This season Liverpool has thus far exceeded all expectations. I was one of the people that thought that their best achievement would be to finish above Merseyside neighbours Everton. However, with their recent performances, they are looking good for a top four finish.
This season, Rodgers seems to have eaten some Italian Pie as he has gone for the 3-5-2 formation popular with teams like Juventus and Inter Milan. This is not a very popular style as the 4-2-3-1 or the 4-3-3 mostly used in the Premier League.
On Saturday, they would come up against Arsene’s well refined and fluid 4-2-3-1 formation. For the gooners, the heart of this formation is the fluidity of the 3 man attacking midfield behind the lone striker, they play almost like a “triple No 10” . However, Arsene and his lads must be careful of this new found tactics. Gooner of Steel gives a helping hand.
In a 3-5-2 formation, there are four main components:
- the 3-man defence
- the 2 wing backs
- the three central midfielders
- the two strikers
THE 3 MAN DEFENCE
Mamodou Sakho, Martin Skrtel and former Invincible Kolo Toure have been the men in these positions. Sakho(17) and Toure(5) almost play as secondary full backs, that means that Skrtel(37) is the deepest in terms of position among the three as shown in figure A. Any of them has the license to roam forward with the confidence that he has two center backs covering for him.
Arsenal’s response: Wenger would surely start Giroud as the lone striker. He would expect to hold the ball and his primary obstacle would be Martin Skrtel. The Slovak has been in fine form this season; however, I would advise that Giroud try as much as possible to dominate him especially in aerial contest. In doing so, he would be able to draw him out leaving that central defensive position exposed, Sakho and Toure would be in ‘6s and 7s’.
THE 2 WING BACKS
This is a tricky part for Arsene. You have 2 wing backs that are neither full backs nor are they wide midfielders. They have freedom to move forward and have confidence to do so because of the 3 centre backs behind them. The heat map below shows areas covered by Enrique and Henderson in the Sunderland versus Liverpool game. Though both might not start in that position this weekd=end, who ever starts would have a similar specifications.
HEAT MAP OF ENRIQUE (up) AND HENDERSON (down) IN THEIR GAME AGAINST SUNDERLAND
The heat map above shows that wing backs support the attack a lot as both are most of the time stationed in their opponents half. They provide the width that that the conventional ‘7 and 11’ would have done.Though there are some question marks about their defensive abilities.
Arsenal’s response: Gibbs and Sagna would have a lot of work to do as they won’t have any direct player to mark but wing backs who would be running at them like full backs; but I feel the best way to deal with them is to force Liverpool to play a 5-3-2 formation most of the time. This would shift the wing backs to proper full backs. If Arsenal’s wing wizards were available, it would have been easier ,but in their absence, I expect Santi, Mesut and Jack to keep the wing backs back by focusing our attacking movements from the wings.
THE 3 MAN CENTRAL MIDFIELD
In their last victory over West Brom, Rodgers went Lucas, Gerrard and Henderson and I believe barring injuries, they would also start at the Emirates. Lucas would certainly play in the enforcer role, one he has excelled in this season. In the West brom game, he made 8 out of 10 successful tackles. He is the genesis of the Liverpool attack, collecting the ball from defence, he either releases the wing backs or gives the ball to Gerrard.
Gerrard and Henderson would have the license to move forward and join the attack. however, Henderson seems to be the further forward of the pair as Fig A shows. Moses (12) played in the Henderson position that day and the ex- sunderland movement would not be different.
Arsenal’s response: The midfield is surely the srongest part of our game. Carzola, Wilshere, Ozil, Ramsey, Rosicky are mobile midfeilders and with Arteta covering defensively, they could damage any team. Whoever Wenger starts this weekend would surely be a handful for the Liverpool three and I expect the gooners to dominate this part of the game.
THE TWO STRIKERS
Liverpool possess two of the most inform strikers in the land. In Sturridge and Suarez alias ‘SAS’ they have two players that are scoring freely; they both have 14 league goals between them. For both of them, they have at one point in their career played as wide attacking midfielders and this shows in their average positions showed below. Both players don’t spend so much time in the 18 yard box but move around a lot.
PICTURE SHOWING AVERAGE POSITIONS OF STURRIDGE (right) AND SUAREZ (left): they are not typical center forwards
This makes them more difficult to mark as they are not your conventional forward. They have both found it easy to destroy teams as their combination and movement off the ball is awesome and with this 3-5-2 tactics, they are both having the time of their lives.
Arsenal’s response: Keeping SAS quiet would be a tough task as I believe that most defenses would be in shambles when both play at their best. Their movement off the ball and unwillingness to station themselves in the 18 yard box would be a real worry for Arsene. That is why gooner of steel recommends that Arsene starts with Vermaelen and Koscienly. Big Freindly German, Per Mertesackerhas been havong a stellar campaign. I think that the Verminator and Laurent would have to man mark both Suarez and Sturridge. Mertesacker would not be able to man mark wither of them as his lack of pace is a major flaw/
Extra tit-bit: Arsenal must be mind of Liverpool’s threat especially from set pieces as they have a good set piece taker in Steven Gerrard.
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