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Can Liverpool Accommodate Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge?

Max Munton@thisisanfieldLiverpool CorrespondentOctober 2, 2013

Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez combined to make a lethal front two for Liverpool against Sunderland at the weekend.
Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez combined to make a lethal front two for Liverpool against Sunderland at the weekend.Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Brendan Rodgers recently described Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge in a Sky Sports TV interview not as “out-and-out strikers, but nine-and-a-halves.”

The “false nine,” or as Rodgers put it “nine-and-a-half” term, is usually synonymous with continental football tactics, has historically played tucked in behind the front man and able to drop into midfield.

So what do you do when you have two world-class “nine-and-a-halves” and can’t afford to leave either out of your team?

Jonathan Wilson, author of Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics told the Guardian last year: 

Football has undergone a process of bielsafication; pressing and possessing, passing rather than dribbling, intercepting high up the field rather than making last-ditch tackles, are in vogue.

Rodgers has adapted his entire formation to accommodate Suarez and Sturridge as a front partnership in these roles, shown perfectly with a simple analysis of Liverpool’s performance against Sunderland on Sunday.

The Reds ran out 3-1 winners, thanks to a first-half strike from Sturridge and a brace from Suarez set up by his fellow “nine-and-a-half.”

Liverpool’s system of three at the back with two wing-backs that was trialed in midweek against Manchester United in the League Cup exit at Old Trafford allows space for two in the middle sitting deep in midfield.

In this case it was Steven Gerrard and Lucas. 

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How Liverpool accommodated a front two against Sunderland.
How Liverpool accommodated a front two against Sunderland.

That allows a solid back three providing reassurance and astute defensive responsibilities, with wing-backs Jose Enrique and Jordan Henderson given the freedom to move forward or drop back to defend depending on the game’s phase of play.

Victor Moses can sit naturally in the central area behind the front two of Suarez and Sturridge with the sole objective of taking the ball from the midfield engine of Gerrard and Lucas and up to the front two.

Moses’ role there, which can be played by a variety of players like the injured Philippe Coutinho, relieves the pressure from Gerrard and Lucas, who have struggled to fill the gap between defence and attack effectively this season.

Sturridge and Suarez are both then in their most dangerous of positions. There’s no sacrifice of having to play one out wide, or one behind the other. 

They can move out wide, make use of the space between them or use their pace to drive toward goal, knowing that they have the other there ready and waiting. 

When Sturridge drove past Black Cats defender Jack Colback toward goal for Liverpool’s second of the game, Suarez remained square of the England international.

It meant that in the split second Sturridge had to play his ball, he could lay it across goal, instead of trying to squeeze it home for the goal.

Suarez duly obliged and tucked the ball away unmarked at the far post.

After the game Rodgers spoke very highly of his goalscorers to the BBC who helped Liverpool to another three points and move up to second in the Premier League: 

I am not sure there are two better in the league.

Those two are right up there with the best in the country and you saw that against Sunderland.

If you’ve got two of the best in the country, why would you not move heaven and earth to accommodate both of them?

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