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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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    I’m noticing a trend. In games where teams decide to put us under pressure, try to disrupt our midfield and our build-up from the back - Southampton, Everton up to a point, and today’s game - Thiago looks worse than in games where teams drop off and let us play (Arsenal, Wolves, Porto). Does it mean Thiago is a fair-weather player? I don't think so – what it shows is that Thiago performs a specific function in our system, he is the player who invites pressure upon himself, trusting his ability to wriggle out or pass his way out of it, which either pulls opposing players out of position or shows them that pressing is futile and forces them to drop off. All of this leads to this feeling of control we all noticed as soon as Thiago and Fabinho were both fit to start games together – no more sew-saw games like Brentford and Brighton, it's generally been one-way traffic.

    So the games where Thiago looks worse are actually a testament to him continuing to perform his tactical function, even when the other team is specifically set up to disrupt him. A midfielder with less confidence in his ability would "adjust" and change the way he is playing and thus our build-up play would suffer and the front 3 would starve or be forced to chase long balls; when Thiago is put under pressure he still does what he does to progress the ball through the midfield, just with somewhat diminished effectiveness (which we notice as fans), but still clearly effective enough for us to win all these games. I think in time more and more opponents will decide to drop off and not challenge our midfield and then we will have other problems to solve against "parking the bus". But for now, after our start of the season the opponents in the league have largely decided that they can gain something by taking the game to us – and Thiago and Fabinho have come in at a perfect time to "close the door" on that idea.
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2021
    Tinto, momoWASboss, Frogfish and 6 others like this.
  2. RedStar

    RedStar Well-Known Member

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    I think it's noticeable that the low block which frustrated us alot last season seems alot less effective this season with Thiago on the pitch. The ability to switch play and find a team mate in space for a split second to receive a pass in a dangerous area is key to breaking the low block, if your build up play is slow and ponderous as ours was for lo g stretches last season it's easy for a team to arrange their defenders in set formation.This resulted in us hitting alot of useless hopeful crosses last year which were very unproductive. Thiago and to a lesser extent VvD are able to quickly change to point of attack with one pass which makes it much more difficult to play in that rigid block.

    That said he was not, like a few of our players, at his best yesterday, and throughout his career he's been the kind of player that needs to be rested to keep performing at optimum level. Wouldn't be surprised if Keita gets the nod against Newcastle.
     
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  3. rurikbird

    rurikbird Part of the Furniture Honorary Member

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    An article analyzing our change of shape this season – good point about the build up, now with Thiago we usually build through the middle, which allows Trent and Robbo to push even further forward, whereas before the pass to the full-back used to be our primary way to build from the back.

    =========================
    Liverpool 3.0: How Reds have changed shape – and Thiago is key
    Thiago was bemusingly criticised by some media in his early beginnings at Liverpool but it is his presence that is offering the Reds a transformational luxury, Sam McGuire writes.
    It wasn’t that long ago that the signing of Thiago was being described as an unnecessary luxury. COVID and a long-term injury limited him to just three appearances prior to the turn of the year. His return coincided with Joel Matip, Liverpool’s last remaining senior centre-back, being sidelined with an injury. The midfield maestro was front and centre during that torrid run of form throughout January and February.

    Pundits got fed up talking about the injuries and decided to focus on low-hanging fruit. Thiago was then accused of taking too many touches, playing too many risky passes and just generally looking too sluggish for Premier League football. He is now making a mockery of those opinions and the world is seeing exactly why the Reds wanted to add him to their ranks.
    It’s not really 4-3-3 anymore…

    [​IMG]
    In his seven starts this season (all competitions), Liverpool have racked up 21 goals while conceding just one. On paper, Jurgen Klopp is still going into matches with a 4-3-3 shape. However, the German tactician has tweaked the way his side build and sustain attacks.
    Previously, the Reds had a consistent approach to playing out from the back. Fabinho would drop, the centre-backs would split and the full-backs would push on. Since the last international break, the shape has been completely different:
    [​IMG]
    Both Fabinho and Thiago retreat, as shown in the screenshot above, while the right-sided centre-midfielder pushes on.
    Instead of progressing up the pitch in the wide areas, Liverpool are doing it from central zones.
    The average position map (below), courtesy of Twenty3, shows more of a 4-2-2-2 shape in the emphatic win over Everton:
    [​IMG]
    Klopp has been flirting with this idea on-and-off since his arrival – there’s even a feature from 2017 covering this idea. Following the signing of Fabinho in 2018, both Klopp and Lijnders made reference to him needing to get used to playing as a single pivot in the Liverpool system. After the 4-0 win over Red Star Belgrade, the former BVB boss joked about the system change: “The present for his birthday was not that he was in the starting line-up, it was that we played his favourite system with a double six.”

    People remember Lijnders calling the ex-Monaco destroyer a “lighthouse,” but during the same interview with ESPN, Liverpool’s assistant coach spoke candidly about the No. 3’s adaption to life in the Premier League:
    For the first time since he joined in 2015, Klopp has two players who have experience playing in a double pivot and it is why we’re likely going to see more of this two-man midfield in possession for the remainder of the season. The balance is there and, perhaps more importantly, the movements between the two are natural. They hunt together and cover for one another. The space they are tasked with dominating is smaller and it is one of the reasons the Reds have been as rampant as they have recently. They have two centre-midfielders and two centre-backs patrolling the middle third and then the other six players are able to impact things in the final third.
    [​IMG]
    You can see it during the Everton game (above). There is a solid base and then the rest occupy the spaces around them. In this particular situation, Henderson and Diogo Jota are occupying the centre-forward roles. Jota, another September 2020 arrival, is also benefitting from this new shape.

    Knock-on effect
    [​IMG]
    During Jota’s time with Wolves, he would often play in a two-man attack alongside Raul Jimenez. At Liverpool, he’s been tasked with leading the line as a sole No .9. But this subtle tweak to the right-sided centre-midfielders role has seen him have something of a strike partner. The Portuguese speedster is able to drop deep knowing the centre-backs are occupied. He is also able to play on the shoulder of the last man, safe in the knowledge that the free midfielder is filling the space more commonly tied to a No. 10.

    The third midfielder is now playing the Roberto Firmino role – offering himself on either flank to allow play to progress. The big difference is that the Reds have a link player and a penalty-box poacher. It is no longer a choice of either/or. They’re in such a luxurious position, ironically, because of the signing of Thiago.
     
  4. tombrown

    tombrown Part of the Furniture Member

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    That's Thiago's dad? Looks like he got a shit seat right at the back of the top tier of the main stand - I was there earlier this season, narrowly escaped a heart attack on the climb up there (obviously the vaccines hadn't properly kicked in at that point or I would be a dead man now), and while you have a panoramic view of the pitch it is like 12.7 miles away,

    You'd have thought players family would get top seats & hospitality

    Edit: actually maybe its middle tier, if so, ignore above
     
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