob.

    5-3-2:

    Reina (GK)

    skrtel (CB) Charrager (CB) Agger (CB)

    Degen (WB) Barry (WB)

    Macherano (DM) Alonso (CM)

    Gerrard (AM)

    Keane (SS) Torres (CF)

    CB-HEART OF DEFENCE
    WB-A MORE ATTACKING ROLE.WORKS ON THE FLANKS
    DM-TOUGH TACKLER
    CM-CONTROLS THE FLOW OF THE GAME WITH GOOD RANGE OF PASSES
    AM-SURGE FWD RUNS.THE PLAYMAKER
    SS-SUPPORTING STRIKER.ROAM AROUND THE ATTACKING LINE
    CF-THE FINISHER.

    4-3-3:

    REINA (GK)

    CARRA(RB) AGGER (CB) SKRTEL (CB) BARRY(LB)

    MASCH (DM) ALONSO (CM)

    STEVIE G (AM)

    KUYT (RW) BABEL (LW)

    TORRES (CF)

    NO COMMENTS ON THIS ONE.
    BASICALLY ITS A DUTCH INFLUENCE (KUYT & BABEL OBVIOUSLY)
    KEANE TO SACRAFICE (BE GOOD TO GET IN THE GAME 20MINS TO GO)-HIS SKILLS R USEFUL IN THIS SORT OF TIME. OPPOSITION ARE TIRED AT THIS STAGE (HEHEHE)

  11. I think you could be right, but we havent seen the 5 at the back played in the friendlies, so I would imagine/like to see a version of the 4-3-3.

    ———————-Torres————————
    ———Babel——————–Keane————-
    —————————————————-
    ————–Barry——–Gerrard——————
    ——————–Mascherano———————-
    —————————————————-
    Dosseno——-Agger———Carrager———–Degen
    —————————————————-
    ———————-Reina————————-

    Subs:
    Cavalieri
    Skrtel
    Benayoun
    Kuyt
    Lucas

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