Date: 1st August 2011 at 11:00pm
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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.


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!


21 responses to “How Dalglish Could Benefit From Rafa’s Old System”

  1. Felderkirk says:

    I fucking love Luis Suarez. Without him, it would be hard work watching Liverpool next season.

  2. Roald Borg says:

    Agree 100%, what about having Suarez, Downing (or Gerrard when fit) and Aquilani in the centre behind Caroll…Those 3 behind the striker can definetaly create goals and also score them. To rotate there would be Mereilles, Kuyt, Henderson, Maxi and SHelvey…with Lucas and Adam in the deeper role roatated by Spearing…

  3. 80 says:

    I don’t think the way forward is to be this predictable and have just one formation.

    Dalglish wants to have options and one of those is 4-2-3-1 which will work well. He also can go 3-5-2, 4-4-2 and 4-3-3 which will make it harder for people to play to counter our team.

    We have players who can keep it on the ground, play long, wide, or thread balls through. We have a big target man and a guy who can run at defences and scare them to death.

  4. jeff says:

    Sack kk for us to move forward. In all your permutation you forgot that there is one passenger by name Henderson, who cost LFC 20m; a figure that could easily bring-in a LB/CB: Enrique/Dann or Cissoko/Sahko or even Perrera/Godin. Yet he is working very hard to sell the few gifted players (Aqua, Meireles) we have

  5. Felderkirk says:

    You say it’d take a brave man to rule Liverpool out of a top 4 finish. I’m feeling brave. I agree with your formation but I don’t think Adam is anywhere near as good as Alonso was/is. I also wouldn’t want Stevie to be in that ‘Alonso role’ because he doesn’t gave the discipline to sit there playing it. If he gets fully fit again, I’d have a front 3 of Suarez & Stevie in behind Carroll, Dirk drops to the bench in favour of Johnson or a proper right winger, Downing on the left in front of this famous left-back we seem intent on not buying. I like the idea of Aqua as cover for Stevie in an advanced role. Adam looks like he’ll have to be played sadly but I don’t think he’ll be a big success – it’s just a vibe I have though so forgive me if you disagree. Lucas marshalling defense will be needed too so it’s genuinely hard to see where we’ll find space for these players.

    Because of all this indecision, and backed up by the lack of a proper framework in pre-season, I’d have to suggest that we’ll only make the top 4 if Arsenal or Spurs let us – not because we’ll have done anything outstanding ourselves. Thank Christ we’re not in Europe this season too, as that would have made us lose focus.

  6. Darren says:

    Jeff why talk utter nonsense! You clearly know f all about football !!

  7. The Rock says:

    there are only 3 teams that play a genuine 4-2-3-1. Barcelona, Ajax and Arsenal. Rafa may have played 4-2-3-1 at Valencia but with us he played a very ridgid 4-4-1-1. Fans who think we played 4-2-3-1 are media monkeys. Under Kenny or tactics have changed but our formation is exactly the same.

  8. Kennys Big Brother says:

    LoL @ The Rock (Smoker)
    Rafa didnt play a 4231 ?
    Yea ok Rock , Keep on Smoking buddy .

  9. Kennys Big Brother says:

    As for Kenny using a 4 2 3 1 ?
    It would hardly be new seeing as both him & Hodgson used it on more than one occassion last season .
    What Kenny will do , this is my guess , he will use the best formation to suit the players he has available at any given moment throughout the season .
    Its how he got us away from the relegation zone almost instantly when he took over & snapped the players out of the doldrums by getting them drilled training a different formation almost every week .
    Along with the 4231 , he used a 352 4411 & a very hard to identify what looked like a 6 man midfield in at least 2 games & he used a standard 4 4 2 .
    We will just have to read em as he deals em I suppose .
    Personally I like the 4 2 3 1 but I also think a 4 4 2 is an excellent & I’d like to see it used most often
    Johnson – Carra – Agger Or Skrtel – Baines Or Bale Or Enrique

    Arjen Robben – Stevie G – Charlie Adam – Stewart Downing

    Suarez – Carroll

    My mouth is watering at that line up

  10. morris says:

    As much as it hurts me to say, realistically, i expect this team to finish bewteen 5th and 7th…Priorities ( mainly LB, CB, Holding player) which were suppose to be addressed, weren’t.

    It would have been wise to even spend 25M plus on leighton Baines, then 16+ on Henderson. If you live in a house with a leaking roof, your better off patching or replacing the roof, than to go out and say,purchase a beautiful mahogany furniture which you think would increase in value in the future… sooner or later, that roof will cave in. And as for that furniture of yours, it would be covered in termites…

  11. Gary says:

    People forget to realize that Aquilani was for a Rafa system. Thats why Liverpool are not working hard enough to keep him. Think about it. The very successful midfield of Masherano and Alonso can be duplicated. Lucas and Aquilani. Alonso was finesse, Masherano was a workhorse. Aquilani and Lucas can provide this productive contrast to the liverpool midfield. A 4-2-3-1 can very well happen this year. Aquilani and Lucas, with downing and adam/meireles and suarez with carrol up front. Give Suarez the free role. He has quality wherever he is on the pitch. As for Kuyt and Maxi they add solid depth. Not only that but for other games Kuyt and Suarez can pair up. Personally i feel that Liverpool can play even better without Carrol. Carrol adds more of a tactical advantage, but is not versatile enough to be consistent in every game.

  12. Gary says:

    As for Henderson. His strength is attacking midfield. But i feel Meireles and Aquilani can outplay him in that position at the moment. I feel how people can say he is a waste of money but I think hes one for the future. Give him some time, he still needs to adjust to Liverpool and get accustomed to the big boys.

  13. Badd says:

    The problem is our target man namely Carroll is too sluggish. Kuyt should be the altenate striker should no improvement in Carroll or get someone else to replace him.

  14. fisseha mamo says:

    Ihave no hope with this defense! to talk our formation,we should have to sign world class left and center backs guys! have you seen or heard the goals LFC conceeded in 5 pre-season matches? so J.W.Henry hasn’t completed the job but as to my mind they are nearly!and Ihope they will completed and see LFC at its prestiges stage!YNWA!!!!!!

  15. glen says:

    wts wrong wid u all, in kenny i trust, he”ll get us atleast one silverware this yr. n all u morons losing faith in him will hail him.

  16. benny says:

    Exactly glen. I find it ridiculous these punters with no professional football experience at all trying to tell kenny what to do?

    Jeff you are a piece of shit.

    Adopting Rafa’s brand of football and tactics? No thanks. I’ve supported Liverpool for 30 years and his team was frustrating to watch and boring.

  17. Blackwog says:

    I cannot believe that you people would think that Carroll in a lone role upfront like Benitiz did with Torres would work, seriously again please don not put that tall slow overpriced man in the same sentence as Torres. I to was angry when he left, for f@#*sake I gave my son Torres for his middle name but lets give the man credit he was(still is) a great striker. I wish we had him and Surez, we would be lethal.

  18. Blackwog says:

    Hey Ben and Glen you talk about the guys who question KK as pieces of shit and those with no professional football experience have no right, hey yes we did not win the league but lets not forget what we did win with Rafa, so who the f#^&k are you to criticise Rafa’s system or are you a professional footballer which makes it ok. People are allowed their opinion even if you two don’t like it and do you think KK is actual reading this and taking advice from it. I have played professional football but I still think that KK would shit all over me in this department and the other, but I still dislike some of the overpriced footballers he and co have brought in (Suarez and Adam excluded ) A lot of you guys (not all) have Carroll on as a starter and Kuyt on the Bench, what ever happened to prove yourself first, earn the right. is everyone forgetting his work rate the goals he has scored, we are putting to much faith in a guy who I think will never be world class, but thats just my opinion.

  19. bole says:

    hey Benny and Glen,u say that Rafas team was borring to watch when we were winning something and when top 4 finish was normal,and now we are craying 2 be there,I personaly think that we will not be in top 4 for some time), and now is interesting when in every game we concending 3 goal,and we cant win under average teams. I love KK he is a legend for our club, but man from the past,do u think Torres would left of Benitez was there?sure not,u can say whatever u want but Rafael Benitez made this club in title contenders,when he came we was just an avrage team and made a REAL revolution and not this British flops revolution. COME BACK RAFA!!!

  20. Amy Oi says:

    i like formations 4-2-3-1..

  21. Darren says:

    torres will never be as good for chelsea as he was for us! Defenders hate playing against carroll and after last years performances I’d take carroll over torres anyday! And I never thought I’d ever say something like that but the future is brighter for carroll than it can be said for torres!