When Rafael Benitez deployed the often misunderstood system of 4-2-3-1, it raised many eyebrows. People interpreted the system as too defensive and hence, criticised it immediately.
However, as was later proved in the season of 08/09, it wasn’t defensive at all. A 4-2-3-1 system when used with players of certain abilities can be a very solid yet attack minded system.
Rafa played the system with two holding players namely Javier Mascherano and Xabi Alonso. The former being restricted to providing the defense with ample amount of cover from the midfield and the latter being assigned the duty to spread balls across the field and to start most plays. It worked brilliantly with Torres spearheading the team and Steven Gerrard playing just off the striker. They were accompanied by Benayoun, Riera, Babel and Kuyt on the wings with all of them managing 40+ appearances as Rafa kept rotating them. A solid back four of Carragher, Skrtel, Arbeloa, and Aurelio with Reina between the sticks completing the system.
The system worked wonders. Gerrard relished the opportunity to play an attacking role and finished top scorer with 24 goals (all comp.). Torres and Kuyt bagged 17 and 15 respectively. That season we finished as runners up to United, just four points adrift.
Rafa tried that system in the following years but success eluded him. Reason being, the key to the sytem was gone – one Xabi Alonso.
A midfield two of Lucas and Mascherano were too defensive minded and the system broke down.
However, I think Dalglish has now assembled a squad which can replicate, if not better, the successful days of 08/09.
HOW THE SYSTEM WILL WORK.
To Dalglish’s advantage, he has many players who will not find it difficult to adjust to this new system, if deployed. Gerrard, Carragher, Skrtel, Lucas and Kuyt have all played in it before. Another thing that Rafa lacked was width, players with a good delivery and a replacement for Xabi alonso. But thanks to FSG, we now have all of the above in our armoury.
In Andy Carroll we have a great target man to spearhead the team in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Stewart Downing and Dirk Kuyt providing the width Rafa oh-so-craved. Luis Suarez can be lethal in the role behind Carroll where Steven Gerrard played that year – who will then slot in the deeper role alongside lucas as I believe he has lost the legs a bit and would be more suited to a Alonso-esque role. That leaves Charlie Adam being a replacement for Gerrard in a deeper role Rafa so desired. The system could also be tweaked a bit by playing Adam behind the striker and dropping Kuyt to the bench, playing Suarez out wide where he dazzled so gracefully against Fulham, United etc.
A solid back four of Skrtel, Carragher, Johnson and a new left-back would do the trick.
The fluidity of the system and players ability to interchange, along with the strength in depth we will have this year, it would take a brave man to rule Liverpool out of a top four finish.
Raul Meireles, Charlie Adam, Jordan Henderson and Alberto Aquilani can all fit in perfectly should we need to rotate. We will have further cover in Maxi, Spearing, Shelvey.
With this much firepower in the starting eleven and remarkable strength in depth aided with a solid yet easily convertible system of 4-2-3-1, liverpool FC can really mount a charge for top honours this coming year!