Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

Liverpool's out of sync first phase

August 20, 2023 — Liverpool appeared unsettled against Bournemouth in the first phase due to a mix of imbalances and wayward touches. However, they improved as the game progressed.

Figure 1.1 - Top-down view of Liverpool and Bournemouth's structure. Virgil Van Dijk passes to Trent Alexander-Arnold.

Liverpool attempted to overload Bournemouth’s left-back, regardless of where the ball was.

Bournemouth countered this by overloading Trent Alexander-Arnold and Alexis Mac Allister centrally. This caused Liverpool to appear out of ideas in the build-up, as they waited for an opening instead of creating one with movement.

Figure 1.2 - Trent Alexander-Arnold's wayward touch.
Figure 1.3 - Tackled.

A single miscued touch, like this one, would allow Bournemouth to break through on goal.

Figure 2.1 - Liverpool's overload on the right-wing to isolate Andrew Robertson.
Figure 2.2 - Switch from Trent Alexander-Arnold to Andrew Robertson.

If Liverpool can swiftly move the ball to the right-wing with quick, tight passing, they’ll be able to draw Bournemouth in. Then switch to Andrew Robertson to relieve pressure and initiate an attack.

When they switched the ball they never had enough pace or urgency to advance the ball deep into Bournemouth’s defensive end.

Figure 3.1 - Dominik Szoboszlai receives the ball and turns.
Figure 3.2 - Dominik Szoboszlai's touch is too large.

They relied on the third man receiving to carry the ball out of trouble because the distance between midfielders and forwards was too large for passes on the floor.

Figure 4.1 - Triangle between Trent Alexander-Arnold, Alexis Mac Allister, and Diogo Jota.
Figure 4.2 - Alexis Mac Allister's wayward touch.

When they did pack together tighter, their touches were inconsistent. New signing Alexis Mac Allister appeared nervous and lost control of the ball on several occasions, leading to breaks in rhythm.

Figure 5.1 - Ibrahima Konaté passes to Alexis Mac Allister.
Figure 5.2 - Alexis Mac Allister receives the ball.
Figure 5.3 - Alexis Mac Allister's wayward touch on the turn.

These minor disruptions in rhythm allowed Bournemouth to better position themselves to stop Liverpool’s attacks. Andrew Robertson was often free to attack the wing.

This gave viewers the impression that the slowness and sloppiness in the build-up were team-related issues, but they can be rectified with individual players’ improvements.

Liverpool’s midfielders were initially isolated and not quick in their play due to errors. These individual errors resulted in turnovers and high-quality chances for Bournemouth.

As the game progressed, Liverpool started moving the ball more fluidly, making fewer individual mistakes.

Figure 6.1 - Dominik Szoboszlai drops to open space centrally for Ibrahima Konaté to pass, but Konaté chooses not to.

In the second half, to advance the ball from the back-line, Ibrahima Konaté and Dominik Szoboszlai executed a smart automation, creating central space for a forward to drop into and receive in space.

Figure 7.1 - Dominik Szoboszlai drops again.
Figure 7.2 - Ibrahima Konaté's pass to Luis Diaz.
Figure 7.3 - Luis Diaz receives the ball in space.

Liverpool displayed more fluid movement in the second half, thanks to plays like Szoboszlai’s, which opened up space for passes on the ground instead of forcing on direct vertical passes.

Much of this can be attributed to the team adapting to playing with Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai, with timing and muscle memory still being worked out in real-time.

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