There was an unfamiliar look to Liverpool as they took on Rangers in the Champions League on Tuesday night, with the Reds taking to the Anfield turf in a relatively alien 4-2-3-1 formation — but the system tweak worked a treat.
Jurgen Klopp is a man staunchly wedded to his beloved 4-3-3 formation, but he emphasised before this all-British clash on Merseyside the need to “change” his own tactical convictions in order to facilitate Darwin Nunez’s settling-in period, as well as finding room for the likes of Diogo Jota.
Instead of deploying a midfield trident, Klopp went with an unfamiliar Jordan Henderson-Thiago double pivot, with an attacking midfield three of Mohamed Salah on the right, Jota ‘in the hole’ and Luis Diaz on the left, with Nunez tasked with leading the line.
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And Liverpool looked, well, completely at ease with the formation. Nunez, despite not scoring, had several key openings and formed an enthralling on-field battle with Allan McGregor, Diaz was his unpredictably dazzling self and Jota drove at the heart of Rangers’ defence.
Thiago, given more responsibility in a two-man midfield, worked well in tandem with the industry and endeavour of Henderson, while Trent Alexander-Arnold and Kostas Tsimikas never shied away from surging down the flanks and getting involved in attacking transitions.
This was a much more assured and commanding Liverpool performance to some of the flaky and unsure displays of this season. Alexander-Arnold broke the deadlock in emphatic fashion from a long-ranged free-kick, before Salah confirmed the three points from the spot in the second half.
Trent Alexander-Arnold has now scored six direct free-kick goals for Liverpool:
◉ vs. Hoffenheim (2017)
◉ vs. Watford (2018)
◉ vs. Crystal Palace (2020)
◉ vs. Chelsea (2020)
◉ vs. West Ham (2021)
◉ vs. Rangers (2022) 🆕
— Squawka (@Squawka) October 4, 2022
The lack of an open-play goal may scream red flag, but it was certainly not for the want of trying on Liverpool’s part as McGregor rolled back the years with an authoritative showing between the sticks. Alisson and Tsimikas also played their part at the other end towards the dying embers of the contest.
Klopp will now be debating whether to stick or twist for the journey to Arsenal this weekend. But, before the 2-0 win here against Rangers, he was certainly not tight-lipped about the need to alter his own tactical blueprint.
“We just thought we had to change and that’s what we did formation wise. Let’s see how it works out,” he told BT Sport before the match.
“There’s never a perfect time to change, we had to change anyway. We felt it was right. We play so many games, we can’t always push the same boys through. So that’s why we decided like that.”
Well, Jurgen. It worked out quite brilliantly. The real acid test will be against the Premier League leaders on Sunday, though.