What the Arrival of Coutinho and Sturridge Means for Liverpool Formations
With fresh faces, there often comes fresh optimism.
This has certainly been the case for Brendan Rodgers and his Liverpool outfit in recent weeks. New signings Philippe Coutinho and, particularly, Daniel Sturridge have already made an impact at Anfield.
For a manager who places such a significant emphasis upon the tactical aspect of the game, Rodgers has surely already gone through all the new options and systems that these two new attacking options now offer him.
The Liverpool manager has already shown himself to be a reactive tactician when it comes to the system that his side play, having sent them out in a variety of systems so far this campaign. 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1, 4-4-1-1 and 5-3-2 have all been tried and tested depending on the opposition.
Despite somehow falling foul of West Bromwich Albion at Anfield, performances have certainly been better on the domestic front for the Reds. The 5-0 wins at home to Swansea and Norwich have eradicated the notion that Liverpool often lack a cutting edge when the "lesser" teams come to Anfield.
The direct threat that Sturridge offers certainly seems to have helped them in that respect.
With Luis Suarez the only viable attacking threat for long periods of the season, Rodgers now finds himself with a plethora of forward options.
The heightened flexibility that this gives the manager is very welcome and with Liverpool looking like they will have little to play for in the seasons final knockings, i’d expect Rodgers to experiment with a few different combinations.
With Steven Gerrard and Lucas Leiva beginning to flourish in the double pivot, I doubt there will be minimal rotation in that area of the pitch. But as for the forward line, here are some combinations that he might try...
Sturridge Up Top, Suarez in the Hole
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The first time we got to really run the rule over Daniel Sturridge at Liverpool was in the second half at Old Trafford.
The Reds manger switched to a 4-4-1-1 system upon the introduction of Sturridge at half-time. The English international operated up top, with Suarez busy in the hole behind him. It certainly worked well, as Liverpool almost snatched a draw from a seemingly thankless position.
It would be interesting to see this system develop, with the aforementioned two players in their respective forward roles and Coutinho and Stewart Downing providing genuine width on the flanks.
This method of play would really suit new signing Sturridge, who is starting to look like a classy front-man. His running in behind can stretch defences and help create space for Suarez to conjure his magic, whilst also providing ample opportunity for Coutinho and Downing to drift inside to effect the play.
One downside to this formation could be in games where Liverpool come up against a tight midfield three.
As the No. 10, Suarez would have to drop in if Liverpool are getting overrun in that area. The Uruguayan certainly has the work-rate to do so, but by doing so Liverpool would be not be utilising their main attacking threat.
As we have seen in recent weeks with 5-0 wins over Swansea and Norwich, at Anfield this one could certainly be a goer. This was how Rodgers set his team up in both of those encounters. Sturridge has excelled as the centre-forward.
But, is he better in this position than Suarez...
Suarez at the Spearhead
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I don't think it is any coincidence that we've seen Luis Suarez at his best for Liverpool since he has been operating at the point of the attack. This, in my opinion, is his best position.
Despite often being up against two centre-halfs. His uncanny ability to find space means he can isolate defenders almost at will. He often finds himself dragging centre-backs into the channels and taking his opposition players on in areas they are not comfortable in.
Most importantly of all, as the most advanced Liverpool player he should be on the end of the most scoring opportunities. Despite his reputation as a wasteful finisher, his goalscoring record this season has certainly put paid to that.
He has netted 23 times already this campaign. He is Liverpool's best finisher, and the more chances he creates for himself or gets on the end of, the more goals the Reds will score.
Of course, this might mean Sturridge being reluctantly pushed into wider positions. But if Liverpool want their best player in his best position, then they may have to make this sacrifice. After all, Sturridge has operated in wide areas at both Bolton and Chelsea often with a lot of success.
Liverpool want their main man at his best, so they need to keep playing him where he has been at his devastating best. Anywhere else on the pitch his threat is minimised. Suarez in a deeper or wider role will certainly have defenders breathing a sigh of relief.
Suarez, Sturridge and Coutinho in a Front 3, with Henderson Behind
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Perhaps the most fluid of the options available to the Liverpool manager is this system. It is certainly the most exciting prospect going forward.
As per the 4-4-1-1 option, Sturridge could operate through the middle in his preferred role. This would leave Suarez and Coutinho to operate, not as out-and-out wingers, but more like inside forwards. Jordan Henderson would start at the point of a tight-knit midfield triangle.
The major benefit of this system is the versatility of the forward players. Any of the three can operate in any of the advanced forward positions, whether this be left, right or centrally. The interchanging between Suarez and Sturridge has been a key feature in Liverpool’s relative recent success. Add Coutinho into the mix and that could be a frightening front-three.
Suarez would be able to operate right up in support of Sturridge, which is exactly where Reds supporters like to see him.
Henderson has also impressed at the head of the midfield triangle, and even he has shown he can interchange with Suarez out on the left-hand side. A tactic used to some fruition at the Emirates.
His position could be adapted depending on the opposition, as he has shown himself to be adept at pushing forward, as well as mucking in defensively to make a compact midfield three.
The advanced three would also compliment Rodgers' pressing style well. The overload of players in the advanced areas of the pitch would make it risky business trying to play out from the back for the opposition. Particularly with the pace at which Suarez, Sturridge and Coutinho could close down.
What would you like to see Rodgers try going forward? Let me know in the comments section!