With Jürgen Klopp being announced as the new Liverpool manager to the delight of Kopites and pundits alike, questions will now turn to how the former Borussia Dortmund manager will deploy his new side. Whether firm to his beliefs or adapting to the players he has in his disposal, Klopp knows very well he will have to decide on one core strategy and stick to it, at least until the opening of the January transfer window.
Who knows, Klopp may not get the funds to buy his preferred players in January and instead made to wait until the summer, so this core strategy will have to remain with the current crop adjusting to it.
As seen from his previous Dortmund set-up and especially how the German side lined up for the 2013 Champions League final, Klopp will almost likely ditch the 3-4-2-1 of Brendan Rodgers and reinstate a more orthodox 4-2-3-1 formation – a system almost every club in Europe is using.
The 4-2-3-1 does help to employ some of the Reds’ best players in their best positions, but conversely it will almost certainly leave some players out. Liverpool’s most dangerous player at the moment, Philippe Coutinho, will certainly take up the No.10 spot behind the striker, and one that Klopp will hope can emulate the recent successes of Mario Götze, Shinji Kagawa and Marco Reus from his previous teams.
Big money signing Roberto Firmino may finally be given the best opportunity to shine in the red of Liverpool, should he be played in his favourited inside left position, alongside Coutinho. His struggle with form and then injury of late has halted his Anfield career so far, but the arrival of Klopp may just be the tonic Firmino needs. This is perhaps similar to the way Klopp utilised Kevin Großkreutz, a primarily right-footer deployed on the left flank.
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Fellow summer arrivals James Milner and Nathaniel Clyne will almost certainly keep their spots at central midfield and right back respectively. With the return of skipper Jordan Henderson almost likely to see him start alongside Milner in central midfield, the likes of Lucas Leiva and Emre Can might see their first-team chances increasingly limited. The German duo of Lars Bender and Ilkay Gundogan saw a mix of defensive strength and creative vision, so while Liverpool’s very own English connection may not necessarily have similar playmaking qualities to Gundogan or tackling prowess of Bender, they will more than make it up with their tireless running and boundless energy.
Daniel Sturridge’s record will probably see him remain the club’s premier striker, even with the big-money signing of Christian Benteke likely to give Klopp a dilemma. In this formation, the two might probably rotate, given they provide different qualities to the attack. Another possible conundrum will be the centre of defence. Based on seniority, Martin Skrtel looks set to retain his spot as one of the two centre backs. But on recent form over the last two seasons, Skrtel’s place might be threatened by Joe Gomez, while Klopp might even plump for the much-maligned Dejan Lovren alongside Mamadou Sakho. It will be intriguing to see if Klopp will give Lovren a chance, and whether the Croatian defender might actually regain enough confidence to shine under his new German boss.
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The lack of option at left-back will certainly see Alberto Moreno get his chance to secure a long-term berth at his favoured position, though it shouldn’t be any surprise if Klopp decides to give Jose Enrique another chance. The right attacking position is probably the most uncertain and most likely to be up for grabs. On current form, the last place in this team should deservedly go to Danny Ings, but it remains to be seen whether the England international can transform himself into an inside forward, similar to that of Kop favourite Dirk Kuyt.
More natural options like midfielder Adam Lallana and winger Jordon Ibe may interest Klopp more, as the German will likely seek a long-term option so as to cultivate a stable partnership on the right side akin to the one Polish duo Lukasz Piszczek and Jakub Blaszczykowski enjoyed on Dortmund’s right – linking up well in attack and providing cover for each other in defence in equal measure.
Managing Existing Talent
Whoever Klopp decides to play, he will definitely attempt to inculcate fast transitions in play and lightning quick counter attacks into the team. The front four will surely be made to rotate their positions as often as possible in-game, and this might eventually benefit Liverpool’s current batch of attackers, most of whom are competent enough to play in any position across the front line.
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With only two central midfielders, full-backs Clyne and Moreno will be even more vital to this strategy. They will have to provide the width to a potentially narrow attack, and have enough in them to retreat and hold a solid defensive line, along with Milner and Henderson.
Klopp will do well to get the most out of what is essentially Rodgers’ players, and if the German is capable of bringing out the best in the current batch, he will have already succeeded where Rodgers had failed.