Moving forward this season

Shaqiri-Salah-Fabinho-and-Keita-in-training
After a dismal display in Belgrade midweek and the the general underwhelming performances we’ve been dishing up this season, it’s about time Klopp pulled his head out the sand and started to make some changes, starting this week at Fulham.

We’ve predominantly played a 4-3-3 since Klopp took charge and we’ve utilised it superbly, simply overrunning teams with our suffocating pressing and fearsome counter attacks. For reasons known only to Jurgen however, we have abandoned that approach for a far more conservative, reserved style of play and for me, it’s exposing glaring weaknesses in our squad.

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Our midfield was built to press, outwork and outrun teams. A midfield full of Duracell bunnies who make up for their limitations technically through sheer will, determination and endeavour. Physically strong to allow us to bully teams in midfield into regularly coughing up possession and then quick and direct to our forwards and the opposing goal and they’ve done it brilliantly for the most part over the last couple of seasons. Our tactics were effective enough to provoke the absolutely unheard of reaction from Pep Guardiola to change his approach against us. Teams were scared of us.

What our midfield was not built to do is provide a slow patient build up, controlling games. We have got too many similar players for that and none of them have the skill set to take control of a game and dictate play. Now, when we play top class opposition applying these tactics, we’re being found out. If we want to play that way, we need a different type of player. If we look at our two main rivals this season, Chelsea have Jorginho and Fabregas who can both do that job. City have got De Bruyne, David Silva and Gundogan who can all control a game. We don’t have a player like that and all our current tactics are doing is hampering our midfield’s strengths and highlighting their weaknesses.


Moving forward

Formation - Jurgen either has to abandon this current little experiment he’s trying and go back to being the blood and thunder team we’ve loved watching so much over the last couple of years, or he has to make the 4-2-3-1 a more permanent fixture as we’ve only really looked decent this season when playing that way.

Selection - Shaqiri has to start a lot more frequently. He’s comfortably our most technically gifted player and a bit of technique is just what this team is screaming out for as we’ve been truly woeful on that front this season.

Personally, this Sunday I would start Keita and Fabinho in a double pivot, with Firmino licence to roam from the number 10 position. Shaq on the right, Salah through the middle and Mane on the left. Either that or leave our front three as is and play Shaq at number 10. Its time Fabinho and Keita show why the club forked out the best part of £100 million for them. Milner and Gini can’t play every game and Keita and Fabinho look the perfectly balanced double pivot, at least on paper anyway.

Tactics - Last season’s anyone? I’m all for slightly more mature performances and I’m definitely all for our new defensive solidity but we were both the best pressing and counter attacking team in the world last season and I’m astonished we’ve abandoned that. We need to revert back to what we’re good at. Our forwards aren’t clinical, they need a lot of chances but fortunately they’re capable of creating a lot of chances if we just play the right way.

If Klopp wants a more controlled midfield then he either needs to sign a playmaker in the mould of Jorginho or David Silva or an all out attacking midfielder in the mould of Fekir, leave two sitting midfielders and play with effectively a front four.

Either way, what we’re doing right now isn’t working and I fear if we persevere this way, the wheels may come off sooner rather than later.

This may be all part of Klopp’s masterplan to conserve a bit of energy up until the busy festive period and then go hell  for leather in the second half of the season but City will likely have a bit of breathing space by then if things continue the way they have recently and we could easily be out of the Champions League by then as well. Three wins in our last nine games is not a return of champions. Time for a change of plan Jurgen...
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