9 Sept 2016

Anfield Update: 'Brilliant' €35m Liverpool star reveals massive change. Waste of talent?

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson is generally perceived to be a box-to-box midfielder, but after operating as (ostensibly) a defensive-midfielder this season, Hendo has now revealed that Klopp is instructing him to curtail his attacking instincts.

Speaking to the Liverpool Echo this week, Hendo confirmed a positional-change to 'deep-lying midfielder', which, in Klopp's system, is basically a euphemism for 'defensive-midfielder:

“Being the No 6 is more disciplined. When the team is going forward I am thinking more about protection and how I can help rather than running forward and getting in the box all the time".

In theory, Liverpool can benefit from a Xabi Alonso-style 'deep-lying midfielder', but only if the player in question is partnered with a dedicated DM. Take Alonso, for example: he almost always had the likes of Hamann, Sissoko, and Mascherano alongside him, which freed him from the burden of being the first line of protection in front of the defence. Henderson doesn't have that luxury, which means he is basically forced to be a defensive-midfielder.

An Alonso/Gerrard partnership in midfield rarely worked because - like Wijnaldum and Hendo - neither was a dedicated DM, and playing those two together often left Liverpool's midfield exposed and overrun. The best example of this is, of course, the 2005 Champions League final:

* Liverpool were 3-0 down at half-time after starting with...Alonso and Gerrard in midfield. Neither had the discipline to protect the back four, and Milan consequently ripped the Reds apart.

* Benitez fixed the problem by introducing Hamann (a dedicated DM) into the game to play alongside Alonso, which then allowed Gerrard to play as an advanced attacking midfielder. The rest is history.

The Henderson/Wijnaldum midfield partnership is a (or should be) a non-starter as neither can operate in Klopp's system without sacrificing their best qualities (i.e. attacking instincts). Hendo and Wijnaldum are at their best when they're free to attack in the final third, but, unfortunately, under Klopp, their attacking instincts are being neutered.

I personally find it concerning that 11 years after the first-half horror show at the Ataturk, Klopp is making the same obvious mistake as Benitez, but unlike Liverpool's ex-Boss, he has no desire to fix it.

That said, if Klopp's plan is to utilise Emre Can as a DM, with Hendo as the playmaker, then it may work out, but if Wijnaldum also plays in midfield (as part of a 433), then Liverpool have a major selection problem up-front, with Lallana, Mane, Coutinho, Firmino, and Sturridge fighting for the three advanced attacking places.

In my view, the solution is as follows:

--------------- Can (DM)
-------- Hendo (B2B Playmaker)
Mane ------- Coutinho ---- Wijnaldum
------------ Sturridge

* Lallana competing with Coutinho for the number-10 role (with Coutinho and Wijnaldum interchangeable).

* Firmino competing with Sturridge for the central striker role (his most effective position for LFC)

^ Jan 2016: Described by Klopp as 'brilliant'. €35m-rated (CIES Football Observatory)


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