Filling The Midfield Void

On the Monday afternoon, ahead of Liverpool’s trip to managerless Leicester, news broke through that midfielder Jordan Henderson would be unavailable to face the Foxes at the King Power Stadium.

It definitely came as a shock to many Liverpool supporters in dismay, and rightly so. I think Henderson has been the midfield jigsaw for us, and will definitely be a big loss in the wake of his absence.

It’s a familiar feeling for Reds fans – being deprived of our key players. 

When Sadio Mané travelled to the African Cup Of Nations in January, Liverpool’s dismal form saw them bow out of both the EFL Cup and the FA Cup; manager Jürgen Klopp was also left with the unforgiving fact that his side’s title wait would stretch for the 27th year in succession.

And, lo, Liverpool comfortably lost 3-1 away at Leicester – and they looked like a side near the relegation zone. 

The midfield was overran easily by the duo of Drinkwater and Ndidi. Emre Can deputised for the absent Henderson; yes I know how I’ve been speaking about how he could potentially revive himself, but he was easily and horribly exposed against Leicester.

The ‘Fearless Foxes’ of last season were back. The dynamic quartet of Mahrez, Albrighton, Okazaki & Vardy absolutely tormented Liverpool’s defence with simple balls over the top which caused problems coupled with their pace. 

We lacked the missing jigsaw in the midfield that could run, cover plenty of kilometres etc. I feel slightly sorry for Can though.

It just underlined the lack of depth in the middle of the park – having Kevin Stewart, Lucas Leiva and Emre Can as contingency players in a deeper role just says it all really. 

A defensive midfield player must be a priority in the summer for Jürgen Klopp if Liverpool are to mount a serious title challenge next term.

I’ve spoken about Radja Nainggolan and why he’d be the perfect fit for Liverpool – at the moment what’s lacking is a mobile central midfielder that can attack & defend. Grujic is currently out with injury, so we need a better depth for next season.

In my opinion, Klopp should change to a back three system from next season – it’ll give Can the opportunity to hopefully feature in a CB role, where he thrives in.

However, in that respect, the German turned in a terrific and composed performance in his new No.6 role against Arsenal. 

He may have found it a lot easier than he did against Leicester as Arsenal’s defenders were a lot deeper as opposed to trying to win aerial duels, but you cannot take anything away from his performance.

In spite of the win at Anfield, I don’t want to see us persist with this system or this personnel for coming games.

Why? Well, looking at our fixture list, we only play one side in the top 6 at the moment. 

That’s Man City away. Our 4-3-3 system clearly doesn’t work against sides outside the top 6 – so I’d preferably love to see us switch to a 3-5-2 where wing-backs are needed against Burnley. 

Hopefully we can see Mané take on more of a centre forward role like he did with Southampton. Our malaise still coexists in the side.

screenshot-2017-03-05-at-12-38-37

The 3-5-2 [as depicted above] would still mean we had a similar midfield bar Lallana wouldn’t be in the side – but his recent performances suggest that he deserves a starting berth in the side. 

This formation allows us to be more compact in the middle of the park, thus not allowing those sides any space in the heart of the midfield. It can create lots of angles for offensive passing too.

An ideal summer would see us lining up in this formation next season;

screenshot-2017-03-06-at-17-00-28

With Nainggolan in the side, we’d have a lot more mobility in midfield, and consequently, can defend counter attacks as well as create goals from them. 

As for Can, I think he’s better suited to maybe a deeper role at CB – he flourished there under Brendan Rodgers, and hopefully he can form a more rigid backline next season. The midfield three is to stay the same though.

Written by @SteLindellLFC

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