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Midfield kaleidoscope – finally coming together?

Discussion in 'The Football Forum' started by rurikbird, Nov 23, 2021.

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  1. rurikbird

    rurikbird Part of the Furniture Honorary Member

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    Anyone following us this season knows that midfield has been the one factor of uncertainty in an otherwise very settled and well-functioning team. I have counted 13 different starting midfield combinations in 18 games so far this season; it took until game day 9 for any midfield combination to be repeated twice. It's extraordinary (and a testament to how well the other parts of the team are functioning) that this kind of instability at the base of every team's construction, which is the midfield, only minimally affected the results.

    Midfield combinations this season:
    Milner-Ox-Keita
    Hendo-Keita-Elliott
    Fabs-Hendo-Elliott
    Fabs-Thiago-Elliott
    Fabs-Keita-Hendo
    Fabs-Thiago-Hendo
    Jones-Ox-Keita
    Fabs-Hendo-Jones 3
    Hendo-Milner-Keita 2
    Hendo-Keita-Jones
    Morton-Ox-Jones
    Fabs-Hendo-Ox 2
    Fabs-Thiago-Ox


    Now that almost every possible combination has been tried and tested and the injured players are hopefully on the way back, things are starting to clear up. The Arsenal game, particularly the 2nd half, was a reminder how frighteningly potent this team can be when it can field an actual functioning midfield in addition to the superb front 3 and back 5. We have achieved some key results with other midfield combinations – notably 5:0 over United and away win at Atletico with Hendo, Keita and Milner, but the amount of control in and out of possession we have when Fabinho and Thiago start together at the base is unmatched. Their only downside is the lack of speed and that's why the 3rd midfielder has to be a high-energy type and we have lots of varied candidates for that – Hendo and Ox for now and soon Keita, Jones and Elliott will be added to the pool. Lots has been made about us being more susceptible to the counter and open defensively compared to the team of 2 years ago – by limiting Aubameyang, Saka and co. to something like 5 touches in our box in the whole game this combination proved they have the answer.

    We really need the midfield to settle and stabilize by January when we will have to do with an experimental attacking line for a month and will need to win games by control rather than Salah and co. scoring 3 goals in every game like they have been doing. I believe at full strength we are still just a bit better than any other team in the Premiership, but we have a very narrow path to navigate this season in order to have a chance down the stretch.
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2021
  2. rurikbird

    rurikbird Part of the Furniture Honorary Member

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    One more thing I want to mention regarding the midfield balance. Ox looked good against Arsenal in part because he was paired with 2 players who are so intelligent about reading the game, so his somewhat chaotic energy was counterweighted by the control of Thiago and Fabinho and his diligence on the defensive end and ability to cover a lot of ground in turn helped to mask their shortcomings. This is an example of a well-balanced midfield 3.

    For big games I would still want Hendo to be the 3rd midfielder alongside Fabs and Thiago, but each one of Keita, Jones, Elliott and Ox would add something different and useful.
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2021
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  3. dmishra

    dmishra Very Well-Known Member

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    Fab and Thiago were great at the end of last season as well, and a major part of why we went on a winning streak and secured that top 4 finish. No doubt that Fab, Thiago and Henderson would be my first-choice midfield with Keita and Elliott as 4th and 5th choice mids.

    I don't trust Ox or Jones enough to be a part of the regular rotation because they work well only in certain combinations. There's hope for Jones yet, but I see no reason we should trust Ox. I'd happily sell him in the summer given he has only 1 year left on his deal. Definitely not giving him a new deal.

    The trouble with this situation is that if Fab, Thiago, Henderson, Keita and Elliott are your first 5, two of them are very injury prone, one is a kid and Henderson is now in his 30s. Definitely need a signing who breaks into that first 5 rotation and nails down a regular role.
     
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  4. Hansern

    Hansern SCM Addict Member

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    Fabinho, Thiago, Bellingham
     
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  5. JohnnyRocket

    JohnnyRocket Very Active Member

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    Fabinho, Thiago and Elliott would be sexual.

    Away in a big game I'd fit Henderson in there though.
     
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  6. Dreambeliever

    Dreambeliever From Doubter to Believer Member

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    Fabinho Thiago Henderson

    We desperately need Thiago to stay fit.
     
  7. StevieM

    StevieM SCM's resident Beer Nazi, Wine Snob & Comic Geek Honorary Member

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    Wait.... Are we not playing Trent and Matip in midfield any more????
     
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  8. Andyclegs

    Andyclegs Noob Member

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    I think that having a fit Fabs is key. You can fit anyone around him. Personally I'd like to see Elliott and Thiago in there.
     
  9. Andyclegs

    Andyclegs Noob Member

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    That would be un-balancing the side. The whole Klopp ethos is to supply the wing-backs so they can get the ball into the front 3 asap. If the midfield chips in with a goal along the way it is a bonus.
     
  10. LeTallecWiz

    LeTallecWiz Administrator Administrator

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    Welcome to the site mate!
     
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  11. StevieM

    StevieM SCM's resident Beer Nazi, Wine Snob & Comic Geek Honorary Member

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    Humprhf!!!!

    Next you'll be telling me Barca doesn't owe us any money for the Coutinho transfer!!!
     
  12. momoWASboss

    momoWASboss If you take me seriously then you’re an idiot Member

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    And we’re nailed on to win the AFCON. A dead rubber.
     
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  13. StevieM

    StevieM SCM's resident Beer Nazi, Wine Snob & Comic Geek Honorary Member

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    And Mbappe is nailed on too
     
  14. Brizzle

    Brizzle Very Well-Known Member

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    Agreed, i'd love to see Fabs, Thiago & Elliot for home games.
     
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  15. RedStar

    RedStar Well-Known Member

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    Fabinho Thiago Keita is the combination I find most interesting, they are all great at pressing and launching quick counters. Of course the 3 of them being fit at the same time is going to have the frequency and longevity of a solar eclipse
     
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  16. rurikbird

    rurikbird Part of the Furniture Honorary Member

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    Only the second start of the season for Fabinho-Thiago-Henderson midfield, which most fans consider to be our first choice when everyone is fit. What did you think? I think they can be much, much better, but today they didn’t have to be to brush aside Southampton. A goal for Thiago and a couple of goal involvements for an otherwise rusty Hendo. Fabinho was probably the pick of the three today, fabulous breaking up of the play and a few nice moves too to remind us he’s Brazilian after all.

    An interesting stat and a quote here:


    When Fabs and Thiago play together, our formation is a curious amalgamation of 4-3-3 and essentially 4-2-4. This pairing at the base of the midfield gives our 3rd midfielder freedom to play as the 4th attacker, which helps Salah and the other forwards by giving them someone who will constantly make decoy runs beyond them and help with pressing and winning the ball back right away. You need 2 midfielders with extreme tactical and positional intelligence to cover gaps that appear whenever the pressing fails and patrol the central area of the pitch together and that’s exactly what Thiago and Fabs give us - despite our seeming abundance of varied CMs none of the other options can quite match them.
     
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2021
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  17. bluebell

    bluebell Well-Known Member

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    Ox has impressed me, I hope I don't regret posting this comment
     
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  18. Frogfish

    Frogfish Gone to Redcafe Member

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    Have to agree. I notice some people here still slamming him (me on occasion) but he is starting to restore some faith and I don't squirm when I see his name on the team sheet (or when coming on) any more.
     
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  19. Frogfish

    Frogfish Gone to Redcafe Member

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    I agree with all of that ... except the reference to 4-2-3-1. None of Firmino, Jota, Minamino or Origi play as the 1 in that formation. All are slightly deeper (much deeper with Bobby & Jota at times) except of course when we are dominating / breaking into the final third, so we are playing a pretty much unique formation (2 wide on either side with late arrivals from our central attacker and midfield) which may be the reason other teams can't adapt to us and why we are scoring so many.

    The 3rd attacker and our midfield are frequently giving the opposition the screaming abdabs by forcing them to come searching for them, disrupting their back line and DM. If they don't then have virtually conceded two thirds of the pitch to us, if they do we are bypassing them.
     
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2021
  20. rurikbird

    rurikbird Part of the Furniture Honorary Member

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    Agreed, that's why I said it's a combination of 4-3-3 and some sort of 4-2-4, rather than a 4-2-3-1 as it says in the article. Not only we don't have a "1" up front, we also don't have anything resembling the classic wingers of 4-2-3-1 – Salah and Mane play much further forward and inside and their roles are quite different.  Even with a double-pivot it’s never a 4-2-3-1.

    It's interesting that all 3 leading teams in the EPL now play without an orthodox striker – even Chelsea do that now after Lukaku and Werner got injured and, as I half-jokingly predicted, their absence actually improved Chelsea’s attack by a lot. All the attacking is happening in the half-spaces and channels now; no one wants to engage directly with the CBs. Maybe in a couple of years we'll be talking about a classic #9 the same way as we now think of a classic #10 – largely obsolete.
     
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2021
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