Clever Klopp tactics will rock the Kop more than Rodgers rhetoric
With Jurgen Klopp being named Liverpool manager, and Coral now offering 9/4 on them making a top four finish this term, we look at some of the tactical choices facing the latest boss to take on the Anfield project.
Unlike predecessor Brendan Rodgers, who often used a back three, the German gaffer tends to favour the progressive, en vogue 4-2-3-1 system, but one big decision facing him is how practical that formation would be given the personnel available to the former Borussia Dortmund coach.
Wide options were plentiful during Klopp’s tenure at the Westfalenstadion with versatile attacking midfield and forward players, including Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Mario Gotze and Marco Reus, all capable of doing a job wide for the good of the team.
Rodgers was unable to get the same out of similar Reds options when shunting them out to the wing, including one of the big money summer buys in Roberto Firmino. Natural width is really lacking at Anfield presently, so looking at a tactical switch to the Christmas Tree may be worthy of consideration.
Klopp will have noted how former Hoffenheim star Firmino was most effective during his Bundesliga days (often directly up against him) in the number 10 position. Going 4-3-2-1 would allow both Firmino and compatriot Philippe Coutinho to be included in the same XI.
It would fail to accommodate Liverpool’s star striking duo of Christian Benteke and the fit-again Daniel Sturridge, however. This extremely difficult task of putting all four key attacking players in the same XI will prove the toughest puzzle of all for Klopp.
The reality may be that including the entire quartet leaves the Reds too open, and there is a strong argument that Brazil pair Coutinho and Firmino are too similar in style with both wanting the ball to thread supply through to those leading the attack.
With that compromise considered, reverting to the midfield diamond system employed by Rodgers in Liverpool’s so-nearly season (2013/14) could be the kind of “heavy metal” football that Klopp described as being his style during the Dortmund era.
Reds captain Jordan Henderson is tailor-made for the right midfield/box-to-box berth when he returns from injury and there’s canny Bosman addition James Milner to use their for the meantime, while ball-carrier and Rodgers favourite Joe Allen is more akin to Ilkay Gundogan, who performs so superbly for the Westfalenstadion outfit.
Klopp’s compatriot Emre Can is a clear example of where a tactical switch can pay dividends, and one Rodgers simply lacked the sense to see. Awesome for Germany Under-21s during the latest European Championship in that age bracket last summer, it is as a midfield anchorman that Can must be deployed going forward.
Lucas Leiva’s prospects would thus be limited, but having cover in front of the back four is important. Liverpool simply don’t have an outstanding all-round defender like Dortmund captain Mats Hummels, so Klopp will have to work with what he’s got for the first few months before potential January investment from Anfield’s wealthy American owners.
Eastern European pair Martin Skrtel and Dejan Lovren are the best of an average bunch possessing all the same attributes and thus little variety in style at centre half, but preferable to ageing Kolo Toure and athletic France international Mamadou Sakho, who lacks discipline.
Nathaniel Clyne and Alberto Moreno offer more encouragement at full back with their abundant energy and especially the former’s ability to get up and down the flank, providing the width that is absent further forward.
There is enough in this diamond formation to be expansive going forward and tough to break down when not in possession that will also afford Reds goalie Simon Mignolet enough protection.
Charismatic Klopp is also unlikely to focus the Premier League spotlight too sharply on himself. And there;s another lesson that Rodgers failed to learn with his repeated message ad nauseam that win, lose or draw the players performed for him when the scoreline sometimes suggested otherwise. Expect Klopp to be effusive with praise and scathing with criticism when needed.
What Liverpool are getting is someone who will have to take all these things into consideration, but should come out as a shrewder operator than his predecessor who paid the price for poor tactical judgement after admittedly losing some talented players.