25 Mar 2015

Anfield Fail: 'Amazed' legend reveals how Rodgers 'got it wrong' against United

The inquest into Liverpool's abject first-half performance against Manchester United continues, and Reds legend John Aldridge is the latest ex-Red to offer an opinion on where it all went wrong.

It's hard to admit, but Louis Van Gaal's comparatively pedestrian team dominated the first half at Anfield. Indeed, at one point, United enjoyed 66% of the possession, which just shows the extent of the Reds' disappointing malaise.

What caused the problem? In his Tuesday column for the Liverpool Echo, Aldo berated the 'frustrating' Reds for 'allowing United to dictate' and failing to show the required level of intensity. Brendan Rodgers' tactical approach also came under fire. Aldo explained:

"Tactically, [Rodgers] got it wrong. We should have had someone sitting on Michael Carrick, denying him space and dragging him out of position. Carrick can dominate games when he's allowed to, and I was amazed we made it so easy for him".

It's strange how things work out. In recent months, Liverpool appeared to have solved the recurring issue of being overrun in midfield, and the Hendo/Allen partnership appeared to be working well. However, against United, it all went wrong, and Van Gaal's team had way too much space in the centre of the pitch.

Additionally, Liverpool were undone by poor wing-back play, specifically Alberto Moreno. It's a major issue for Rodgers as the Reds just don't have the players to sustain an effective 343 formation in the long-term. There are obvious issues:

* No decent wing-backs. Moreno is not the answer (Sunday proved that once again); Manquillo offers next-to-nothing as an attacking force; Johnson is on the outs; Sterling, Markovic, and Lallana are short-term fixes, and all three are wasted in that role.

* Jordon Ibe looks good as a RWB, but that's not his natural position, either, and at some point, his effectiveness will wane, just like with Sterling. I personally don't want to see Liverpool's best attacking players spending 60% of their time defending.

* Rodgers keeps trying to shoehorn in all his favoured attacking players at the expense of the team. For example, he plays Sterling out of position at RWB to accommodate Lallana, which is (IMO) a mistake. In a 343, Sterling should play alongside Coutinho/up-front with Sturridge, or not at all.

* Additionally, Lallana should never be played in a more advanced position that Sterling. If that means the £26m attacker misses out on starts, then so be it. Who is the more effective attacking player for Liverpool this season? It's obviously Sterling (and the stats prove this), so why is Rodgers playing a less effective player alongside Coutinho?

If Blackburn, Swansea, and Man Utd can figure out how to nullify the 343, then other teams will follow suit, which means Rodgers needs to once again adapt and overcome. What are his options, though? How about a 352, which allows Liverpool to retain three at the back, and utilise Sterling in a more effective manner?

Using currently available players:

--------------------- Mignolet

-------- Can --------- Toure ----------- Sakho

Manquillo ----------- Lucas --------------- Johnson

------------- Hendo ---------- Coutinho

--------------- Sterling ---- Sturridge

* Give Moreno a rest. Johnson has played well on the left before, so give him a shot out there, and give him a license to get forward as much as possible.

* Bring Manquillo back into the team. He's been on the bench long enough, and will be fresh and raring to go. The Spaniard is good defensively, so he can stay back and cover Johnson when he goes forward.

* If not Manquillo, then Markovic, but as noted above, playing him out of position is not ideal, and probably doesn't help his confidence.

* Sterling and Sturridge both like to drop deep, so they can alternate with that approach. Plus, Sterling is good defensively, so he can drop back and help out if necessary.

* Being overrun in midfield should not be an issue with Hendo and Coutinho dropping back alongside Lucas, Johnson, and Manquillo. Ditto in defence, with Manquillo and Johnson available to help out the back three.

* Sorry, but Lallana is a passenger at Liverpool, and he does not deserve to be in the team ahead Coutinho, Sterling et al.

The 352 has worked in the past, with Suarez/Sturridge leading the line; there's no reason why it can't work again.



  1. Soooo many great points made, awesome article. I wish he'd drop the 3 at the back experiment.

    Four at the back has been the de facto formation in world football for a
    long time now, it's no easy task trying to install a 343 or 352 etc.

    is this? Positional play, from the 3 CB's and just as importantly - as Sunday showed - the WB's. Most players in todays game have been
    schooled in the four across the back, so playing anything different, takes them out of their natural comfort zone.

    causes them to have to think more, which can lead to bad decisions,
    incorrect positions and sometimes a break-down, or lag, in the play.

    deserves a ton of credit for being able to introduce a system foreign to the players and for going on a 13 match streak. However, in
    the game that mattered, when the pressure was really on, the
    deficiencies of his latest system were glaringly exposed.

    Key phrase there being: When the pressure was on. Unless you have that ground in memory of dozens and dozens of games playing together in the same way, defensive solidity is rarely attainable.

    I love
    the work BR does in developing the players, but player development, on
    the training ground, is more of a coaches role...and game time
    preparation, tactics and adjustments is where BR keeps being bested by
    the top managers.

    I want us to revert to a 433 which can become a 451 or 4141 at the drop of a hat. Lucas, Hendo, Can and Allen vye for the 3 CM berths, Couts, Sterling, Lallana and Marko for the 2 AM slots, with Sturridge as the central striker.

    Key man in that formation being Lucas to shield the back two. Can may develop in that role, but I'd rather trust Lucas, when fit.

  2. agreed great article sturridge needs help and its ready made in sterling should just behind so he can run into the space when sturr vacates with couthino feeding them both and balo and llalana from the bench had rodgers played like this we would still be only 2 pts behind mu

  3. We're not quite in park the bus desperation mode defensively, yet, but I think we definitely need to pay more mind to trying to get a few 1-0 wins coming up.

    I'd rather see us keep it tight for 70 the go for it in last 20 when opposition are a bit tired.

  4. I told a friend if we going to miss out on top it's going to be BR own doing. Everyone said best team we have and played well was the starting lineup against City! DS is not fully fit. If Couthino is going to be effective he needs space that means Sterling needs to be along him or in front. LFC vs Chelsea part deux!

  5. Exactly. Sterling did a great job up top against them at the toilet, was desperate for him to go the same way again. We know that can trouble them. Sturridge just isn't sharp/dynamic/thrusting enough for us at the moment.

  6. In my opinion, Moreno looked at his best in the Man City game in August when he was linking up with Markovic on the left side.

    The shame is that I don't think Markovic has played on that left side with him since.

    Usually not a good sign when a player looked his best about 7 months ago

  7. Ouch... you really got us there.

  8. Personally I think that may have been one of his best but he was good for a while after. He has had some dips like you would expect.

  9. Now isn't the time for Liverpool to make major system experiments.Switching to a flat back four would be a mistake.
    That hasn't work for us for over two seasons.We leak too many goals.Even in our title contending season we shipped 50.
    What other teams like Man City do is completely different.We don't have the same players.What works for one team doesn't automatically work for another.
    The only changes we should make is a formation tweak in attacking positions with extra support for Daniel Sturridge.I want us to play 3-4-1-2

  10. Like we lined up in the second half at the weekend.

    He has been a touch on and off but I think we have been getting 6s and 7s from him for a while. Sunday was a 2.

  11. I agree with Aldo. Seriously, United are actually a pretty average team, but if you don't turn up to play against them, they'll beat you. Up until around February, they had tallied no more points than what Moyes achieved the same time last season. They're only in the top 4 because of how unexpectedly abject Liverpool were before Christmas. If Liverpool were mentally switched on from the start, they would have won.

  12. What an over reaction. I like all reds am gutted we didn't turn up first half and even more gutted we lost when we couldn't afford to.

    Sudden criticism of the system and Rodgers tactics after the manure game is however ridiculous. The usual knee jerk over reaction.

    Tactics and formation have worked very well for 3 months. If however we don't press the system doesn't work. See first half Swansea and manure games for evidence.

    What miraculous change of formation and tactics should we go for. I've got an idea, let's stick with what made us the form team year to date and hope the players can execute on tactics as they should!

  13. Oh dear. Now you appear. Didn't spot you on here last season. George jog on. ..

  14. They created one chance first half when they dominated us, and so did we. We tend to be better in the second half, and would've beaten them hadn't that red occured.

  15. Great article Jaimie, great to see a different type of article also. And I agree all the best managers can chop and change systems and players to suit the needs. Why not be a team that can flourish in multiple formation variances. We have the flexible personnel and abilities. Let's make our opposition second guess themselves. Confuse and distract them from their own game while simultaneously making sure they can't guess us out.
    Lallana should never be prioritised ahead of Sterling in the team. If it's not working Lallaa is an option. Can also use him in rotation. Keep everyone fresh and everyone else second guessing. Win win

  16. Agree. United didn't masterclass us. For all of their midfield domination, how much did they create apart from the Mata goal? Nothing. There are still twists and turns to come in this top 4 race.

  17. Agree with much in the article, particularly about Sterling, our best and quickest player at turning defences isn't being given sufficient opportunity to do so. He needs to be part of the forward 2 or 3 in every game.

    But, as much as I believe in the back 3, the Arse game needs a change. Remember last season, we played 3 at the back for 4 or 5 games successfully, won 3 or 4 and drew 1...then stopped? The last game we used it in was the Arse one, away, when they beat us (relatively comfortably) 2-0. Wenger had the keys to that lock. No reason to think he won't have the solution to unpicking it again. We can't step out at Emirates with the gameplan already known and hand Wenger the advantage he expects.

    Pretty much a certainty that Arse will play 4-1-4-1 or 4-2-3-1. I'd like to see us play 4-4-2 diamond to counter. The front 3 are Sterling, Studge, Coutinho (if Studge not fit then Lallana replaces). Lucas, if 100% match fit at the base (else Allen), Hendo right, Lallana/Markovic left. Can and Sakho at CB, Johnson and Flanno (if fit, else Manquillo) at fullback. [Alternatively, we revert to last seasons 4-3-1-2, or 4-3-2-1 to keep it tighter, but Studge has a tendency to become disconnected if no one alongside.]

    Nothing to do with manyoo (- IMO we lost that principally due to Moreno skylarking, lack of pressing, Gerrard red, ball over the top to Fellaini -), I'd like us to revert to 3 at the back after Arse.

  18. We feel bad, imagine Sterling. He pretty much terrorised them at the toilet, then gets relegated to wing back duties on Sunday. I wonder if he was tempted to go up to Brendan and say, "Seriously...? Get real daddio..."??