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We have all been there, whether it has been on FIFA, football manager or any other football game, where we think we are the next Jurgen Klopp. Tactics are very simple yet so complex at the same time, hence why there are only a select few elite managers in today’s game.
I am not a football manager, in any sense of the word but I have watched enough football and especially Liverpool, to give my own opinion on how Liverpool use both the 4231 and 433 formation.
Since Klopp arrived at Liverpool and implemented his geggenpressing style of play, it has typically been used in the 433 formation. He has favoured this formation for many reasons, but importantly, he loves aggressive attacking football.
In this formation, the front three of Mane, Firmino and Salah can play high and wide, which allows them to attack higher up the pitch, and can allow the wingers to press the opposing full backs. Additionally, this allows the midfield three to rise up the pitch, hoping to pick up anything that gets past that high attacking line. Ultimately, this allows Liverpool to regain possession no deeper than the middle of the pitch, but mainly in the final third. With Trent and Robbo also playing high up the pitch, it essentially creates a trap that neutralises any potential outlet and forces the opponents to clear their lines. Its very tough to make your way out of this situation. Even when Liverpool are dispossessed, they can squeeze and press to win the ball back very quickly, preventing any counter attacks, which is known as geggenpressing. It is much more complex than that, but ill leave Jurgen to explain that…
Although this formation has given Liverpool plenty of success in recent years, there are potential downfalls of this formation. Ill start with suitability in terms of opposing teams. This strategy works wonders against most teams, and can defnitely harm the big teams, but not always. Better passing teams, such as Manchester City on occassions can pass their way out of the high pressing 433 formation and leave the 2 centre backs exposed, despite how good they are.
Furthermore, this formation requires elite levels of fitnesss from every single player, and is very demanding. It requires discipline, as the team press as unit, so if one player is not up to it on the day, its a problem. Also, in terms of sustainability and durability, this is not ideal when playing 50 game a season in all competitions. All players suffer from wear and tear, but we dont want to enhance it. Liverpool have been very unlucky with injuries recently, and muscle injuries have very often been blamed on this style of play.
Klopp know very well that we can’t play with this formation all the time, and needs a backup to when things aren’t going to plan. Sometimes you need to be able to show stability and have a strong defensive presence, hence why Klopp is now introducing the 4231.
As mentioned above, the 4231 formation provides plenty of stability and a defensive presence, with 2 designated CDMs. In order to retain squad fitness, and provide a more disciplined structure as an alternative, Klopp hass very recently started using the 4231 more frequently, especially since the signing of Diogo Jota.
When coming up against more well structured sides, such as Chelsea and Man City, Liverpool can’t be expected to go full out attack every single time, as that not how football works. Sometime’s its good to frustrate the opponent by being solid defensively, playing more possession based football rather than high pressing and quick build up attacks. With the 4231, and the two defensive midfielders sitting in front of the back 4, that can become very difficult to open up and break though. When the tempo of the game is slower, it enhances positioning and provides a solid structure.
In terms of attacking, Liverpool’s starting 11 can differ ever so slightly, by adding a more attacking minded player like Firmino into the CAM position, and Jota can come in to be added to the front line. In comparison, the 433 requires 3 established midfielders. Although there is more of a gap between the defensive midfielders and the attackers, this allows them to for two separate units with clear roles. We now have Firmino in a position to orchestrate the attack, which he does very well in the 433 formation, but now he has 1 extra attacking option at his disposal. Personally, I think this formation is better at allow the more conventional counter attack. We consereve energy, frustrate the opponent, and then BANG, we have 4 attackers running at the opponents.
This formation requires the team to be very patient, yet focused to remain clinical. The amount of chances tend to be much less than what Liverpool generate in the 433 formation, so when a chance arises, it must be taken.
The best of both
It would be unfair to say which formation brings the best out of Liverpool, as each formation has its pros and cons, and are suitable for different situations. However, I enjoy watching the 433 geggenpressing style of play for pure joy and excitement. Although I appreciate that this is not sustainable for the long season, and that different teams require different approaches.
Overall, it is nice to know that we have two formations that definitely work for Liverpool, and bring two completely different styles of play. In Klopp we trust, and whatever he decides, we go along with!
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