Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool side looked out of shape for much of September and October but how did he manage to turn it around?Liverpool’s September got off to a dreadful start after they lost 5-0 to Manchester City following Sadio Mané’s red card. That was a sign of things to come.
The loss to City began a terrible run for the Reds where they won just one game in September, got knocked out of the FA Cup and were humiliated by Tottenham. Eventually that awful run came to an end as they beat Huddersfield in their last match in October. The victory over Huddersfield was Liverpool’s first home Premier League win since August.
What changed though? Liverpool looked to be on a collision course but broke out of it with a comfortable 3-0 win against the Terriers. Since then they have looked much better and it may be down to a subtle tactical change by Jürgen Klopp.
What went wrong?
Liverpool went in to the international break at the end of August on a high after beating Arsenal 4-0. When they returned they faced the prospect of going away to the highly impressive Manchester City.
From that game on Liverpool looked a completely different team. They were unorganised, clueless and completely out of sorts.
Manchester City 5-0 Liverpool
Klopp’s regular formation of 4-3-3 can be seen below with Liverpool’s average positions against Manchester City.
On that day Emre Can played DM with Henderson and Wijnaldum ahead. The two full backs, Moreno and Alexander-Arnold, were exceptionally high up the pitch which left Matip and Klavan to cover a big space by themselves.
The distance between the centre backs was unusually large but it was necessary due to Liverpool’s excessively attacking approach.
That game against City began Liverpool’s terrible run and the same problems were still evident in their last game of that run – their 4-1 loss to Tottenham.
Tottenham 4-1 Liverpool
As with before, the fullbacks were exceptionally high and just the one DM (Henderson) was left to protect the fragile centre backs. Klopp had clearly learnt something from the City game though as it appears he has instructed the two centre backs to play closer together. Matip and Lovren may have taken that to the extreme though.
Once again, Liverpool played surprisingly attacking and it cost them badly once again. However, Klopp finally made a change and immediately saw results.
Klopp’s tactical change
Liverpool went in to their final match in October looking like a team bereft of confidence. Jürgen Klopp’s friend had come knocking as David Wagner’s Huddersfield came to Anfield.
At this point the pressure was starting to mount on Jürgen Klopp and he needed a Premier League win desperately. To reflect that he finally changed his long standing 4-3-3 formation in an attempt to change Liverpool’s fortunes.
Liverpool 3-0 Huddersfield
Klopp took the decision to switch to a formation he knows very well. During his time at Borussia Dortmund he predominantly used a 4-2-3-1 which brought him much success.
It’s clear to see that the new 4-2-3-1 is much more defensive and provides more protection to the centre backs.
First of all, the two full backs are now much more in line with the centre backs with good distances between them. There are also now two DM’s with Wijnaldum playing alongside Henderson rather than in front. Apart from that there is also good spacing between the players as opposed to the previous freeform formations.
West Ham 1-4 Liverpool
The change to a 4-2-3-1 meant back-to-back wins in the Premier League for the first time since August. Although some of the players changed against West Ham, the overall shape stayed the same.
As with the Huddersfield game, the back four is well spaced with the full backs providing more defensive support than earlier in the season. There are also two visible DM’s with Can and Wijnaldum. Meanwhile, Salah was given a chance as a striker and there was a rare appearance for Firmino in his natural position as a number 10.
Only time will tell whether Klopp sticks with the 4-2-3-1 but after recent performances it would be a surprise to see him switch back to 4-3-3.