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Liverpool Tactics – Is Rodgers Getting It Right With The 3-5-2?

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The 3-5-2 approach from Liverpool: Is Rodgers getting his tactics right?

Brendan Rodgers
Brendan Rodgers

Don’t be startled with the above headline, I by no means would try to inculcate, who’s wrong or who’s right, or why they are so. Rather this being a tactical analysis, I would dwelve my own thoughts on the tactics employed by current Liverpool Manager Brendan Rodgers on my beloved club since I was a boyhod fan. Well, there’s no doubt that the Reds from Merseyside have had a terrific start to the season, buoyed by the return of controversial Uruguayan hitman Luis Suarez and his budding understanding with Daniel Sturridge up front.

The SAS strike force as the Liverpool fans would love to call have perhaps everything in their locker to toy with any defence in the Premier League. But let us just take the example from last week’s match at the Emirates where the Reds were humbled by a dazzling Arsenal team, who at this moment are playing the best orchestra in England. While there has been a shift from the proverbial 4-3-3 or the 4-2-3-1 from last season, Brendan Rodgers has recently been lining his team in a surprising 3-5-2 formation, Liverpool have had mixed results. While pundits might claim that the abundance of defenders in the squad might have forced Rodgers to the three central defenders at the back, playing with two wingbacks thus an attempt to overload the opposition penalty area.

But let’s just analyze the system. Kolo Toure, Sakho and a resurgent Martin Skrtel start as the three centre backs with Glen Johnson and Jose Enrique in the wingbacks role. Daniel Agger is still on the bench for most games after recovering from an injury, which fuels speculation to his impending move to Barcelona maybe his January Transfer Window. In the Central midfield, we have Lucas playing as the destroyer, club captain Steven Gerrard is now playing deep such that he is able to control the game a bit better with his brilliant passing abilities. Jordan Henderson has been drafted out wide with Suarez and Sturridge playing up front.


So what’s the problem in this?

The problem of the system lies during an opposition counter attack, the wingbacks are caught behind the ball, and the three centre backs are exposed one on one, while one of them shifts either right or left to block the incoming crosses, the other two with a tracking back midfielder is ultimately crowded out. This pretty much sums up Arsenal’s opening goal at the Emirates on Staurday. Arteta plays a lovely ball for the overlapping Sagna, Flanagan and Cissokho are caught ahead of the ball, Sakho goes out to block, Skrtel and Toure are left on one by Giroud and an advancing Cazorla, they fail to deal with the second ball and they are a goal down.

While it was quite alarming to witness what instructions Brendan Rodgers had given to his team on defending, the other problem comes in the heart of midfield with Gerrard, given his age is almost static these days, almost past his best years. Lucas is having a terrible time since his recuperating injury, while there have been inconsistent performances from Jordan Henderson, who has played his best when given a much more central role.

My plan of lining up the Team:
If I were the manager, which of course is easier said than done, I would have lined up in the following formation. Toure or Sakho, Skrtel and Agger as the three main defensive cover, Johnson and Enrique as wingbacks. I would play Henderson with Steven Gerrard in a more advanced role with Coutinho as the CAM with the strike force of SAS up front. This would be ultimately a 3-4-1-2 which will suit the Reds much better in my opinion.

The other way to line would be my personal favourite of the 4-2-3-1. I would play Skrtel and Sakho/Agger with Johnson and Enrique again as wingbacks. Lucas and Henderson being the double pivot, Gerrard plays in a more advanced role, Coutinho on the left asking him to dart inside with his scintillating dribbling skills, Luis Suarez would be given a free role as the roamer with Sturridge leading the line. This gives much more flexibility defending space and counter attacking the opponents with a bit more ease.

Liverpool - Football tactics and formations

It’s too early to predict whether Liverpool will certainly finish in the Champions League qualification places which are up for grabs, but with the start they have had, it is important to maintain the tempo. Whereas Mr Rodgers will tweak his tactics or not, is debatable but a change of formation might just give the Reds from Merseyside an edge going into the hectic Christmas period when games will be coming thick and fast.