Luis Alberto's Liverpool Cameo at Newcastle Shows Importance of Midfield Control

Matt Ladson@mattladsonFeatured ColumnistOctober 21, 2013

NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 19: Daniel Sturridge (C) of Liverpool celebrates scoring his team's second goal with team-mate Luis Alberto during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Liverpool at St James' Park on October 19, 2013 in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, England. (Photo by Paul Thomas/Getty Images)
Paul Thomas/Getty Images

Liverpool's 2-2 draw at Newcastle on Saturday provided some interesting tactical talking points, most notably the use of three at the back as well as the lack of control in midfield.

Brendan Rodgers continued to use a 3-4-1-2 system, with Jordan Henderson alongside Steven Gerrard in Lucas Leiva's absence.

However, prior to the dismissal of Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa five minutes before half-time, Rodgers' side struggled to control the game.

The two wing-backs of Glen Johnson and Aly Cissokho struggled to perform their roles in a physically demanding position, both returning from injury. While Victor Moses continued to look ineffective in the "No. 10" role behind Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge.

Indeed, it was only once Luis Alberto Romero was introduced with half an hour remaining that Liverpool began to control the game. The Spaniard's introduction also meant a change in formation, with a somewhat lopsided 4-2-3-1 becoming the shape of the team as Moses went wide and Johnson pushed forward on the right side.

Admittedly, Alberto's introduction coincided with the opposition becoming tired from playing with 10 men, but he certainly added an element of control in the area between the midfield and attack.

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He maintained possession, controlled the flow and linked play effectively, creating numerous chances in the process.

The return of Philippe Coutinho, possibly for Saturday's visit of West Brom, will provide the perfect player for this position, but in his absence perhaps Alberto should have been given an opportunity there rather than Moseswho clearly suits a wider role.

Back to 4-2-3-1 I say. This 3 at the back is only an option because we have too many defenders available.

— Annie Road (@ThoseScouseLads) October 20, 2013

A switch from the three at the back would allow Liverpool to attempt to regain control of the central areas that are vital to modern football and a possession game that Rodgers desires.

As Pep Guardiola explains:

You’ll occasionally win games just because you have good strikers and good defenders, but consistent success is impossible unless you have excellent players in midfield.

I'd argue that this is true of Liverpool's start to the season.

Yes the Reds have been been winning games but I'm not so sure the team can get away with the lack of control in midfield over a longer period, especially when facing stronger sides than they have faced so far.

With the return to fitness of Joe Allen, Lucas Leiva and possibly Coutinho, plus Alberto's good showing at Newcastle, Rodgers certainly has more options in midfield now.

Steven Gerrard scored his 100th Premier League goal at Newcastle and continues to be a pivotal figure at the age of 33, but he is no longer the dynamic Gerrard of the past decade. For Liverpool to control midfield, he needs two players who can provide the energy and dynamism around him.

If we want to play 4231 then I think we need better options for the 2, at the moment we are compensating with an extra CB. #LFC.

— Simon Steers (@sisteers) October 20, 2013

A diamond midfield, as suggested by This Is Anfield, would allow Rodgers to deploy Lucas as the holding player with Gerrard and either Henderson or Allen alongside him. Coutinho would be at the point behind Suarez and Sturridge.

The width would then be supplied by the attacking full-backs of Johnson and Jose Enrique.

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