However, apart from that, there seems to be very little continuation in other regards. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. For instance, we’ve got a completely brand new upgraded defensive backline and a swashbuckling Belgian GK, a lot of deadwood have thankfully left searching for pastures anew, and maintaining possession isn’t the only in game factor we now boss at- in fact it’s taken a bit of a backseat against certain opposition, and we are pressing a bit more, with some aspects of direct play in our game.
One thing that has definitely not been a notable continuation, has been the formation. A formation is obviously very important, it’s the underlying system to the team, the main platform for the manager to enstill the majority of his ideas, philsophy and tactics, and Brendan definitely seems to have evolved his thinking-whether that is because of injuries, or a change of mind. This is not neccesarily a bad move, but I decided to take a look at this further and delve into what his reasoning or tactical motive is behind this change, as well as touching upon which formation is best suited for our current crop of players.
4-3-3 - 2012/13
In Rodger’s first season, we played a simple yet effective, 4-3-3. This is the blueprint formation that is played throughout all of the age ranks at Barcelona CF, and Tiki Taka was what we wanted to adhere too, so we naturally followed suit. Suarez, and January buys Sturridge and Coutinho made up the front 3. The midfield was pretty much the same; Lucas as the anchor, Gerrard, and the ever improving Henderson rotating with Allen in the other remaining MF positions. The back 4 was the recently retired Jamie Carragher, with Agger, Glen Johnson, and Enrique completing the defence. Was this formation successful?
All of our forwards interchanged positions due to their versatility, but mainly Coutinho was deployed in his less effective position as the left forward in the front 3. His creativity was definitely restricted there. Another important thing to note, was this formation meant Sturridge had to make do with a spot on the wing-rather than as a centre forward.- the CF position which makes him so explosively brilliant. In terms of results, the first 6 months of last term-as well as pre season- showed that it took us quite a bit of time to get used to not only the playing style, but the formation itself. The win % using this formation of the previous campaign was 48% overall and the Reds were predicted to bringing in at least 1.13 points per game. As the season went on, the win percentage and the points statistic gradually rised, indicating that with time we were growing into this system. Promising.
3-5-2 - 2013/14
3-5-2 seems here to stay for the time being, and it’s this new formation being tried out at the Merseyside giants. The width is provided only by bombing Fullbacks rather than wingers, the attack formulated with a simple 2 player partnership, but the main focus in this sytem is the midfield. However, there are a few midfield variations to come out of it; you can either play two controllers in the middle (ala Gerrard and Lucas), with one in an advanced role (Preferably Coutinho, or Henderson). However you can then flip the midfield triangle to create more of an attacking formula, here you have only the one deep (Lucas) with 2 CM’s (Gerrard, Henderson/Coutinho) roaming behind the strikers. The latter formulation was used in the previous game vs West Brom, and you can clearly see it was a huge hit. A 4-1 of a hit.
This was a fantastic change, because with West Brom you have possibly the second best defensive pivot in the league- after Schienderlin and Wanyama at Soton- and Yacob and Mulumbu needed to be tamed with an attacking and pressing tenacity. Gerrard and Henderson were now playing in their best positions coming right at the DM’s, with Lucas laying very deep doing all the nifty work, with perhaps his best performance of the season so far. In turn, the midfield altogether was outstanding, completing 165 passes, winning 10 tackles & intercepting 5 moves. This time round, there was a clear succinct distinction of roles. Putting Lucas as the anchor and having Gerrard and Henderson a little further forward enables the best from all 3 and in turn they pressed West Brom right up the pitch. This was a great tactic to use in regards to the formation and the team we were up against, but is it well suited to all opponents in the Premier League- would it work against, say our next tricky fixture, Arsenal away?
Well, no. Not really. Unless we purposely want Lucas constantly being overun and bombarded by the creative force of Ozil and Cazorla, and Walcott and co to expose and target us out wide due to the narrow-ness of this particular formation.
I can’t really identify whether this formation has been successful so far, as we’re only a few games in- but it has been actively implemented in those games and we’ve had a great start. In terms of Midifeld, we can choose to play either an attacking or defensive triangle against compatible oppositions. Attack? Do I really have to mention anything other than SAS? Both of our fantastic forwards are playing in their natural positions, without a need of moving one or both around and having to hinder any one of their progress or performance. This is another reason why I think Rodgers has opted for this formation; he can play a conventional 2 man attack which works so unbelievably well.
The only negatives are as follows; playing a Back 3 was something new altogether and sometimes, that inexperience shows and we look shaky in that regard. However the stats show otherwise; we are unbeaten with 3 in defence- the only game we’ve lost this season v Soton, we actually played 4. I personally think Rodgers has decided to go with this formation for the short term purely because our squad depth and talent in terms of the CB’s is the highest, compared to other positions- so he is able to play 3 in-form CB’s simontaneously. So it’s really a matter of opinion, in terms of whether you like us playing this formation, and the set up of the defensive line in particular, because that’s been very controversial among the fanbase.
Another negative aspect I thought of, was that this formation leaves us quite exposed in the area between the Centre back and Full back. Because the Full backs are aiding our attacking moves, they are almost make shift wingers, and the CB’s are spread out as it is- soin turn they are leaving a big enough gap that a Sergio Aguero or a Romelu Lukaku could exploit. However, positioning of the CB’s could resolve this.
Other formations we could try out:-
I think we should rule out a 4-4-2 purely because it’s boring, and we are better than that. Plus, Brendan like a tactical and pragmatic game, and there’s only so much you can do with the most commonly used formation in world football. However, it’s probably the most used because it’s actually deemed successful, and I think with our current crop of players, and in order to accommodate all of our best players in the same XI, I would suggest playing a diamond midfield variation in a 4-4-2.
Coutinho, as the most forward, Hendo and Gerrard just behind him in centre midfield, with Lucas the deepest. This would mean that Henderson will not be dropped- because he doesn’t deserve to- when Coutinho returns from injury, and everyone is actually playing in their correct positions. This would also mean resorting back to a defence of 4. However, a diamond midfield could also be enstilled in a risky 3-4-3. So many options and so many big decisions to make for the Gaffer.
What will Rodgers do?
The simple fact is that none of us really have a single clue as to what formation Rodgers prefers long term. This says that he’s very flexible, ultimately a pragmatist, and maybe even still deciding the outcome. The situation is, that it is a lengthy process in enstilling a formation permanently and successfully at a club- it’s not going to work overnight and it would involve having to overthrow the academy too. However, Rodgers has said that he has been forced to play a 3-5-2 due to injuries and a lack of choices/upgrades in certain positions. This means that he is having to try other formations in order to fill the gap, so I personally think we will be resorting back to good ol’ 4-3-3 for the long term when we have the players for it! (I think we’re a combative DM and an intelligent LB away from a brilliant fluid starting XI) Whatever the choice, I’m sure it will benefit us, and it’ll be fun to guess along the way!