How will Kenny Dalglish setup his Liverpool?

By on January 12, 2011 - 62 views

Our resident Liverpool correspondent – Editor of – gives his thoughts on what system Kenny Dalglish could use…

The most notable difference between the match against Manchester United on Sunday and Roy Hodgson’s last match against Blackburn Rovers a week before was the change in formation. After starting off the season with a familiar 4-5-1 formation, utilised by his predecessor, Roy Hodgson reverted to type by going back to 4-4-2 against Manchester City away and never really changed back to having just one up front. Definitely, this was in part to accommodate Steven Gerrard in central midfield rather than in behind the striker, and partly due to Roy’s own preference for the formation.

The facts were however, that Liverpool didn’t have the players to make the change of formation a success. Against Manchester City, Roy opted to play forwards out in the wide areas, because he had a lack of wingers in the squad. The belief at the time was that the change of formation of 4-4-2 was because of the absence of Javier Mascherano from the team, but it became apparent in later months that Roy was more than happy to play the formation despite the lack of natural width in the squad. To this end Raul Meireles found himself out of position wide right, to accommodate the inclusion of Gerrard alongside Lucas in the middle, and Maxi Rodriguez managed to dislodge a poor Joe Cole on the left hand side.

Roy invariably played 4-4-2 both away and at home, partnering Fernando Torres more often than not with David Ngog. On the face of it, this should be more attacking than Rafa Benitez’s 4-2-3-1/4-5-1/4-3-3 formation but it plainly became apparent that the players were just not suited to playing the formation. Despite playing the formation both at home against Wolves and away at Blackburn Rovers, the Reds looked inept going forward and equally fragile at the back, with Roy’s reputation for strict organisation in tatters.

The first thing both Kenny and his coaching staff did was to change back to 4-5-1 against Manchester United on Sunday. It is unclear how well it worked due to Gerrard’s sending off with only half an hour of the match played, but what became clear as the match went on was that the players were more comfortable in possession and there were more out balls for the team to play. It will be interesting to see whether Kenny persists with the formation when he fully takes charge against Blackpool tomorrow night, and with Steven Gerrard sidelined through suspension, an intriguing question will be answered as to whether he will keep with 4-5-1.

The obvious solution would be to put David Ngog back in the side and revert to 4-4-2, but there are other options that Kenny could look at. Putting in somebody like Jonjo Shelvey in would be a bold move, or he could give a hopefully fit again Joe Cole the opportunity to play in his favoured position just behind Fernando Torres and give the former Chelsea star some much needed belief. Whatever happens, the tactical decisions for the Blackpool game could be an interesting indicator of the months to come, and with Kenny at the helm, my bet is that any tactical change will be a positive one.


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