It has been an excellent couple of months for Liverpool FC, with a progressive summer in the transfer market backed up by three consecutive wins at the start of the new campaign. Brendan Rodgers’ possession football ethos is starting to sink into the players’ psyche and the squad is now looking strong enough for the Merseysiders to challenge for a top four berth and Champions League qualification.
However, with the personnel at Rodgers’ disposal, a change in formation could well be on the cards. The former Swansea boss is an advocate of the 4-2-3-1 system, but there are a number of reasons that a switch to 3-5-2 would benefit the club.
Firstly, following the addition of three new central defenders this summer, competition at centre-half is fierce at Anfield. Dependable duo Daniel Agger and Martin Škrtel have been players that the Reds have depended on increasingly over recent campaigns, while Kolo Toure looked sharp in the two Premier League games he played for the club before getting injured.
Additional central defenders Mamadou Sakho and Tiago Ilori have been brought to the club on transfer deadline day, and although the latter is one for the future, the France international looks sure to play. As such, playing three centre-backs would allow Rodgers to field three of four excellent defensive options, and further stabilise an already miserly rearguard.
In José Enrique and Glen Johnson Liverpool have two of the best attacking full-backs in the division in their team, who virtually play as wing-backs as it is. Having three at the back will allow the wide pair to play as wing-backs and push forward knowing that there is an extra defensive player behind them to cover if there is a turnover of possession.
Johnson is currently injured and is expected to be on the sidelines for a while, but when he returns having him continue to push forward will be an extra attacking asset for the club.
Rodgers has been vocal in his opinion that playmaker Philippe Coutinho is a more effective option playing through the middle rather than on the wing. In the current 4-2-3-1 system one of Coutinho, Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suárez will get the short straw and start on the flank to allow all three to play – a switch to 3-5-2 would fix this.
With the likes of Steven Gerrard and Lucas Leiva in the boiler room, Coutinho could still play centrally in a more progressed position and would have the licence to utilise the space between the side’s midfield and attack. The Brazilian has looked isolated when he plays on the wing, and having him through the middle will unshackle his exemplary range of passing.
A strike partnership of the in-form Sturridge and the tempestuous but immensely talented Suárez would be as good as any in the league.
In a tighter away game, or to defend a lead, one of the forward-most attacking trident could be sacrificed to allow Jordan Henderson or another central midfielder to be installed to solidify the core of the team.
Adopting a new formation always takes time for the players to pick up the finer details and given the strong start to the new season Rodgers may well be reluctant to change things up. However, with the personnel at the Northern Irish manager’s disposal , 3-5-2 answers a number of questions.
How do Liverpool get Suárez, Coutinho and Sturridge all playing, and all in central areas? How do Liverpool make maximum usage of two expansive attacking full-backs? How do Liverpool keep four strong central defenders happy?