The Premier League weekend didn’t serve up any high-profile clashes but Liverpool’s 3-0 win over Southampton was intriguing from a tactical sense.
The Reds maintained their perfect start to the season but did tweak their system for the encounter at Anfield.
Xherdan Shaqiri was handed his first start with his new club and his inclusion had huge tactical implications.
Jurgen Klopp strayed away from his tried and tested 4-3-3 formation, opting for an uber-attacking 4-2-3-1 instead. He retained the fearsome trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino up front. However, the Brazilian started on the left with Salah deployed through the middle.
The main alteration was the omission of Naby Keita with Shaqiri playing in the hole instead, supported in midfield by Georginio Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson who afforded him the licence to get forward.
With Southampton’s midfield forming a bank of five in front of the defence, Shaqiri helped Liverpool break through the lines by occupying pockets of space in the final third.
He received the ball into feet well, often on the half-turn to immediately look for a forward pass. His role also affected Firmino, who regularly dropped into midfield to pick up the ball.
However, Shaqiri was naturally risky with his passing. While his fellow midfielders Henderson and Wijnaldum registered pass success rates of 92.1 and 93.2 per cent respectively, Shaqiri only managed 77.3 per cent.
He was also bypassed easily every time possession turned over, leaving Liverpool light in central midfield. Klopp explained in his post match comments that the Swiss was replaced at half-time despite his good performance because of the imbalance in midfield.
That aspect will need to be worked on but there’s no doubt Shaqiri brought a different dimension to Liverpool’s play. This particular system could prove useful over the course of the season especially against weaker opposition.
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