Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

Conor Bradley's breakout match

Conor Bradley is an option at right-back which will allow Trent Alexander-Arnold to move into Liverpool’s midfield permanently. Other than Gomez, he is their best defender at full-back, and he has the required crossing ability and link-up play.

Figure 1.1 - Conor Bradley closing down the ball wide.
Figure 1.2 - Tackle, getting his body between the man and the ball.
Figure 1.3 - Turn into space, dispatching of the ball carrier.

Quickly dispatches the ball carrier, using his body to shield off the ball, and then immediately takes the positive touch forward and looking for the next pass forward.

He’s a composed defender who knows how to use the angles to his advantage and when to stick out a leg. He doesn’t get caught out. He is of slim build but knows how to position his outstretched leg to put the carrier off balance.

Figure 1.4 - One-two pass and move from Conor Bradley to Diogo Jota and back to Bradley.
Figure 1.5 - Conor Bradley carries into space ahead.

He is quick and has the close control to receive and continue this run without breaking stride. Like a midfielder coming off the wing. Doesn’t awkwardly pass the ball, he accurately passes and immediately moves, as he should.

Figure 1.6 - Conor Bradley draws a defender out and then passes to Darwin Nunez.
Figure 1.7 - Darwin Nunez shot for the goal.

And then the weight of pass, perfectly placed on Darwin Nunez’s left foot so he too doesn’t have to break stride. Passing from out wide is his main skill.

Figure 2.1 - Conor Bradley makes the curved run in behind and Joe Gomez lifts the ball into him.
Figure 2.2 - Conor Bradley fully body stretch out to get a foot on the ball and bring it down to the onrushing Cody Gakpo.

It is a difficult skill to perfectly time this run, but Bradley pulls it off. And then again, high technical quality displayed to stretch out that telescopic leg and control the ball so it’s placed directly into Cody Gakpo’s path. Too bad Gakpo shanks the shot or that would have been the second assist.

Figure 3.1 - Conor Bradley volley from a cross.
Figure 3.2 - Conor Bradley volleys the ball into the ground across goal to Ryan Gravenberch.
Figure 3.3
Figure 3.4 - Ryan Gravenberch header for the goal.

The ball is crossed over from Luis Diaz, from left to right, and Bradley volleys the ball into the ground pinpointing this pass across goal, to the millimeter, at pace, to reach Gravenberch at the only viable height, for the headed goal.

He already had a man of the match quality game but that was a massive “wow” moment to cap it off. That is a hard technique to master. And he meant it as well, it wasn’t a happy mistake.

We saw this quality in Fulham, Bournemouth, and the other Fulham match when he filled in for Trent Alexander-Arnold. Today cemented it.

The main thing that will stop him from immediately starting at right-back, other than a lack of experience, is fitness. Jurgen Klopp jokingly mentioned after the first Fulham match, “today was pretty intense for him, someone will have to drive him home because he is sitting in the dressing room and he doesn’t look great.”

This system where you are constantly pressing, the right-back is inverting, and tracking back to defend the wide area, and making runs down the wing. It’s relentless work. And Bradley has the ability to invert like Trent would.

Figure 4.1 - Liverpool's depth

But Liverpool have that option now. That option when Alexis Mac Allister or Waturo Endo are not availble to play Bradley and move Trent Alexander-Arnold infield to be the 6, be the quarterback spraying passes across the pitch and firing from the middle of the pitch at goal.

Then that gives them the option to move Mac Allister into his natural 8 role where Jones or Szoboszlai currently play. There’s too many good choices, you almost can’t go wrong, and they’ll have more players coming back from injury. Everyone can play multiple positions, at minimum three, on either side of the pitch.

As I said at the start of the season, this is a title contending team capable of winning the Premier League.

Match: Liverpool 5-2 Norwich, 28 January 2024

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