Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

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All of the above

July 20, 2023 — Did Liverpool play in a 4-3-3, 4-2-4, 3-2-2-3 box, 3-4-3 diamond, or all of the above in their friendly against Karlsruher?

The answer is all of the above. Many telephone numbers were used.

Figure 1.1 - Liverpool 4-3-3 with narrow forwards.

Liverpool started simply and then worked into more complex structures, in a similar way to Tottenham yesterday.

Figure 2.1 - 3-2-2-3 box midfield with Conor Bradley inverted from right-back.

Trent Alexander-Arnold played in the role Fabinho played last season, with academy player Conor Bradley inverting from right-back.

Figure 2.2 - Box shifts narrow to the right.

They formed a box midfield with Dominik Szoboszlai and Bobby Clark.

Bobby Clark didn’t have a great half. His positional awareness wasn’t at a high enough level, and he would often drift far out of position at the wrong times.

Figure 3.1 - Trent Alexander-Arnold shifts to the right, but Bobby Clark doesn't recognize the movement, leaving an occupied space behind.

This is one of the times Clark needed to drift back as Liverpool formed a diamond in the midfield. Bradley pushed higher than Alexander-Arnold, and Szoboszlai played furthest forward in the right half-space.

Without Clark’s movement back, Liverpool was forced to hold up play or play through their right side. You’d preferably want the option to play through either side.

Figure 3.2 - Bobby Clark moves back, and Liverpool forms a 3-4-3 diamond.

They eventually recognized this, and the spacing between their staggered midfield improved.

Figure 4.1 - Dominik Szoboszlai sits in-line with Darwin Nunez higher up inside the right half-space.

As they progress the ball forward, the forwards get into the mix. Now Szoboszlai is playing off of Darwin Nunez almost as a second striker, with the freedom to drift wide.

Figure 4.2 - The diamond shifts to the right with the ball.

Liverpool loves overloading one side of the pitch, so naturally, they shifted the entire midfield over at times.

Figure 4.3 - 3-3-5 shape forms as Liverpool collect themselves.

Liverpool constantly moves, but if they were to settle, it ends up looking something like this. They’re always moving, though. Tons of rotations.

Figure 5.1 - Dominik Szoboszlai moves wide as Mohamed Salah inverts.
Figure 5.2 - Liverpool continues to rotate — Dominik Szoboszlai moves back infield as Conor Bradley moves forward. Luis Diaz drops as Bobby Clark moves forward.

Jürgen Klopp on the performance of the match but more the specific part about the first half:

“Yeah, the workout was good, obviously, and you could see it was intense for the boys. I liked in the first half the start, a few other things, but then we became a bit stiff, didn’t play as well as we could. The start of the second half when we respect the formation, when we are calmer… I said to the boys already in the second half after 20 minutes, ‘I think you played double the passes from the last line into the half spaces than the complete first half. Whereas we were waiting, give the ball to Trent, let’s see what he can do - and that makes no sense.”

I’d blame a lot of that stiffness on the lack of structure. There was a lot of waiting for players to get back into position once they rotated out of position, and there were no repeatable patterns.

Each possession was different, but it was a bit chaotic.

Figure 6.1 - More uniform box midfield from Liverpool in the second half. Alexis Mac Allister at right center-midfield.

In the second half, they were much more organized. I’m not going to focus on this half as much because the majority were academy players, but those specific academy players and Konstantinos Tsimikas understood the assignment.

Unsurprisingly, Alexis Mac Allister was the standout. The tempo setter. Super composed. Had a bigger impact than Szoboszlai, but I have a feeling that Szoboszlai will shine more when he’s surrounded by the full first team. He needs people to create space for him.

The advanced right center midfield role between the lines that Szoboszlai and Mac Allister played is threatening. I think it fits Mac Allister better, so that means I’d prefer Szoboszlai on the left, but both can play on both sides of the midfield.

Figure 6.2 - Another view of the box midfield.

The box midfield they attempted to form in the first half was much more organized in the second half, which allowed them to quickly connect a series of passes. The spacing between players was more uniform and predictable.

This is a post to lay a basic foundation, and we’ll build upon this as we learn more when the first team players all play together. I don’t think it’ll deviate too much from what we saw, but it should be more organized.

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