Liverpool’s summer signings suggest another change in formation

Despite the fact that Liverpool have lost Raheem Sterling to Manchester City this summer and have said a tearful goodbye to club legend Steven Gerrard, the general feeling around Anfield currently must be one of positivity.

The Merseyside club have identified transfer targets early in the off-season and moved quickly to secure their services, with a number of key areas being bolstered by Brendan Rodgers.

Nathaniel Clyne’s addition plugs the problem right-back slot, while James Milner’s capture on a free transfer offers industry and an endless work-rate in the centre of midfield.

However, the area that the Reds have been gaining most of the headlines has been in their new-look attack.

Christian Benteke, Danny Ings and Roberto Firmino have all been acquired at considerable expense, while Divock Origi arrives at the club after spending last term with former club Lille on loan.

After Sterling’s departure Liverpool’s attack was always going to take on a new look but it appears that Rodgers is eager to avoid a scenario from last season that could well be the difference between success and failure.

The fact that no Reds player got into double figures in the Premier League scoring chart was a telling factor in the club’s final league position in 2014-15, while Steven Gerrard ending up as the team’s top scorer from midfield tells its own story.

With no Luis Suarez to call upon any more and Daniel Sturridge facing debilitating injuries that resulted in him only starting seven Premier League games, the Merseyside outfit lacked potency in the final third.

Potentially as a reaction to unconvincing options at centre forward, Rodgers switched his formation mid-season to a bespoke 3-4-3 formation, with one striker being supported by two attacking midfielders.

This made sense to some degree, with the Northern Irishman having plenty of attacking midfielders and central defenders at his disposal, but the shift to a striker-heavy squad ahead of next season suggests a change in formation.

The fact that Rodgers will have four strikers at his disposal (Sturridge, Benteke, Ings and Origi), without considering the versatile Firmino that can play there also or outcasts Fabio Borini, Mario Balotelli and Rickie Lambert, suggests that he will field two together.

This may mean a 3-5-2 of sorts or the resumption of a back four and the use of a 4-4-2 system or something similar.

Brendan RodgersInterestingly, in pre-season Rodgers has started every fixture with a back four and as such it looks the most likely ploy for the start of the new Premier League season.

When the former Swansea City maestro has all his attacking options available to him, it will be very interesting to see just what partnership becomes his first choice.

Assuming Firmino is utilised in his best position as an attacking midfielder or number ten, there is potential for a pairing of Benteke and Sturridge – a duo that looks like it could deliver plenty of goals.

The dynamics of this strike partnership would be interesting however, as it could well mean new responsibilities being asked of Sturridge.

Benteke is an out-and-out number nine and plays on the shoulder of the final defender; something that Sturridge has also been doing in recent years for Liverpool.

Suarez was the link man previously, while Sterling also had the ability to join midfield and attack.

However, it could well be that Sturridge is asked to drop slightly deeper and be the support striker rather than the focal point.

Although this is a role that the England international has not operated in recently, it would not be completely alien to the former Manchester City man.

During Andre Villas-Boas’ botched period in charge of Chelsea, one of the few bright points was the Portuguese coach’s trust in Sturridge in a wide attacking position.

Given the expenditure on Benteke this summer, it seems likely that Sturridge will have to adopt a slightly deeper role to fit into the Liverpool team alongside him.

On the other hand, Rodgers could well opt for just one number nine and use Firmino as the supporting striker, allowing the likes of Philippe Coutinho, Adam Lallana and Lazar Marković to fight for the attacking midfield roles.

Although Liverpool may well have been robbed of one of their brightest stars in the form of Sterling, the club has no shortage of attacking options ahead of next season.

One of the biggest challenges facing Rodgers is deciding on a formation and line-up to get the best of the squad at his disposal, with time and patience unfortunately in short supply.

By
I am a freelance football journalist from Northern Ireland living in Broome in Western Australia. I have worked for top media outlets such as FourFourTwo, goal.com, Soccerlens, Football Fancast and Here is the City. I am a lifelong and long-suffering Tottenham fan. Follow me on Twitter at @90MinsOnline
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