Liverpool’s form dramatically changed last season when the unhappy reign of Roy Hodgson ended and “King Kenny” was promoted from Head of the Academy to Manager of the first team. Most believed that Dalglish was going to implement the 4-4-2 he favoured when he was in charge of Blackburn. However, Dalglish knows this formation is outdated especially at a higher level and so chose to switch to the 4-2-3-1, one of the more popular formations in recent years.
So with Liverpool being active in the Transfer Market,how is Dalglish going to change his tactics next season.Here in this article we look at two formations both of them which Dalglish used last year,the 4-2-3-1 and the 3-5-2.
The first formation is classic 4-2-3-1. It became Dalglish’s favoured formation at the end of last season. This formation is well suited to this Liverpool side especially Gerrard, Lucas Leiva and Glen Johnson. With the transfer of Charlie Adam imminent as well, I think we may be watching a very Benitez style double pivot (Alonso/Mascherano), with Adam as the creator and Lucas as the destroyer. If this does happen Gerrard will probably be pushed further forward with one of the front four dropping to the bench.
However I’m not sure how new signing Jordan Henderson will fit in this formation as he has only really be seen in a 4-4-2 for Sunderland, and was poor for England u21’s this summer while playing in a pivot. Another midfielder who has been missed out from my starting line-up is Raul Meireles. His form rose at the same time as Liverpool’s last season, but has been rumoured to be leaving, with Dalglish putting an onus on home-grown talent.
Dalglish emphasises attacking football and a free flowing front 4, with the width getting provided by the full backs. For this to happen the front man needs to have good movement into either the channels or by dropping into the midfield. Kuyt arguably did this the best last season. In his hat-trick against Manchester United, Kuyt did everything which Dalglish would want him to do, moving into channels, holding the ball up, dropping deep and also making runs behind the defence to stretch the play and to make space for Suarez. Whether Carroll can do this as effectively as Kuyt is still a doubt for me because he lacks the same mobility. However, arguably what Carroll lacks in mobility, he more than makes up for with his aerial strength.
Lucas is a key man in this formation. Voted as Liverpool’s player of the season last year, his tackling and passing are superb, and this allows Liverpool to have the time to go from their defensive form to their attacking form. Essentially it will allow the midfield to get into position and allow the full backs to get into the oppositions half.
A positive with this formation is the numerical advantage in midfield. This allows Liverpool to keep possession more easily. Another advantage though which was highlighted in the game against Wolves away, was that this formation allows runners from midfield which can be very hard to track if the opposition only has 2 central midfielders compared to Liverpool’s three. If the striker drops off
the central defenders to become a false nine, it opens up gaps in the defence which midfielders like Gerrard, or in the case of Wolves, Meireles, will more than happily exploit.
Another formation favoured by Dalglish is a 3-5-2 or a 3-4-2-1. This formation was used notably against Stoke when Dalglish felt he needed the extra height needed in set plays so played more centre backs. Although this formation will mainly be used as an alternative to the favoured 4-2-3-1 it still has many positives.
A key component in this formation is the wing backs. Johnson has the energy and pace for this but I do not think Insua or Aurelio do. This position is definitely an area which needs improving and the attacking capabilities of Baines or Enrique would be better suited here. Kelly and Flanagan both performed admirably when called upon but both are still too young for the responsibility in these positions as starters. They will still provide adequate cover though when called upon.
Yet again Dalglish uses a double pivot and as previously discussed he has a wealth of choices here, even the forgotten about Aquilani may push for an occasional start, as well as the hard working Jay Spearing. The midfield shape can also change. An example of this, is the switch into a midfield diamond when away to Chelsea, in this case Dalglish used this to match up with Chelsea’s formation in midfield. As a result, Liverpool nicked a 1-0 win and Torres and Drogba were anonymous as they were kept quiet by the three man defence. This is another example of Dalglish’s emphasis on fluidity in his formations, a key component if Liverpool is to be successful next season.
Expect the front three to be fluid again, with Rodriguez, Gerrard, Kuyt, Suarez, Henderson or Meireles all able to do a job in these roles. Whether Dalglish decides to rotate these players, or settle on a definitive starting line-up will be interesting as he has a host of big name players which he needs to keep happy for any chance of success.
Do not expect these formations to be the only ones which Dalglish uses, as he has shown by how he lined up against Chelsea he is more than willing to change the set-up of his side to stop the opposition, especially away from home.
With players and fans all seemingly excited by next season and now happy to be associated with the football club again it would be wrong to rule out Liverpool next season, especially with Liverpool’s intelligent back room staff including Steve Clarke and Damien Comolli. Therefore, if Dalglish brings in a left back, I really think that this squad has the ability to break the domination of Manchester United and Chelsea in recent years.