03 January 2020 20:43
Sign up to FREE daily email alerts from liverpoolecho - Liverpool FC Subscribe Thank you for subscribing We have more newsletters Show me See our privacy notice Could not subscribe, try again later Invalid Email Liverpool reached a landmark point of their unbeaten run in the Premier League on Thursday night, after defeating Sheffield United 2-0 at Anfield. Jurgen Klopp's team have now gone a full year without defeat, having demonstrated a remarkable degree of consistency for around 18 months. One of the key reasons for Liverpool's form is the team's tactical proficiency. There are very few weaknesses for opposing teams to target, and the players involved have the principles of Klopp's game ingrained into their actions after years of repetition on the training pitch. The Reds are renowned for using a 4-3-3 formation yet despite that, opponents continue to struggle even though there's an awareness of what to expect beforehand.
But what if that wasn't the case? The 4-3-3 that the Liverpool boss favours is mostly fixed in place, particularly defensively, but it's more adaptable than many recognise once possession is secured. Klopp regularly makes very subtle adjustments to his 4-3-3 depending on a strength or weakness held by the opposition, but those tweaks are often too delicate to be obvious. Sheffield United suffered at the hands of one of those calculated moves. 4-3-3 was selected as normal, but once the ball was secured, Jordan Henderson regularly dropped into the defensive line alongside Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk to form what appeared to be a back three, as shown below. It's reasonable to suggest that Henderson's positioning was a deliberate ploy as a means of causing Chris Wilder's team problems defensively, while also nullifying them offensively. Sheffield United's go-to formation is 3-5-2. The side always deploy two strikers that work together and run into the channels, and the wing-backs are responsible for providing width by getting forward and hugging the touchline. Henderson's deeper positioning prevented both of those from happening. In regard to Sheffield United's strike pairing, Henderson's presence allowed Liverpool's back three to outnumber Wilder's front two. That permitted the Reds to close the channels that Sheffield United previously attacked in the meeting at Bramall Lane, with an example pictured below. At Anfield, that wasn't possible because of how Liverpool's defence was shaped. The channels were blocked. In terms of the wing-backs that Wilder is reliant upon to create width, Henderson's withdrawn movement into defence permitted both Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson to advance high up the field with the knowledge that cover is present behind them. The two Liverpool full-backs forced Sheffield United's wing-backs to retreat because of their high positioning, shown below. The usual 3-5-2 formation that Blades boss favours became 5-3-2 as a consequence of how defensively the team's wing-backs had to operate. Ultimately, Klopp's adjustment was understated but highly effective. The home side restricted the attack of Wilder's team to the extent that only three shots were mustered compared to 11 at Bramall Lane, and they also ensured that no width was created which meant that Sheffield United's entire attack was central. The league leaders continue to showcase irrepressible form, and that largely stems from Liverpool's ability to control the pitch.