Watching Liverpool thus far this season, it’s apparent that things are not how they are supposed to be. They are not scoring as they should and they are not really that convincing at the back. Roy Hodgson admitted that his transfer activity was a bit limited, but as they say, the show must go on. Until January or even the summer, Hodgson’s managerial credentials and experience would be put to the ultimate test. He is going to have to make the best out of the club’s current plight. His playing staff, although threadbare, is by no means hopeless. How can he get the best out of them and thus stop the club from it’s ignominious free-fall into oblivion?
It’s no secret that Liverpool’s frontline is not up to par with the league’s and even Europe’s best. Fernando Torres is their lone talisman up top and at the moment, he is out of form. How can Hodgson work around this? Steven Gerrard, the captain, is struggling for form as well and is practically the lone spark of creativity in what is a somewhat defense-minded central midfield. With new box-to-box signing Raul Meireles at the club, how can he be used to provide some much needed support for Gerrard? And no, I haven’t forgotten about Joe Cole. What role can he play?
Firstly, dealing with new signing Raul Meireles, let’s define what role he should play in Liverpool’s midfield. At Porto, he was used as a box-to-box midfielder. In fact, that’s the role he dominates for Portugal. He is excellent at tracking back and offers a long range threat going forward. He loves to shoot and has a powerful shot on him. With that said, he isn’t a like for like replacement for Javier Mascherano as their styles are quite different. Mascherano had bite and was a midfield battler. Presently, Lucas, although not a firm fan’s favorite, is the closest player they have to Mascherano. Poulsen can do a job in that role as well.
Steven Gerrard, although a box-to-box midfielder as well, offers more of a threat when he’s buzzing around the final third, trying to split the defence with a telling pass or testing the ‘keeper’s agility and concentration with a fizzing, long range beauty. Joe Cole is a winger by trade and a good one at that. His technical skills are sublime and thus would be of tremendous use further up the pitch. Milan Jovanovic is a hard-working player. He’s still trying to find his feet in England, but he has it in him to succeed at Anfield. He too, would play well if pushed higher up the pitch. Worth mentioning as well is Ryan Babel. He’s failed to live up to expectation thus far, but he is a player that has tremendous talent, in my opinion. He too can do well if positioned higher up the pitch.
Given the qualities possessed by these players and given the thin nature of the squad, I would suggest a 4-3-3 formation to best utilize the players and their attributes. The three in midfield would include Lucas, who would play a holding role. Gerrard and Meireles would be alongside each other. They would provide the creative spark going forward. In that way, Gerrard has the support he needs at this time as opposed to being the lone attacking midfielder in a 4-4-1-1 or to an extent even in a 4-2-3-1, where he is played off of the main striker and still charged with the bulk of the creativity. The front three would consist of Joe Cole on the right and either Jovanovic or Babel on the left. When Kuyt returns, I would suggest that Joe Cole be moved to the left and Kuyt be restored to the right of the front trident. Torres of course, would be the one in the middle. In that way, two attack-minded players would be providing much needed support to Torres, who needs it at the moment.
No doubt, that system would see Liverpool offer a potent threat going forward, but what about the defensive aspect of their game? Well, as I mentioned, Gerrard and Meireles are box-to-box midfielders, so, tracking back wouldn’t be a problem for them. In that way, Lucas is not left without support as he tries to shield his defence.
So, given the squad at Roy Hodgson’s disposal and his lack of striking options, I think that this is what Liverpool should do to turn things around. It’s a system that would surely bring the best out of all the players involved. Is it really worth a try? Why not? Something has to be done if Liverpool are to salvage anything from what has started out to be another season to forget.