It certainly got the job done with Liverpool’s 2-0 win keeping them in the driver’s seat for the second spot in Group A and injecting needed confidence ahead of the weekend’s trip to Arsenal.
How did you assess Liverpool going back to basics?
JOANNA: It was a lot more enjoyable to watch, not conceding and actually leading at half-time!
There are plenty of gears this Liverpool side can still step into but there was more cohesion on show and a clear directive that all players were abiding by, and, crucially, the intensity was there.
The creation of chances went hand in hand with the formation change as there were options aplenty, but you could say one critique is that we did not manage to score from open play – we had 23 shots in total.
The true test will be using this system against a more formidable opponent and all eyes will be on if Klopp sticks to it on Sunday.
SAM: It makes a change that it’s hard to think of a negative to take from the match. And echoing you Joanna, we didn’t concede first either which helps when trying to win football matches!
A 4-4-2 out of possession gave the defence more protection than they’ve received from a forlorn Fabinho, who has been left to cover copious spaces without help this season.
Though the captain isn’t short of energy, in the future a deeper role could be more beneficial for Henderson, who seemed to know his job better than in recent weeks, when we’ve seen him as the furthest man forward at times.
JOANNA: I agree with you there Sam, it was one of Henderson’s better games and you always feel more comfortable when he is deeper and disciplined, as opposed to taking up a more flexible position on the right of midfield.
From an atmosphere point of view, it was good – certainly an enjoyable evening and all the better for Trent quickly quietening the Gers in the Anfield Road End.
Their renditions of ‘God Save The King’ and ‘Rule Britannia’ were, as you’d expect, met with brilliant Scouse wit, while their Icelandic clap provided them with a few reminders of the country they are actually from!
SAM: Lastly from me, Nunez rightfully became the furthest forward Red and it was an indicator of how the Uruguayan should be used by Liverpool.
He was bought to stretch teams and, though his technical ability isn’t on the same level as Firmino, he brings an attacking instinct to peel off his man and find space that the Brazilian doesn’t always have.
If he stays within the width of the penalty box, he’ll do well for us.
The spotlight was on Trent, how did you see his game?
SAM: Trent was the other big positive from the game, for me.
He played a role closer to what he’s been so successful in over the last few years. There were far more options for him and he had slightly more space to pick his passes from slightly wider positions than he’s been taking up since August.
His free kick reminded those who needed it of his quality, and it was nice for him to receive a standing ovation upon his withdrawal.
For a player who has looked to lack confidence recently, the game will hopefully act as a springboard and influence Klopp’s thinking around his formation.
JOANNA: The let-off in the stands when he scored was brilliant and will have done him the world of good after finding himself thrust firmly into the spotlight this season.
His average position was in his own half with Tsimikas the one to take up a higher position on the flank, keeping Trent to Van Dijk and Matip but still slingshotting forward when the opportunity arose.
There was more help at hand with how Liverpool setup and the balance Liverpool struck was just what was needed to restore confidence and bank a solid showing, as Sam also mentioned.
A player with supreme skill and, thankfully, this was a game where there were only positives to discuss when it came to Trent. Hopefully another is around the corner!
Would you keep the same formation vs. Arsenal?
SAM: I’d need to look into how Arsenal play more closely but my instinct is to say yes, we should.
Out of possession, we looked far less exposed in transition and, while Rangers were poor on the ball, they kept the opposition penned in more often.
Players seemed to have more options on the ball also. For Salah and Luis Diaz, the system worked well as it allowed them to find more space to run at defenders, as Diogo Jota and Nunez occupied full-backs who would normally be stuck to the wingers.
On occasion, Nunez and Jota did get on top of each other in attacking positions but Klopp has said they have only had one session to work on the system and was impressed with how they have adapted.
It doesn’t help also that Nunez has admitted he doesn’t understand the manager particularly well yet so he can only improve.
The double pivot of Thiago and Henderson is perhaps where the system could fall against a team better than Rangers, who can beat Liverpool’s first line of pressure. However, given the openness of the midfield so far this campaign, there isn’t much to lose.
JOANNA: I agree with Sam, I think it’s worth keeping in place at Arsenal even if Rangers are not the same calibre of opponent.
The midfield has lacked in a 4-3-3 and it has left Liverpool vulnerable too many times, and the form the Gunners are in could make for plenty of chances to slice through the team.
I can see Klopp putting Firmino behind Jota in the same formation but I wouldn’t be opposed to keeping Nunez in the side and taking Jota out for Firmino – the good thing is that Liverpool have options.
The system, whichever way Klopp goes, is nothing without the intensity and Liverpool have to bring that on Sunday – there’s a statement win waiting to be had.