Liverpool FC: How Can the 4-2-3-1 Be Employed by Brendan Rodgers for the Reds?
Recently, I discussed how Brendan Rodgers could get the present Liverpool side and its limited talent to work efficiently in a "false nines" setup—a modified version of the false nine. Another option that Rodgers could use is Rafael Benitez's 4-2-3-1.
Rafa was and still is often accused of boring football. Boring or not, the Spanish tactician's play did involve control of the ball and involved moving the ball through the field using the width through the full-backs at times.
For all you know, Brendan Rodgers might employ a similar tactic. Rodger's Swansea and Rafa's Liverpool were very similar. The only difference was that Swansea had lightning-fast wingers, and Liverpool relied more on crafty ones.
So how would the 4-2-3-1 work under Rodgers? For starters, Rodgers does not have a striker like Torres at his disposal. While most would argue that such a handicap in itself is reason enough to throw this system into the bin, I beg to differ.
The 4-2-3-1 as Rafa showed during his reign, is a system hard to beat if it is properly implemented. This is one of the main reasons that I would like Rodgers to keep it as plan B. While the Reds expect the world of their managers, having reasonable expectations will only be fair.
Rodgers has a big task on hand and making Anfield the fortress it once was is a necessity. The 4-2-3-1 can be the way out in achieving that. The Reds drew too many games at home last season and need to rectify their home form.
Before people start jumping on the bandwagon and stating that 4-2-3-1 is a defensive strategy and cannot be used to turn home draws into wins, I would like to say that it depends on the coach. The Netherlands never play defensive, but it still has used the 4-2-3-1 for yielding success. I believe that Rodgers is the perfect coach to employ the 4-2-3-1. It is just that he will need time to adjust to it.
Looking at the players Liverpool has at its disposal, it's hard to pick out one who would play up top in this system. Liverpool does not have any one like Torres right now, so what could possibly be the next best thing? In Rafa's penultimate year when Liverpool challenged for the title, Dirk Kuyt and Robbie Keane filled that role for a good part of the season in Torres' absence.
Andy Carroll is not the fastest but still may be an option. He could be used to having players maraud into the box while anticipating the second balls. Rafa did get good games from the Liverpool team when playing with Peter Crouch as the lone striker. This is not Rodgers' philosophy, but there's no harm in keeping it as plan B as earlier stated.
Craig Bellamy could also possibly fill in but not for every game. A very unique proposition could also be to let the captain play as the striker. It might sound crazy but may work very well. At 32, Steven Gerrard is not getting any younger, and he has never been tactically sound while his team does not have the ball.
Thus, I say let him forget his defensive responsibilities and concentrate on scoring goals. He's one of the best finishers in the game, and Liverpool could use that after its strikers put on an appalling show last season.
Now, I am not saying that Gerrard should play Torres' role like for like, playing on the shoulder of the last defender. That would obviously cut out a vital facet of his game. What I am saying is that I would like Gerrard to play the role of the false nine in the 4-2-3-1 system.
The front four can all make runs into the box, and the opposition defenders will have a hard time dealing with that. Moreover, Gerrard has often been troubled when opposition managers play the tactic of ordering one of their men to man-mark him. With such a system, you can forget about employing that, and even if it is used, it will spell curtains for the opposition defense.
It's easier marking a midfielder who plays in midfield but not so for one who will play as a striker but drift throughout the final third to come and play in between the lines.
I did not mention Luis Suarez for the forward role as yet because he finds it hard leading the line as Kenny Dalglish found out last season. Even though he could be utilized in the role suggested for Gerrard, I would like him to be play as the left-sided player of the attacking three.
Of course, such a scenario is just being touted as a possibility and you do not have to tear your hair out wondering why Gerrard should be played up top.
If the 4-2-3-1 is used, I think Charlie Adam will have a role to play. The central position of the attacking three can be filled in by Gerrard, Adam, Rodriguez, Shelvey and Henderson. While either Gerrard and Henderson would be my pick, Adam would love to get this role to reciprocate on lost credibility through last season's performances.
Adam's criticism was harsh in my opinion, and he may well have a future under Rodgers.
The back four pick itself while the defensive midfield would consist of Lucas and Spearing. I would never put Henderson in the defensive midfield pairing. If Spearing is seen as a liability, Rodgers should get a specialist defensive midfielder or even better—a deep-lying playmaker.
Besides this, I think Rodgers should get his hands on a swift goal-scoring striker to make any of his plans sustainable with flexibility, let alone only the 4-2-3-1.
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