I saw something posted on the Guardian’s minute by minute report of the game today that I thought really brought to the forefront just what is happening with LFC tactically right now:
@honigstein on Twitter: “Very interested to see Liverpool play with three at the back. last team I saw doing that were Bayern under Klinsmann. quickly abandoned. Lahm said “three at the back always ends up at five at the back”
The Bayern captain Phillip Lahm (right/left back) may very well be right that more often than not this system ends up being more defensive than intended, that really hasn’t been the case so far with Liverpool. Glen Johnson’s love of bombing forward paired on the opposite flank with the youthful audacity of Martin Kelly generally leaves us with 4 across the back. It allows us to remain solid while still allowing for the width necessary to stretch the opposing defenses enough to find our chances to win the match. I nearly thought our opportunity had gone after Maxi’s shocker of a miss, but I’m happy for the lad that he won’t have to wear the goat’s horns today.
As I have mentioned previously, this shape also allows us to really press the opposition on the flanks and funnel their possession into the middle towards our fairly packed midfield. Even when it does manage to spill down the touchline, the extra central defender assures that we will not be caught out by a run beating one defender. There is always that extra layer or safety net, and it allows us to be more aggressive when we press the ball. Instead of sitting and absorbing the pressure entirely as we did under Hodgson when we took the lead, we proactively pushed Chelsea into the moves we were most comfortable handling.
All that said, our short pass and move game were tested as they hadn’t been yet under Dalglish by Chelsea today. It resulted in us never really getting on the front foot in this match and underlined what has been a problem of ours for a long time (one that Suarez and Carroll will go some way to rectifying) and that is a general lack of technical ability in our attacking players. I thought many of our touches were poor, especially from Gerrard and Reina. Pepe isn’t generally an offender so he’s forgiven, but the one player I really don’t see flourishing just yet is our captain though his cross did lead to our goal some what unintentionally today.
He seems a bit out of sorts, and not really bothered to get himself into some of the positions our other attacking players have been fashioning for themselves. I’m not sure if he’s not entirely fit, or if there is something else going on with him personally but I’m confident we’ll see better from him sooner rather than later and that is something to look forward considering the already sizable progress being made performance wise.
This is an area also that we may not be able to fully judge until the summer when Kenny and the owners put more of their own players into positions they find them to be suited for as opposed to simply working with what they found when they arrived as they are now. With our defensive efforts of late, our offensive shortcomings will hopefully be masked as much as possible but I’m very anxious to see just what we can do come the beginning of next season.
As for the players we do have, Lucas had another really solid game in the middle of the park. I do wish he’d find a bit more confidence in picking out a pass when he finds himself in some space. He holds us up at times when it isn’t necessary, but he’s improving and has a plus work rate. Carragher was a rock in defense, blocking Torres’s only real attempt (which seemed to be heading through Pepe’s legs) and generally bossing the Chelsea strikers about. Meireles scored his fourth in five games on a lovely little jumping half volley on his left foot that rocketed past Terry and Cech and put together another all around impressive performance. Kuyt worked hard up front as usual, working the Chelsea back line just enough for a mistake to pop up here and there which cost them in the end.
Another win, another clean sheet, 6th place, 6 points off 4th and the CL places. It’s too early to say anything other than we need to beat Wigan next Saturday, but just the idea that there is some hope to that is something I wasn’t sure I would see at any point this season. Hats off to the players, the manager, and the supporters who made their way to the Brtidge.