At the end of the storm, there is a golden sky, walk on, till you can for You ‘Shall’ Never Never Walk Alone. The famous Shankly Gates, the Iconic ‘vociferous’ Kop resemble an eerie silence at the lush green Anfield. Not so long ago, a new darling of the ‘Home Faithful’ lunged to his right to thwart away a 88th minute penalty which meant three points were safe and in the bag. New hope, refreshed inspirations, and a bright new beginning beckons the club once called “Giants of European Football”.
In a ‘satisfying’ victory, a new Belgian recruit became God amongst mere mortals as Liverpool held on to a sublime Daniel Sturridge’s strike in the first half to usher an opening match win in five seasons. Debutants and summer signings Iago Aspas and Kolo Toure didn’t disappoint but the limelight certainly belonged to new keeper Simon Mingolet. Manager Brendan Rodgers however will be fully aware that his young side missed a whole lot of opportunities to cash in and the three points could have been two less if not for the brilliance of Mingolet. The Belgian delivered when the match was on the line, more than making up for his debut match jitters and a comical Daniel Agger handball in the penalty box.
Stoke City meanwhile, under new manager Mark Hughes flattered to deceive thanks to some sublime football from the home side. Liverpool had all the flair with their incisive passing, delicately timed runs, superb vision of the players and immaculate positioning and pressing high up the field. Brendan Rodgers has been given the arduous task of taking back Liverpool where they belong, the highest of echelons in European Football: the cradle hunting ground of Europe’s elite: The Champions League. While the millions of fans in Merseyside and all around the Globe, run out of patience with every passing campaign, will this be finally the season for the Reds where they can just about nick their place in the Top Four?
With around fifteen days left in the transfer window at the time of writing and some last ditch deals yet to be made, will the Reds from Merseyside finally pack a sucker punch in England’s elite Championship? There have been a lot of murmurs of bringing Brazilian winger Willian from Russian side Anzhi Mahachkalacha, and the Aly Cissokho loan deal from Spanish side Vlaencia looking eminent we present you a tactical analysis and a blue print for Liverpool’s “Door knocking of Champions League” Campaign.
As evident from the Stoke City’s match, Liverpool pressed high up the pitch throughout the match (Refer the above snap). This meant the Potters had very less time on the ball and were forced to play the ball long, thus playing into the hands of the home side. Just as the following snap shows, every player closed down spaces offering very few avenues to the Stoke team to pass the ball around. Much of the credit must go to Rodgers who has instilled this attacking prowess within the either wingbacks to make the runs forward coupled with their defensive recoveries. Whenever in attack Liverpool had that extra man needed to rattle the Stoke Defence.
Liverpool started off in an odd looking 4-4-2 with Daniel Sturridge and Iago Aspas up front. While Lucas and captain Steven Gerrard held centre-stage, Henderson was forced to play right. The Young English International put up a creditable shift even rattling the crossbar once. Brazilian starlet Phillipe Coutinho was very much into the scheme of things coming more into a central position from the left while wingbacks Enrique and Glen Johnson barged forward overlapping the ‘makeshift wingers’ on either sides.
Into the mind of Brendan Rodgers:
The following snap gives us an even better picture of Liverpool while attacking. As is quite evident all the Stoke players are in their own half when Liverpool attack from the right side of the field into the Kop end. Johnson lays the ball into Lucas who is unmarked and dashes forward to get rid of the opposing left back marked as 6 in the snap. Now Gerrard might receive the ball from Lucas and lay it into Coutinho, who makes an inside run in the pitch. Aspas moves forward thus taking with him the Stoke players numbered as 5 and 8. This automatically means Sturridge can make a dash into the final third and so does Enrique, as a result suddenly the Stoke panlty box is overloaded with Liverpool players who can now find an opening. The Stoke players numbered 2,3,4 and 5 are thus isolated which means the defence will be ripped apart in a matter of seconds. Coutinho or Gerrard dictate the play and so does Liverpool from start to finish.
The point which I make can be even more validated from the action map of Coutinho. This young Brazilian who was deemed surplus to requirements at Inter Milan is clearly showing his calibre and tremendous potential at Anfield.
The Brazilian picked up where he left off last campaign this summer, striking three goals in pre-season and turning it on a number of impressive displays. With Steven Gerrard orchestrating play from a deep lying role, Coutinho is the focal point of Liverpool’s impressive attacks in the opposition third. Even though the young Brazilian is short of body strength, he more than makes it up with his pace, trickery and guile on the pitch.
Iago Aspas has a fine debut as well. He was quite speedy, took opposition defenders with him on the way, and will feature well into Liverpool’s future plans. The best part of him was how he created space for others. Jordan Henderson was picked ahead of Joe Allen in the starting 11and did a fine job putting in a good shift out wide. Was very unlucky to be denied by Begovic, the strike that hit the post was a wonderful effort, and couldn’t have been closer to nick in.
As far as Liverpool’s action map is concerned it was more on either flanks, which meant Liverpool took full advantage of Stoke playing very narrow. The Reds also outshot the
Potters by a staggering margin of 25-11. The passing accuracy as well increased over the course of last season, thus meaning Rodgers is finally instilling his philosophy into the team. Here are the tables clarifying shooting accuracy and the chances created thanks to the incisive passing.
Finally coming to the transfer rumours, it’s believed that the Reds from Merseyside are chasing another Brazilian winger, Willian of Russian Anzhi. Aly Cissokho’s loan deal from Valencia has been completed and it’s looking quite imminent that Uruguayan Luis Suarez is staying at the club.
So how exactly would the Reds line up when Suarez has served his ban and if at all Willian joins from Anzhi. This would represent a classic 4-2-3-1 but while attacking, I feel it will change to a 4-2-1-3 or even a 4-1-2-3. As evident from the tactics board, Lucas will act as screen in front of the defence while Gerrard and Coutinho playing in a bit attacking role with Suarez and Willian joining Sturridge in attack.
The wingbacks will be given enough liberty to barge forward, while the pairing of Kolo Toure and Daniel Agger look secure in the heart of the defence. The tall centre backs are also a direct threat from set-pieces and with Steven Gerrard’s impeccable deliveries expect some headers flying in. Remember Toure hit the post against Stoke?
Having all said and done it looks like Liverpool might be in the mood this season. There is quite a sense of optimism in the Read half of Merseyside by the looks of it. May the Red flag keep flying high over Anfield and as the Great Winston Churchill had once said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty”.
While I finsh off my piece Brendan Rodgers would have some words in the Dressing Room, “Look. I have a strategy. Why expect anything? If you don’t expect anything, you don’t get disappointed”. You’ll Never walk Alone!!