Liverpool put in arguably their best performance of the season so far against West Brom on Saturday. The game ended 4-1 in favour of the Reds with much of the teams success lying in the way the central midfield performed. Gerrard, Lucas and Henderson each had their best games in the red shirt this season.
Brendan Rodgers opted to go with Gerrard, Lucas and Henderson as the heart of the central midfield against West Brom and it worked like a charm. Victor Moses is the player who had to make way.
Speaking in the Liverpool Echo, Rodgers explains the success behind deploying these three midfielders:
“It’s something that I have always wanted to do. When you play that system (with three at the back and two strikers), that is how you have to do it.
“Lucas was out last week, and Joe Allen wasn’t fit enough to play that controller role, so we had to go with what we had.
“When you play two controllers and one in front of them, you don’t cover the pitch, you don’t fan out well enough, so when the ball gets switched, you’re open.
“If you look at the games we’ve played, we’ve had quite a few shots against us. But when you flip the triangle and play with the one controller, it pushes the other two midfielders up the pitch more, so they can press it better. Then when the ball does get switched, they’re in position to press again.
“It’s something I’ve always known, and always wanted to do, but I can only deal with the players I have available.“We’re getting better. We’ve got wins this year without playing fluently, but Saturday was probably as good as we have been.”
It is interesting to note what Rodgers has to say. It seems like for the first time we deployed this 1-2 midfield formation we actually played well. Why we have not used it more often is only something Rodgers can answer. There is no doubt that it worked very well against West Brom but the true test will most likely come on Saturday against Arsenal when we are up against a side with a very good midfield.
With Coutinho also set to return to the Liverpool side following his shoulder injury, Rodgers will have a selection headache as to whom he replaces between Gerrard, Lucas and Henderson. It seems like Lucas and Joe Allen are the two options for the ‘controller role’ as Rodgers calls it and Coutinho is not suited for that role at all. I can not see Gerrard being dropped by Rodgers any time soon so Henderson will most likely be the player to make way for Coutinho.
But for matches such as those against Arsenal on Saturday where the opposition has a strong midfield, it may be advisable to go in with a player like Henderson who will run, press, tackle and pass non stop for 90 minutes.