With Mohamed Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold absent for the remainder of this month, Liverpool face the challenge of navigating through the next four matches without these key players. The absence of such influential figures prompts speculation on how the team will adapt.
Jurgen Klopp, consistently proving his managerial prowess this season, has guided Liverpool to the top of the Premier League while maintaining contention in all three cup competitions, including the closely approaching League Cup final.
Throughout the current campaign, Klopp has demonstrated his adeptness at adjusting the team’s tactics to address various in-game scenarios. The recent League Cup victory against Fulham marked the seventh occasion Liverpool secured a win despite conceding the initial goal, showcasing their resilience. Remarkably, this achievement surpasses any other team in England’s top four tiers during the 2023-24 season.
Nonetheless, the concurrent absence of Alexander-Arnold and Salah for the upcoming three games poses a unique challenge that Klopp and his team must navigate.
Attempts So Far
In the absence of Dominic Szoboszlai for the League Cup clash against Fulham, Liverpool introduced a fresh right side lineup, comprising Conor Bradley, Ryan Gravenberch, and Harvey Elliott.
Conor Bradley showcased brilliance, contributing width and relentless effort in the final third, while also displaying astute defensive skills.
Ryan Gravenberch worked diligently in midfield, highlighting glimpses of his talent, yet falling short of providing the defensive prowess exhibited by Szoboszlai – losing 10 out of 12 duels on Wednesday.
Harvey Elliott’s performance remains divisive among supporters and possibly the manager, raising questions about the optimal position for him in the upcoming weeks.
With Ben Doak sidelined due to injury and Kaide Gordon appearing unsuitable, Liverpool must explore alternative options to fill Salah’s position with a left-footer. Elliott emerges as a potential candidate to assume this role, having previously played in that position during the Arsenal match. Unfortunately, Klopp had to make adjustments due to team pressure, as Elliott couldn’t provide the necessary outlet for Liverpool.
A similar situation unfolded against Fulham, where Liverpool missed Salah’s speed when running into space. Despite being at home against supposedly weaker opponents, Elliott’s effectiveness was not as anticipated. The need for a left-footer in Salah’s position remains, and the team continues to search for a suitable solution.
Here is how Liverpool started against Fulham:
What Changed in the Games?
The coaching staff devised varied strategies to address Liverpool’s first-half challenges in their recent two games.
In the encounter with Arsenal, Elliott transitioned to midfield, exchanging positions with Gakpo, who initially occupied that role. Subsequently, Jota replaced Gakpo, while Luis Diaz shifted to the right, mirroring Elliott’s initial position.
A similar approach was adopted in the Fulham match, with Elliott making way for Gakpo as Liverpool adjusted to a formation resembling 4-2-3-1. This tactical shift resulted in an offensive lineup featuring Nunez on the left, Jota in the center, and Diaz and Gakpo on the right.
How Liverpool ended against Fulham:
Any Other Solutions?
Szoboszlai emerges as a viable choice for the right-wing position, a role he predominantly occupied during his last season with RB Leipzig.
While Gordon remains in consideration, his absence in the Fulham and Arsenal matches indicates that this scenario might not materialize.
Liverpool’s success in the upcoming weeks hinges on their adaptability and in-game versatility, attributes that have defined their performance this season. In an ideal situation, the player names listed on the teamsheet would be inconsequential.
Pep Lijnders highlights the significance of Liverpool’s system as their greatest asset, emphasizing that individual prowess takes a backseat to the primary method of chance creation – counter-pressing.
The assistant coach explained that the Reds have “many weapons so there is no-one irreplaceable,” before adding that “as long as counter-pressing is there everything else is replaceable.”
In the absence of Alexander-Arnold’s defense-splitting passes, the situation becomes particularly crucial, lasting only three games if fortunate. During his absence, the focus shifts to securing victories through sheer determination.
Heading into the League Cup second leg, Liverpool enjoy a one-goal advantage, making their triumph likely. Notably, the Reds haven’t suffered a defeat by more than one goal since April 1, 2023 – a 4-1 loss to Man City at the Etihad.
The FA Cup fourth-round encounter, against either Norwich or Bristol Rovers, is anticipated to unfold without complications.
However, the impending journey to Bournemouth poses a significant challenge for Klopp and his team, requiring them to truly prove their worth.
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