6 Nov 2014

[Guest Post] Forget 4231: This major problem is the real reason LFC have failed this year

[Guest Post] - Definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. With his stubborn allegiance to a failing 4231 formation, Brendan Rodgers's tactical approach this season seems to fit that description, but according to site regular Adam Griffin, the obsessive focus on that tactical set-up is obscuring the real reason for Liverpool's poor results.

The key question is this: Are Liverpool really using a different formation to last season? What follows is a graphical comparison of the passing statistics of key players from two of Liverpool's Premier League games:

* From last season: a comfortable 3-0 win over Southampton, chosen because it was in the middle of a great run of form and uses a familiar set of players.

* From this season: the mind-numbing 1-0 loss to Newcastle.

* The Southampton game has yellow dots and is shown on the left. The Newcastle game has red dots and is shown on the right.

Gerrard

 photo ScreenShot2014-11-06at164531_zps30b49abb.png

Liverpool had to work a lot harder against Newcastle and it generally went nowhere, so Gerrard has to make a lot more passes. However against the Saints he’s not necessarily sitting any deeper, and if anything, most of his work is closer to the half way line against Newcastle and a little bit more right sided. On balance it seems like the same kind of role.

Allen

 photo ScreenShot2014-11-06at164726_zps6a9513f6.png

Allen generally plies his trade on the left side of midfield and again it looks like a very similar role. He gets a bit more advanced for a few touches against the Saints, but most of his work in that game is actually in his own half so he’s playing in quite a deep position for the most part.

Henderson

 photo ScreenShot2014-11-06at164827_zps03ecdc37.png

Henderson actually plays on different sides, but apart from that it’s again a quite similar pass map. He’s no more or less advanced, no more or less central. Flip one of the images and they match up quite well. The switch of sides is striking but what does that mean and what is the impact on the team in the Newcastle game? Given that Allen is already on the left side and Moreno was also quite advanced, why is Henderson also in that area?

Coutinho

 photo ScreenShot2014-11-06at164923_zpsf7e311fd.png

A similar number of touches in similar advanced positions on the pitch. Perhaps most important is the increased number of forward passes against the Saints. Both successful and not successful, Coutinho was more aggressive and attacking against Southampton and, like the whole team, a bit impotent against Newcastle.

Suarez/Sterling

 photo ScreenShot2014-11-06at165015_zps79a21ad7.png

While Raheem sterling is not generally considered a striker, Suarez was not purely a striker by role, not in every game. The flanks are reversed, but note just how deep Suarez comes and how much he’s involved in build-up play. Sterling has no touches in his own half against Newcastle, Suarez has quite a few, and Sterling also gets into and around the box.

It seems as if they are playing the same role but on opposite sides, which probably makes sense given that Henderson also played on opposite flanks. Ultimately it’s about which player gets into truly dangerous positions and Suarez has the obvious edge.

Sturridge/Balotelli

 photo ScreenShot2014-11-06at165111_zpsc54cc680.png

Probably the biggest differences here are the touches in the box. Both players are involved in lead up play but Mario simply never ends up getting the ball in a good attacking position. Sturridge almost certainly is the more dangerous player and probably also has other players around him in better positions. It’s only a handful of passes but between Sturridge and Suarez there is more action in the penalty area than with Sterling and Balotelli.

So - the formations are certainly different but what does it all mean?

Two holding midfielders: If we say Liverpool are playing 2 deep midfielders against Newcastle then it’s no different to how they played against Southampton. Allen and Gerrard would be those two players and their pass maps in both games are very similar. I don’t see that anyone could argue that this is a new tactic only employed this season.

Attacking midfield: Henderson and Coutinho sit in front of the two deeper midfielders. Coutinho is conceivably playing a 10 role in both games but what Henderson is doing is curious. Liverpool really stacked the left side against Newcastle while against Southampton, he was the right sided option.

Conceivably, this is because Sterling occupied an attacking right side role against Newcastle while Suarez played on the left against Southampton. Henderson, the jack of all trades, simply adjusts to fill the empty space.

Striker/False 9: I would call Sturridge and Balotelli the strikers, Sterling and Suarez the supporting attacking players. False 9 is the term I have used previously but it’s just a name. Apart from actually being effective and scoring it’s hard to see much difference between how these two sets of players were set up. One pair just comes away with a much better outcome.

If I was to try and map the formation I’d guess at this for Newcastle:

 photo ScreenShot2014-11-06at165228_zps6e3eac6e.png

Southampton formation:

 photo ScreenShot2014-11-06at165327_zps7653db6f.png

Is either formation 4-3-3? I’d argue not. In no instance is there a front 3 because Coutinho doesn’t occupy a wider role, so at most there are two in the attacking line. Is it 4-2-3-1? Maybe, but some will argue that Suarez should be considered a part of a front 2 even though he consistently comes deep in lead up play.

Personally I’d argue that it’s neither, and trying to force it into a strict denomination is pointless. What does seem clear to me is the similarity in the way the two teams lined up with a simple switch of sides for two players accounting for the difference.

Of course, the performances are miles apart but what is most obvious is that in the game Liverpool won the two attacking options were Suarez and Sturridge. Against Newcastle it was Balotelli and Sterling. Is anyone really surprised that such a change in personnel leads to such a stark difference in performance?

Does it really need any more explanation beyond that?

Stats: Squawka

Author:



81 comments:

  1. Or maybe we just over achieved last year Adam.Im beginning to think that the tactics are irrelevant as the outcome will be almost the same.Lat year we had suraez and sturridge on fire this year we dont ,this year teams have cottoned on to us, im actually surprised it never happened more last year as villa had the blueprint to beat us tactically.This year the midtable teams especially the saints have bought well and there players have bedded in right away.This year rogers is like the kid with to many toys at christmass and cant decide which ones he likes best so plays with the boxes.This year the team seems to be set up for gerrard with no real reason why,this year form doesnt seem to earn you a place you can play well and then be on the bench i can go on and on

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  2. I did not even read the full article. I posted my few cents using analyses from EPL Index and Anfield Index who have coaches and tactically minded people writing for both sites and according to all the info I posted, 4-2-3-1 was the least used formation last season.


    This season 4-2-3-1 is the most used formation and we are playing ghastly football. The team does not even have an identity.


    Rodgers is treating us like a Mickey Mouse club this season and this is after spending £120m at the start of the season. Excuses, excuses excuses.


    FSG will have the last laugh.

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  3. Yep I'll second that. Suarez is unplayable. There isn't one player in our squad who comes close when it comes to consistency of performance or output on the pitch. The premier league had no answers for Luis' game because he had so many strings to his bow. The rest of our squad are predictable and therefore easy to counter.

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  4. Would anybody agree with my theory that BR has accepted like most of us that top 4 is out of the question and obviously winning the Champions League, therefore our only hope of next years CL qualification which is even more lucrative, is to finish 3rd in the group and go on to win the Europa League. Added to that is the fact that Man City could well finish 4th in their group and not make Europa League.

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  5. With all due respect Jaimie, you yourself have made many negative comments of continuously playing a lone striker.


    Our season so far has been nothing but a failure and there is no excuse for the ghastly football being served this season after spending a record amount of cash in one transfer window.


    If anyone can convince me that results are going to improve with the delusional state that Brendan Rodgers is in at the moment then be my guest.

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  6. Very good points but the other concurrent argument I would put in is that teams last seadon seemed to be experimenting with high lines. Something we very much used to our advantage. Like many said when ladt year ended is that teams would sit deeper against us. It is happening. That and in attacking senses Sterling and Balo are no Sturridge and Suarez but in this comparison who is Sterling?

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  7. Skrtel and Johnson another two who are go to guys. FSG will do the best thing by not offering them new contracts.

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  8. If you read the whole article you will see a good argument as to why formations are less important than players. As a reader and listener to the anfield index and Tompkins times I know that to say it is just formations or just players is far too simplistic. If you have listened to the same things I have you would know That too.

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  9. Nah. I think he set up as defensively as possible against Madrid with the idea of bringing on players late who might be able to starch a result. Didn't work.

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  10. Worth a read though. It's an interesting analysis like some I've seen from you previously :-)

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  11. which ones are they ive never seen them?

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  12. the final 2 group games will reveal a lot from him. Selection and mentality. BR will know already if we are not in the Champs Lge next season I dont see how he can keep his job, FSG will look at his criminal waste of transfer funds and hang him on that.

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  13. What does my view on playing lone strikers have to do with you reading all of Adam's article? Absolutely nothing.

    I please don't misrepresent my view on the issue. I have no problem with lone strikers in general; I have a problem with Balotelli being played as a lone striker.

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  14. it seems this year the whole attacking ethos is based upon a 34 year who plays deepest in midfield and we wonder why we cant score.

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  15. But that is the problem is it not? Balotelli being played as a lone striker all season long which has seen the team struggle to score goals.

    Given the fact that we have an inept defence just does not help this article especially when Rodgers pessists with one up top when we no capable strikers at the moment of leading our attack.

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  16. I have not done any articles containing a tactical analysis so not sure what you are on about.

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  17. as soon as i read ''interesting ''i knew it couldn't be you logan

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  18. Sorry but Balotelli and lone striker should not be tried time and time again when the writing is on the wall.

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  19. Last year, there were plenty of games where Suarez or Sturridge were out due to either suspension or injury, and they played alone up top.


    The difference is that their skill sets are capable of playing that way.


    Balotelli's skill set is not good enough to play up top by himself.


    The problem this year is that our two best players are not here (Suarez sold, Sturridge injured), and Rodgers has not adjusted his tactics to suit the players here.


    Suarez and Sturridge made everyone else better. Without them making others around them better, the team has hit a rut, and the manager hasn't figured out a way to get them out of it.

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  20. I was talking about interesting analyses not necessarily ones dealing with tactics but perhaps I was thinking of someone else :-)

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  21. While I agree to just say put Borini in is no guarantee. We lose a man in midfield and instead of one striker who doesn't score much we have two. What is zero multiplied by two?

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  22. Go look at the posts I made a couple of days ago. Last season was mostly 3 or 2 up top.


    We played 1 up top probably about 6 times last season. This season we have gone 1 up top with players who are NOT CAPABLE OF LEADING THE ATTACK.


    I do not know why some people want to argue with me ;-o

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  23. When we do not have a current striker capable of leading the attack on his own?


    So do you go with one up top or 2?

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  24. There is a theory that ad we will inevitably have the need to play one up top it makes sense to try and work out how to make it work. I'ts obviously not working but I can understand it.

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  25. Yes, last season was mostly 2 or 3 up top. But please read again what I said: I referred to the times when one of the two strikers was unavailable.


    In the month of September (when Suarez was suspended), and in the month of December (when Sturridge was injured), who was the 2nd player up top?

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  26. Well there are no signs of one up top working this season unless you want to convince me otherwise.

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  27. Well thought out article Adam, however the problem didn't need so much thought and time, its quiet simple, the problem is we sold one of the best players on the planet and replaced him with a £4mil squad player (who is a good squad player but nothing more) and a 16mil last minute gamble, who isn't the type of player to really fit the system we play, Balotelli is not a bad player, he is just at the wrong club and unfortunately for us the fact he is not 10% the player Suarez is and that has effected the entire squad

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  28. Not quite sure why FSG would be laughing if the club takes a significant step backwards after they invested all the additional funds into buying more players.

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  29. I am with you...lone striker is not working this season

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  30. Compound that with losing Sturridge for most of the season already, and wham bam thank ya ma'am, we're cooked.

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  31. Like I said it's not. There needs to be more going on around Balo or Lambert if he is playing. We have to find solutions to our problems but our problems are not simplistic.

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  32. It would be insane to think that FSG are not already asking Rodgers questions of how he is going to improve the results.


    Comments like 'dangerous possession" is not goint to cut it. There is a crap ;load riding on this season. We are under FFP investigation, our CL money for the group stage has been witheld, we could not qualify for the next round, pour league form is pitiful and we have spent £120m along the way. If you think this is being seen as a positive in FSG's eyes then think again.

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  33. Yet Rodgers keeps on playing a lone striker?

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  34. for me the problems start at the back other teams realize that we are weak on all fronts defensivly that in turns lead them to press higher and with our team if we are pressed we are in trouble

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  35. I think we have gone in a circle.

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  36. We look so scared when pressed

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  37. i agree logan if anyone thinks that fsg are gonna accept this situation they are deluded

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  38. Go back and to the two posts called '@Adam Griffin part 1 & 2.


    That is all I have to say about that.

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  39. No we have not. Rodgers has kept on playing Balotelli up on his own an it has not benefited the team. This is not a secret.


    it will be the same vs Chelsea and they will oblige.

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  40. Also Johnson will play aw well

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  41. i dont think the fullbacks will affect the result, if balo plays up front on his own and gerrad sits in front of lovren and skirtal i just cant see how we will score and how we wont concede

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  42. Well then there are many deluded people who will be brought back to reality.


    FSG are business men. Not like the previous cowboys who almost brought this club to it's knees.

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  43. At least we agree that what is happening at the moment is unacceptable :-)

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  44. I would like BR to start both balo and Borini........cauz it will be hard for a single striker to break the Chelskis bus

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  45. It's certainly worth a read, if only for the courtesy of it all.


    But Adam Griffin makes insightful points, so it's double-worth a full read.

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  46. It's transitions. When teams are attacking us high up we don't get in to their box quick enough so they end up just dropping back and have two banks.

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  47. Yes after spending £120m.

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  48. You and I have gone in a circle. We are back to yours and therefore my first point.

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  49. the reason the team looks so weak is that because as a defensive unit lovren ,skirtal and gerrad is piss poor its really that simple.....

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  50. Would love to see Lucas start as DM

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  51. We will chat after the Chelsea game ;-)

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  52. it wont happen because rogers has made a monkey for his own back by playing gerrad there ....

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  53. Really getting so tired of BR tactics and team selections

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  54. You misunderstood my point... I agree with you.


    I'm just not sure why you would use the phrase "have the last laugh".


    FSG doesn't want to fire Rodgers, just like they didn't want to fire Roy, and just like they didn't want to fire Kenny. They did it because the team was not successful enough.

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  55. I would like to see Can start as our deepest midfielder. I have seen him play at U21 for Germany as a single pivot and holy damn he cleans up. he has the build, engine and vision and IMO a much better option than Lucas and Gerrard for the holding role. Gerrard unfortunately is not goint to be dropped at this point.

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  56. I don't know where to go back to or what you're referencing...


    How about you just name the 2nd player up top in either of those stretches... And the discussion will be over. Either there will be a 2nd player up top (and your point is proven), or there won't be a 2nd player up top (and my point is proven).


    Either way, we both agree that with the personnel at our disposal this season (especially when taking Sturridge's injury into account), we should not be playing 1 up top this year.

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  57. Sturridge on the bench apparently v ski

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  58. Yes maybe I could have used a different term as 'last laugh' but I reckon FSG have already had a chat to Rodgers and reminded him that they have not blown £120m to finish outside the top 4 and Rodgers in return is showing that he will not be dictated to. In that case, FSG will have the last laugh.

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  59. If Rodgers needs someone to remind him of that, then I am afraid we are really doomed.

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  60. Well if you spend £120m and do not show signs of finishing 4th after finishing 2nd the previosu season then what do you expect?

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  61. I have no doubt Balo will be up top as a one or in a three which are not too dissimilar. What we need us for Rodgers to find away for that can work as having two strikers may not be possible throughout the season.

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  62. LFC 1-0 Stoke (4-3-3) Win
    Scoreboard liverpool-vs-stoke-2013 Anfield Index

    Villa 0-1 LFC (4-2-3-1) Win
    Scoreboard aston-villa-vs-liverpool-2013 Anfield Index

    LFC 1-0 UTD (4-3-3) Win
    Scoreboard liverpool-vs-manchester-united-2013 Anfield
    Index

    Swansea 2-2 LFC (4-3-3) Draw
    Scoreboard swansea-vs-liverpool-2013 Anfield Index

    LFC 0-1 Southampton (4-2-3-1) Loss
    Scoreboard liverpool-vs-southampton-2013 Anfield Index

    Sunderland 1-3 LFC (3-4-1-2) Win
    Scoreboard sunderland-vs-liverpool-2013 Anfield Index

    LFC 3-1 Crystal palace (3-4-1-2) Win
    Scoreboard liverpool-vs-crystal-palace-2013 Anfield Index

    Newcastle 2-2 LFC (3-4-1-2) Draw
    Scoreboard newcastle-united-vs-liverpool-2013 Anfield
    Index


    LFC 4-1 WBA (3-4-1-2) Win
    Scoreboard liverpool-vs-west-brom-2013 Anfield Index

    Arsenal 2-0 LFC (3-5-2) Loss
    5929 arsenal-2-0-liverpool-detailed-review Anfield Index

    LFC 4-0 Fulham (4-4-2) Win
    Scoreboard liverpool-4-fulham-0-match-2013 Anfield Index


    EVE 3-3 LFC (4-2-3-1) Draw
    6483 everton-3-liverpool-3-match-review-stats Anfield
    Index

    Hull 3-1 LFC (4-2-3-1) Loss
    45434 hull-city-3-liverpool-1-postmatch-tactical-analysis
    EPL Index

    LFC 4-1 West Ham (4-3-3) Win
    45908 liverpool-41-west-ham-postmatch-stats-tactical-analysis
    EPL Index


    Spurs 0-5 LFC (4-3-3) Win
    46299 tottenham-hotspur-05-liverpool-postmatch-tactical-analysis
    EPL Index

    LFC 3-1 Cardiff (4-3-3) Win
    46767 liverpool-3-cardiff-city-1-postmatch-stats-tactical-analysis
    EPL Index

    City 2-1 LFC (4-3-3) Loss
    47090 manchester-city-2-liverpool-1-postmatch-tactical-analysis
    EPL Index

    Chelsea 2-1 LFC (4-3-3) Loss
    47201 chelsea-2-liverpool-1-postmatch-tactical-analysis EPL
    Index

    LFC 2-0 Hull (4-2-3-1) Win
    47355 liverpool-2-0-hull-city-post-match-stats-tactical-analysis
    EPL Index

    Stoke 3-5 LFC (4-3-3) Win
    47822 stoke-city-35-liverpool-postmatch-tactical-analysis
    EPL Index

    LFC 2-2 Villa (4-4-2) Draw
    48193 liverpool-22-aston-villa-post-match-stats-tactical-analysis
    EPL Index

    LFC 4-0 Everton (4-3-3) Win
    48717/liverpool-4-everton-0-post-match-tactical-analysis
    EPL Index

    WBA 1-1 LFC (4-3-3) Draw
    48994 west-bromwich-albion-11-liverpool-postmatch-tactical-analysis
    EPL Index

    LFC 5-1 Arsenal (4-3-3) Win
    49344 liverpool-51-arsenal-post-match-stats-tactical-analysis
    EPL Index

    LFC 4-3 Swansea (4-3-3) Win
    50115 liverpool-4-swansea-3-post-match-stats-tactical-analysis
    EPL Index

    Southampton 0-3 LFC (4-1-2-1-2) Win
    50405 southampton-0-liverpool-3-post-match-tactical-analysis
    EPL Index

    UTD 0-3 LFC (4-1-2-1-2) Win
    51105 manchester-united-0-liverpool-3-match-stats-tactical-analysis
    EPL Index

    Cardiff 3-6 LFC (4-1-2-1-2) Win
    51474 cardiff-city-36-liverpool-postmatch-stats-tactical-analysis
    EPL index

    LFC 2-1 Sunderland (4-1-2-1-2) Win
    8081 liverpool-2-1-sunderland-in-depth-tactical-analysis
    Anfield Index

    West Ham 1-2 LFC (4-3-3) Win
    52215 west-ham-united-12-liverpool-postmatch-tactical-analysis
    EPL Index


    LFC 3-2 Man City (4-1-2-1-2) Win
    52464 liverpool-32-manchester-city-postmatch-tactical-analysis
    EPL Index

    Norwich 2-3 LFC (4-1-2-2-1) Win
    52780 norwich-city-2-3-liverpool-postmatch-stats-tactical-analysis
    EPL Index

    LFC 0-2 Chelsea (4-3-3) Loss
    53086 Liverpool-0-chelsea-2-postmatch-stats-tactical-analysis
    EPL Index

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  63. In a tree? Can you point out the match where we started Balotelli in a three.

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  64. It's really not that simple. It is that but also our transition from defence to the forwards is taking to long and then the forwards are not getting in the box enough and are not creating enough dangerous opportunities.

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  65. According to Rodgers he is still far away from returning.


    yet another excuse for us to continue to play this sh!te football.

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  66. That's part of the point about getting players around Balo. We have looked more like a five one instead of three three. Hull Madrid at home being two examples. I don't think we are setting up differently just not performing it well enough. Are transitions are slow and don't holdvthe ball up well either so when we are defending it is closer to a five obe as that is how it should be but not so what you want in attack. To me it looks like Rodgers has several problems to solve and is yet to find the answers.sometimes scrapping it is best sometimes persevering is.having more time between games last season helped that.

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  67. There are no real excuses for this, this is down to Rodgers you cannot spend that kind of money and be as bad as we are, we played very well last season and be it luck or his ability he has to be applauded for that, but he is a nightmare with money, other then Markovic and Moreno I cannot honestly say I thought to much about any player we signed, I rated Lovren but I think I was duped there as he has looked terrible at times, and I wonder at times if Rodgers ever thinks he should ring Agger and ask him to come back :)
    Rodgers needs to sit down and ask himself 1 question and that is "would ANY of my £20mil plus signings this summer get into Chelsea or Man city's sides" the answer is no its very unlikely

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  68. I agree with you.

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  69. I totally agree. Liverpool have gambled on Balotelli and it just hasn't paid off. He's not yet showed any promise that he can be capable of filling the role required of him. If he doesn't show massive improvement in the next couple of months we need to move on and buy someone else in January.

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  70. I actually think Sterling is being used in the Suarez role, just on the other side of the pitch. There were a couple of moment around the start of the season where I wondered if this might work, but the reality is that Sterling still has much to learn.

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  71. I think having the best player in the world (and in his own way Suarez was that, even exceeding Messi and Ronaldo in many aspects of the game) covers up quite a lot of potential defects in the way the team played. Perhaps Rodgers took the success as an indicator that the tactics themselves were responsible when in fact Suarez himself could probably account for most of our success. Take out Suarez and replace him with anyone and it seems to fall apart. I wonder if sticking to the same attacking principals without having the same players is simply doomed to fail. Maybe without Suarez and Sturridge it just doesn't work.


    However I think for now Rodgers will stick with it and while some will call it being stubborn or arrogant I think he needs to show some resolve and believe in what he thinks will work. Fans are terribly impatient and think the sky is falling but the manager has to be the calm adult, see the big picture and make the hard decisions. It might just be that with a bit more tweaking and some renewed confidence that the same systems will suddenly start working and we'll put results on the board. Or it could continue to fail miserably. Some of us think we have the answer and it's just obvious but of course if managing a football team was that easy then everyone would be doing it. Rodgers is in charge and I have to say I do still trust him to eventually get it right. I don't think that's blind faith, it's based on just how brilliantly the team played last season and how much I enjoyed that. Perusing that kind of football is worth a little pain if it ultimately comes back to us.


    The Gerrard thing needs it's own article. I really don't know what's going on there.

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  72. I think it's worth taking a look at how Liverpool perform with a fit Sturridge playing in that lone striker role. You're missing a big part of what I saw in the analysis above - Suarez didn't play a traditional striker role, he's a false nine. Even with Suarez and Sturridge on the pitch it's not strictly 2 up front. Sterling is being asked to play that false 9 role this season. So when Sturridge comes back I fully expect Mario to hit the bench OR be converted into that role himself. The end result will be the same: Liverpool will play only one genuine centre forward.

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  73. Me either, you still come across as a brick wall.


    Stop acting like 4-2-3-1 is some sort of inherently cursed formation. The best team in the league plays it. Rodgers has signed and picked players who are so far, totally ineffectual.


    If we go back to basics i.e learn to defend and string some passes together, press collectively, we might pick some results up. Despite the result, the Madrid performance was a start with no Gerrard and Lovren messing up.

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  74. Yes but who is playing the Sterling role if anyone? In that Balo-Sturridge, Sterling-Suarez,? -Sterling. By the end of last season we had three great attackers but now we have one in an out of form Sterling Tring to fill Suarez's boots and someone else not yet filling Sterling's.

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  75. Actually Lallana and Markovic are the guys to fill that role. Lallana is more of the complete package while Markovic is a very expensive project that is yet to really show his quality. I suspect some people are also underwhelmed by Lallana but everything I've seen from him has been good. Both those new players are left sided attackers who can also play centrally. So we have plenty of options for a front three:


    Balotelli - Sturridge - Sterling


    Lallana - Sturridge - Sterling


    Lallana - Balotelli - Sterling


    Markovic - Balotelli - Sturridge


    etc etc. Obviously the loss of Suarez is big and it's why I never fully agreed with JK that the club would be just fine without him. You just can't replace a player like that. Plus with Balotelli struggling for form and a clear way to exercise his talents we're really a less effective unit than last season. We have options up front but unless Mario hits top form many of the combinations are pretty ineffective.

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  76. the problem is..to play 2 strikers up top one of lallana/sterling/coutinho hav to be dropped..that s risky,,cuz they r ur important players..and dropping them will attract attention regardless

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  77. To credit BR I think he tried to sign players who when rotated wouldn't necessarily be missed. I dont think it was possible to replace Suarez like for like. BR it seems didn't want a team overly dependent, in terms of creativity, on one man the way for example Barcelona are with Messi, Man Utd were with Ronaldo and how Argentina used to be with Maradona. These players are so special and integral that a team can look completely lost without them.

    Rafa said in 2009

    "On the pitch we must perform at the same level, but you need to
    bring in new players and maintain the same level and keep the
    competition between the players"

    In the summer I believe we set out to do what Rafa intended.... sign generic players who possess very good physical attributes and enough techincal attributes to be good but not ballon d'or good.

    When players such as Messi are out when the team is playing well momentum can pull them through, but when there is no momentum we have proved it can be extremely difficult. When Ronaldo left for Madrid Man Utd were linked with every forward under the sun but signed Valencia in the hope they could return to a genuine team structure in which everyone pulled their weight and chipped in. The difference with Man Utd is Rooney instantly stepped up to fill the void whereas no one in our squad has accepted the challenge or been given the chance to.

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  78. Teams are using our tactics against us AND are doing it better

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  79. The problem with BR as you say in the article appears to be his stubbornness-playing Mario as a lone striker, insisting Stevie as a CDM, he just does not have the skill and positional knowledge of a CDM. I knwo not many people will agree but I thought BR should either
    (1) give the Assaidi guy a chance on that right AM and pull Hendo there, much forward with less water carrying for Stevie or
    (2) play Sterling there and let Markovic/Lallana fight it out there, AND
    play Coutinho through the middle, alternating him with Stevie there

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  80. Excellent points. And backs up what I've thought/said pretty much all along. You lose your two best strikers, you're going to score less and struggle.

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  81. I agree with everything you've said except for your conclusion. It isn't surprising when you consider we spent Suarez's 75 million all over the park except for up front, where we miss him the most. It isn't surprising when you consider we bought Balotelli. What is surprising though is that we wasted those 75 million. Or actually, it's not that surprising at all and that's the hardest part.

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