Liverpool: 4 Tactical Options in a World Without Suarez
Should he leave, he will certainly command a high price, but one has to wonder if this saga will drag out too long for a suitable replacement to be found before the close of the window. In that case, Liverpool will have to work with the squad they currently possess.
That squad, however young, is still capable of throwing multiple looks at opposing defenses. Expect Brendan Rodgers to continue to experiment—and he will certainly have to without Suarez—depending on the strengths and weaknesses of the given opponent.
With that in mind, let's take a look at the different formations and tactical approaches available to the Liverpool boss as he embarks on the long road back to Premier League success.
A Creative 4-3-3
It's no secret that Brendan Rodgers is attempting to instill a possession-based, short-passing game at Anfield, and these players have been selected because their attributes mesh well with that system.
Skrtel appears with a question mark throughout this slideshow as I have some faith that he can regain his regular starting place.
If the game plan is tiki-taka, it's best to emulate the Pep Guardiola model of the three-man midfield: Lucas Leiva in the Sergio Busquets anchor role, Steven Gerrard as deep distributor, and Jordan Henderson as box-to-box shuttler. This is essentially how Liverpool played much of last season.
Up front, Raheem Sterling's tendency to cut inside makes him the proper fit at right wing, with new signing Luis Alberto out to the left and Philippe Coutinho in the false-nine role. This attack maximizes Liverpool's available passing and dribbling ability, while sacrificing pure goal-scoring prowess.
An Unorthodox 3-4-1-2
Yes, this formation is unorthodox, but it is one Liverpool have used occasionally since at least the Benitez era.
Here, the key is to keep players on the wings that do not shy away from their defensive duties. Jose Enrique and Henderson are great here, as they both have high work rates and good ball-winning skills. Their passing abilities round them out as perfect wide midfielders in a 3-at-the-back scenario.
Up front, this formation packs plenty of goal scoring prowess, with Daniel Sturridge and Iago Aspas lining up in front of Coutinho. Coutinho's abilities as a No. 10 are astounding for a player of his age and price. His eye for through balls should prove a field day for Aspas and Sturridge.
Both Sturridge and Aspas have abilities as deep-lying forwards who can bring other players into the attack. Looking at the diagram, you can visualize Coutinho running with the ball, passing to a stationary Aspas or Sturridge, and darting straight for goal to receive the oncoming layoff.
A Quick Countering 4-2-3-1
This formation seeks to achieve the "Brazil/Bayern" effect of using physicality and quick counters to render the midfield possession game rather useless.
Gerrard and Lucas again feature in midfield, though depending on fitness levels Joe Allen could play a useful role here.
Up front we have Liverpool's best crossers, Downing and Sterling on the wings. They're also quite fast, which makes them perfect to provide early crosses during fast-breaking counters.
Coutinho is Liverpool's No. 10, no doubt about it, and features anywhere a No.10 is required.
Here, I have Sturridge lined up but Aspas is equally suited. Neither are necessarily ideal for this situation—someone with better aerial ability would be best—but Liverpool will be forced to work with what they have should Suarez wait until the last minute to leave.
A Very Aggressive 4-2-4
This formation is designed for one purpose—to put as many goal scorers on the field as possible.
Both Gerrard and Henderson are selected for their ability to threaten the goal from long range. Henderson's insane work rate would see him shuttle the ball forward, while Gerrard would do more distribution from deep.
In attack, all three Liverpool strikers feature—a risky proposition, to be sure, but one that makes every possession a dangerous one.
As in earlier setups, the abilities of Sturridge and Aspas to hold up play and lay off that last deadly pass will pay dividends, as Borini and Coutinho have the pace to get on the end of them.
While Liverpool ought to do everything in their power to keep Luis Suarez, it's obvious that they are not without options going forward. These are some possibilities, but we can all be sure that a known tinkerer like Rodgers will have lots up his sleeve this coming season.
How do you see Liverpool lining up next season? Who looks likely to shine in the absence of Luis Suarez? Have your say in the comments!