The long-running saga that is Charlie Adam’s transfer to Liverpool appears to be all-but completed which has led many to wonder how Kenny Dalglish is going to fit all of his midfielders into one starting eleven and still have room for strikers and defenders, and maybe even a goalkeeper.
Clearly, the answer to that question is that Dalglish isn’t going to play every single one of his midfielders – he’s bought Jordan Henderson because he’s an exciting prospect for the future; Lucas Leiva has become a vital part of the team; Jay Spearing is also an exciting talent and is an added option in midfield; Adamis a fine creator of chances and had a good season with Blackpool in the Premier League last year; and Steven Gerrard is.. well, Steven Gerrard.
Liverpool have also been linked with a variety of wingers, most predominately Aston Villa’s Stewart Downing, Juan Mata of Valencia and Wigan’s Charles N’Zogbia. The latest buzz, though, is that the Anfield club have had two bids for Downing rejected by his club – the second one amounting to around £18 million – which could lead the club to focus their attention on highly-rated Mata, also a target for Arsenal.
On their way out of Liverpool – because the Reds are allowing other clubs to own midfielders – are, apparently, Raul Meireles, Joe Cole, Alberto Aqualini and Christian Paulsen, although I, personally, would keep Meireles because a) he was one of their best players last season, mainly under Dalglish, and b) because it’s an extra option in midfield; he can play defensively but bursts forward too.
Even if the Portuguese midfielder does leave, though, Liverpool will have plenty of opportunities to rotate their squad, which can only be a good thing – as long as they keep the players happy, of course.
Last season, Dalglish preferred to play four in defence, although he did experiment with three at the back against Stoke (2-0 win), Chelsea (1-0 win) and West Ham (3-1 loss). For now, we’ll consider the following as the preferred back-line:
This could obviously change, i.e. Martin Skrtel could come in for either Jamie Carragher or Daniel Agger, while Fabio Aurelio could be the preferred choice at left-back (although, that’s doubtful, and Liverpool are being linked with Newcastle’s left-back Jose Enrique, which would be a decent acquisition.) Agger would probably prefer to play on the left side on central defence but the above is just a rough idea.
Here, Dalglish has a few options; he could play two defensive midfielders with three attacking players ahead and then one striker up front:
In this kind of formation, Luis Suarez is more likely to play out wide, possibly cutting in to support Andy Carroll, with Martin Kelly bombing on down the right flank from defence. If neither Downing nor Mata – or N’Zogbia – are signed, then Argentinean winger Maxi could be another option, if indeed he stays at the club.
This formation could have many variations; for instance Adam could push up a little more to act as a link between the attacking side of midfield (Gerrard) and the defensive side (Lucas). The two wingers – whoever they may be – could also push up further, creating a 4-3-3 formation.
This is of course assuming that Gerrard will be fit for next season and will play a major role for Liverpool; it isn’t too ludicrous to suggest that Gerrard could struggle to get into the side if Adam, Lucas and possibly Jay Spearing, Meireles or even Henderson perform well in the middle of the park and, with Meireles and Henderson – and to a certain extent Adam – looking to burst forward, an out-and-out attacking midfielder may not be needed.
Henderson and Gerrard could be used in an almost box-to-box sense here, with Lucas covering and the two wingers supporting Carroll:
An ever-so-slightly more conservative approach would be to play one defensive midfielder, three across the midfield and then two up front:
Either Gerrard or Lucas could be replaced by Adam here, depending on how attacking Dalglish wants to be, while Henderson could also play on the right side of midfield.
Dalglish could also play a slightly more basic 4-4-2, which could see Suarez play in behind Carroll or, as above, alongside him:
Again, Downing can be replaced by any winger, and maybe Adam could come in instead of Lucas for a more attacking approach. Many people have questioned Dalglish for spending around £28 million on midfielders who could well spend most of their time on the bench. Firstly, transfer fees are meaningless, especially to a club (or, owner) with so much money and secondly, to reiterate – it’s another set of options and it’s another couple of players to help Liverpool compete in the various competitions they’ll be involved in this season and, hopefully more, next season, as a European spot must surely be the aim for the coming season.
A kind of 5-4-1 formation could also be utilised by Liverpool this term, with three centre-backs, two ‘wing-backs’ and wingers, with Carroll again the ‘lone’ – but actually with plenty of support – man up front:
Here, Kuyt and Suarez could switch wings or even play a little more centrally, i.e. just off Carroll. Aurelio would probably be the best option for a left wing-back (although Johnson would be more than adequate in this position, despite being right-footed). Obviously any potential purchase – Enrique – could also be used here.
Liverpool could probably do with an extra centre-back, perhaps one with pace and they have been linked with Christian Zapata and Stefan Savic in recent weeks (both of whom appear to have snubbed a move to Anfield), as Carragher, Agger and Skrtel could struggle in this area but, with Kelly and the left-back doing their jobs, as well as Lucas tracking back, Liverpool should have plenty of cover defensively. This formation would also allow for great counter-attacking, especially from the wings.
Dalglish could actually take out the wingers from this set-up and play with more central midfielders but still have the wing-backs bombing on ahead, which would probably work better for the wing-backs in an attacking sense (leaving them plenty of space to run into):
Here, Gerrard would have something of a ‘free role’, with Jay Spearing – or Meireles – doing the defensive work along with Lucas, while Adam again links attack and defence. This could leave Carroll a little isolated at times if the wing-backs fail to get forward but, if this is the case, Spearing could be replaced by Henderson, a more attack-minded player. Lucas would have to do a lot of cover work but that is something he would thrive at.
These line-ups could, of course, all have slight variations; Dani Pacheco is another option up front; Pepe Reina could leave the club but Brazilian Doni is a target, while Brad Jones is another choice; Sotirios Kyrgiakos was recently given a one-year extension to his contract so could feature at the back.
These are only rough – i.e. not precise and by no means complete given that Liverpool seem to be linked with a new player every day – guidelines for Liverpool’s system next season. It is clear that Liverpool have lots of options, with not only different formations available to Dalglish but also multiple players available to play in the same position.
The only problem will be keeping certain players happy as they are forced to take a seat on the bench – but Dalglish is renowned for his people skills. Liverpool’s rotation policy is going to be fascinating to watch, as an outsider, next season.
Images from This11.com.