For the last three or four years, Jürgen Klopp has settled on the one formation: a 4-3-3. Every opposition knows which way Liverpool will set up, but just because they know how Klopp will set his side out, doesn’t mean they are any easier to stop.
Liverpool have simply blown teams away over the last few seasons, and knowing what’s coming hasn’t prepared them any better for how to stop the Reds when in full flow.
The creativity comes from everywhere, and this makes Liverpool unpredictable. The more unpredictable a team is, the better they are and the more difficult they are to stop.
However, with the recent arrivals of Luis Díaz and Darwin Núñez, the days of the tried and tested 4-3-3 could very well be over.
With the players Klopp now has at his disposal, perhaps a switch to a 4-2-3-1 may serve Liverpool better than the current 4-3-3. The signing of Núñez, who isn’t as fluid or as adaptable as Sadio Mané, points to a system change in the new season. And the unpredictability that seemed built into the 4-3-3 perhaps faltered in the Champions League final, where Carlo Ancelotti seemed to have Liverpool’s number.
Like with every system change, there would be winners and losers in switching to a 4-2-3-1, so who would they be?
We’ll start with the losers first. The biggest loser would likely be one of the midfield trio, which would shrink to become a double pivot. Last season we saw, when fit, Fabinho alongside Thiago Alcântara and Jordan Henderson.
In any new system, the likely loser would be Henderson, as he doesn’t offer what Thiago does in terms of dictating the rhythm of a game and isn’t as good at keeping possession as the silky Spaniard. However, with the amount of games Liverpool play in any given season, there would be plenty of games for both Thiago and Henderson to alternate, depending on the opponent.
Yet in the new system, Henderson wouldn’t be first choice.
So who would be the winners in the formation shift?
Likely Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota. With the abundance of quality attackers Liverpool now have, four potential attacking spaces instead of three equals good news for the likes of Firmino and Jota, both of whom had reduced roles in the back end of last season as Díaz expoloded and Mané was shifted inside.
But with Mané gone, not to mention Divock Origi and Takumi Minamino also leaving, Jota and Firmino could gain more playing time in one of the attacking midfield options. That’s especially true of the smiley Brazilian, who has always been a mix of a number nine and a number 10 or a nine-and-a-half, as Michel Platini once famously said of Roberto Baggio at Juventus.
Mohamed Salah would occupy the right attacking berth, with Díaz on the other flank. Núñez would take centre stage through the middle, leaving either Firmino or Jota to play in behind.
The beauty of changing systems is that once Liverpool’s players become fine-tuned to it, Klopp could always switch things up and revert back to the original 4-3-3 system, making Liverpool even more unpredictable, and that’s only a good thing.
This is all just mere conjecture for now, but a system switch should be in Liverpool thoughts this summer. Quite apart from better accommodating Núñez, it would help out Firmino and Jota — the only question is where it would leave captain Henderson.