In his column for the Liverpool Echo, John Aldridge stated he wasn’t surprised that Raul Meireles left for £12million because he didn’t fit into Kenny Dalglish’s 4-4-2 system:
“Meireles left just before the deadline and I wasn’t surprised. I always thought one midfielder would move on and he was the most likely. Meireles, like Joe Cole, Dani Pacheco and Alberto Aquilani, can’t really play in the 4-4-2 structure that Kenny likes. He was used out wide but everyone can see he’s no winger. Meireles needs a role in a three-man central midfield – that’s the way Chelsea play.”
So far this season, it must be said that Aldridge is correct in stating that Kenny prefers to use the 4-4-2 system. In the majority of matches so far, Dalglish has opted for a four man midfield with Downing wide left and Henderson tucked in on the right hand side. Meireles during Dalglish’s reign has played wide right and wide left on a number of occasions, and as Aldo mentions he is not always comfortable in these positions.
I feel however it is too simplistic to explain the departures of Meireles, Pacheco, Aquilani and Cole solely because they didn’t fit into Kenny’s system. After all, in his time in charge, Dalglish has demonstrated his flexibility in changing the system. As well as playing 4-4-2, he has played many variations of 4-3-3 such as 4-2-3-1 as well as 4-5-1. He has even on occasion used 3-5-2 to great effect and may even opt for such a system against Stoke this weekend.
Moreover, Meireles did play in attacking central midfield in a fair few matches last season under Dalglish, rather than out wide, suggesting he could fit into King Kenny’s plans. For the other three, Alberto Aquilani’s departure from the club seems to have been more to do with family reasons than anything else as it was implied after he was loaned back to Italy.