Mizgan Ahmed on 26th December, 2015
Liverpool beat top-of-the-table Leicester on Boxing Day at Anfield, with Christian Benteke’s second half strike proving the difference between the two sides.
Jurgen Klopp made three changes that started at Watford, Mignolet, Lovren and Origi coming in for Bogdan, Skrtel and Lucas. It was an attack-minded side that the German fielded today regardless of who were they up against, the League leaders Leicester.
We expected it to be a 4-2-3-1 with Origi leading the line and Firmino as no 10, Coutinho and Lallana either side of Firmino, Can and Henderson in that midfield pair, but that was not the case, it was more of a wider 4-4-2 with Lallana and Coutinho shifting a bit wider in their roles, Firmino playing alongside Origi(later Benteke), Henderson and Can patrolling the central area of the pitch.
Klopp made this change deliberately to counter the threats Leicester can provide from the likes of Mahrez, Albrighton or Vardy in wider areas. He deployed Coutinho and Lallana in little wider areas so that they are more like wingers who cuts inside when in possession, when Liverpool were not on the ball, both were tracking back and helping fullbacks to deal with wider threats of the Foxes. Both Coutinho and Lallana were tugging in from wide when they had the ball in attacking areas which made way for Clyne and Moreno to move forward on overlaps.
Henderson and Can were also tracking wide and helping their fullbacks, they were also moving wide and creating that crossing situations especially after Benteke’s arrival(especially Henderson on the right hand side). Firmino and Origi(later Benteke) were pressing higher up as pair so that Leicester had no room to play out from the back and were forced to play long balls which were expertly dealt by Sakho and Lovren against Vardy and Okazaki.
We will take a more closer look at how Liverpool positioned themselves when they were not on the ball as their off the ball play was significant in today’s performance.
We can see the formation of Liverpool off the ball, Lallana and Coutinho positioning themselves very wide and tracking back to help Clyne and Moreno to deal with threats of Albrighton and Mahrez combined with their fullbacks, Can and Henderson also tracking wide whenever possible, Firmino just dropping in that central midfield role to start the counter whenever the opportunity arises.
Klopp should take credit for this setup and how the team should play in situations when they are not on the ball, it was important today to stay in shape when defending against a team like Leicester who like to attack any space available to them in and around opposition’s box, when that was nullified, they looked a bit pale.
All in all, a deserved win for the Reds, they nullified the attacking threats of table toppers which was a significant boost for the defensive structure, going forward, Coutinho was in his own best in shifting positions on and off the ball, tracking back when required and picking up pockets of spaces when trying to carve open the opposition. He was well supported though by Lallana and Firmino.
A subtle tweak in shape from Klopp again did the opposition all ends up, he outclassed Ranieri in all departments. More performances like this can lead the Reds back on course for a top-four race which is still under their grabs.