An under fire Brendan Rodgers recently switched formation and while it has not gifted Liverpool the results they may have been wishing for going into 2015, it has shown promise and could be what the Reds need to reignite the attacking flame that burned so brightly last season.
Liverpool’s attack has been toothless this season and they have struggled to find the same attacking presence they had with Luis Suarez. Rodgers’ business in the summer transfer window has only served to compound this problem and the lack of a world class forward has been evident in some of Liverpool’s displays, with the side also badly missing Daniel Sturridge. This has resulted in the prodigious youngster Raheem Sterling standing in for the misfiring Mario Balotelli and Rickie Lambert. Rodgers backed up Sterling with some high, but potentially misguided, praise after his performance against Bournemouth.
The benefit of Rodgers’ change has been that Liverpool now play a fast, fluid attacking game and have more players committed to attack, an area in which they excelled in last season. The 3-4-3 formation creates attacking “triangles” for players to run into. This requires high intensity and accurate passing which the Reds, surprisingly possess players capable of providing.
While perhaps not the best solution to Liverpool’s striker dilemma, Sterling has offered pace and skills up front. Rodgers commented that Sterling was an Alexis Sanchez type of forward, “not someone who backs into defenders but someone who gets between people”. This type of forward suits the 3-4-3 as it gives the side more fluidity and Balotelli and Lambert will find it difficult to fit into this type of side. Rodgers will be hoping that Daniel Sturridge can come in into the striker position and relieve some of the pressure from Sterling.
Liverpool’s bad performances can perhaps be attributed to the 4-2-3-1 formation that Rodgers had tried to install in his team previously. The frontman was often left isolated as Balotelli and Lambert aren’t known for being hardworking and largely rely on the rest of the team to retrieve the ball. A formation with two holding midfielders hardly suits Liverpool as it gives them fewer men to commit to their attacks. Liverpool also have no world class holding players and whilst playing in this formation the holding midfielder was caught in possession and was a liability. The Red’s players are attacking and need an attacking formation to bring the best out of them, they are also young and do not have the experience to play in both offensive and defensive formations.
Results may not have improved under this new philosophy but the statistics make good reading for the Liverpool gaffer. His side now have more shots on goal and enjoy more possession, an essential for Rodgers. This is quite suggestive, hinting that if the Reds gather momentum they might be able to climb up the table and make a genuine challenge for the top four. Against Manchester United there were glimpses of what Liverpool do in this new formation and Rodgers should take heart from what he has seen.
Since the appointment of Rodgers as Liverpool manager their tactical identity has evolved and this could well be just another step he takes in order to improve his side and further their achievements. While the Reds’ have not necessarily improved results under this new tactic there are encouraging signs for Rodgers and Anfield in general, especially after the 4-1 victory over Swansea last night. Liverpool could perhaps be back on the right track afterall.