Mizgan Ahmed on 6th January, 2016
Injury-hit Liverpool defeated Stoke City 1-0 in the first leg of Semi-final of the Capital One Cup at the Britannia Stadium.
Klopp made three changes to the team that started against West Ham, Toure, Allen and Lallana coming in for Sakho, Ibe and Benteke. So it was easy to say that Firmino will be leading the line in absence of the Belgian.
It was a 4-3-3 with Toure and Lovren as center-back pair, Lucas in that holding role, Allen and Can patrolling the area from box to box. Firmino leading the line as false 9 and Coutinho and Lallana just behind the Brazilian.
Let’s take a look at the general formation and movements of Liverpool players :-
With two injuries during early exchanges of the game, there were few positional changes of players, Ibe and Milner coming very early in the game due to injuries to Coutinho and Lovren, that meant Lucas was shifted as center-back alongside Toure and Milner joined the midfield with Can and Allen. Ibe replaced Coutinho was a straight swap.
We will now focus on False 9 system and how it created sense of cohesiveness among the players. Firmino’s off the ball movement again gave plenty of headaches to Stoke’s defenders, Coutinho(later Ibe) and Lallana pressed the channels so that Stoke were not allowed to play free-flowing passing game, they were forced to go long. Once the creativity of Arnautovic and Shaqiri were limited by constant pressing, Stoke looked very bleak in their attacks and in all departments Liverpool were the ones who were playing.
An important aspect of this system is off the ball movements and how it forces oppositions to play in an opposite way of their thinking. We’ll take a look at how Liverpool worked out when they were not in possession and what were the key areas leading to this almost perfect performance.
We can see Firmino occupying and pressing the center-backs, Lallana and Ibe pressed the wide areas where Pieters and Johnson look to move forward, Milner and Allen tracked back and helped fullbacks in blocking the creativity of Arnautovic and Shaqiri, Bojan was largely anonymous because of this.
When in possession, Ibe and Lallana became more narrower and allowed Milner and Allen to run the wide areas and link up play from there. The main advantage of this system is the ever-changing target man for center-backs to mark at, it was generally Firmino but when Ibe and Lallana narrowed themselves, Shawcross and Wollschied were in a bit strife whether to mark false 9 or the on rushing play-makers. So, subtle tweaks and movements were there on display which bamboozled the whole Stoke play and made an easy route for Liverpool to get an important away goal advantage going to Anfield in three weeks time.
It has to be said that it was a perfect reaction from the Reds after that debacle at West Ham and the two injuries in early exchanges of this game. Klopp again has to be the man to be given credit to implement this false 9 4-3-3 system and pressing the opposition higher up the pitch to draw mistakes. One should say that Liverpool have one foot in the final with this away goal given Stoke’s horrible record at Anfield, but still in football nothing guaranteed can be said and we’ll have to wait for three weeks until we get a finalist from this tie.
Stay tuned on ‘thefutballreview’ for the analysis of the first leg of second semi-final between Everton and Manchester City taking place tonight at Goodison Park.