Updated date:

Tactical Analysis of Liverpool FC's 4-3-3 Formation

Nigel is a football (soccer) fan since his childhood days. He also plays football as a left-back and is a long time fan of Liverpool FC.

Liverpool FC lining up for a pre-match photoshoot.

Liverpool FC lining up for a pre-match photoshoot.

The 4-3-3 Formation In General

The 4-3-3 formation is a revamped version of the 4-2-4 formation. It was first used by the Brazilian national team in the 1962 World Cup. The initial 4-3-3 formation was played with three narrow midfielders that protected the defenders and moved across the field as a coordinated unit. The three forwards play in a wider position to spread out the attack where two of the three forwards are expected to mark the opposition's full-backs in order for the other forward to penetrate through the central defenders. In most cases, a 4-3-3 allows a defensive midfielder to be added into the squad as a defensive cover in the midfield.

Liverpool FC's usual 4-3-3 formation for the 2019-2020 Premier League season.

Liverpool FC's usual 4-3-3 formation for the 2019-2020 Premier League season.

Jurgen Klopp's arrival and the integration of the 4-3-3 formation with his gergenpressing philosophy

Jurgen Klopp's arrival to the Liverpool team in 2015 saw the end of Brendan Rodgers' 4-2-3-1 formation. Most teams in Europe were using the 4-3-3 formation during that time. One prime example would be FC Barcelona, where they had Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar as their attacking trio.

Since Klopp's arrival, the Liverpool team has been using a 4-3-3 formation. They initially had Roberto Firmino in the striker role while they had Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana completing the trio as the left and right wings.

Klopp was keen to immediately integrate his gergenpressing tactical philosophy in the early stages of his managerial reign. He experimented with the likes of Coutinho, Firmino and Lallana upfront, with occasional appearances from Jordan Ibe in Lallana's place.

With the 2016 summer transfer signings of Georgino Wijnaldum and Sadio Mane, the team has strengthened in terms of pace and creative passing. Mane provided a quicker moving right side while Coutinho continued to disturb the left side of the field.

This Is How Liverpool FC Presses in a 4-3-3 Formation

Liverpool FC during the 2016-17 season

Liverpool FC during the 2016-17 season

The rise of Trent Alexander-Arnold and the signing of Andy Robertson in the following year had given Klopp options to use inverted full-backs as another way to attack in numbers. In addition, the signing of Mo Salah had created an equal amount of pace in both the wings, allowing Liverpool FC to have a pace advantage against its opponents.

Coutinho left in 2018, which meant that Klopp had to change his tactics. This is the part we will be focusing on in this article. We'll look at the rise of the current 4-3-3 formation and the players that make up this winning squad.

Jurgen Klopp's Most Used Squad Since the 2017/2018 Season

Current Kit NumberPlayerPosition

1

Alisson Becker

Goalkeeper

66

Trent Alexander-Arnold

Right-Back

12

Joe Gomez

Central-Defender

4

Virgil Van Dijk

Central-Defender

26

Andrew Robertson

Left-Back

3

Fabinho

Center-Midfield/Defensive Midfield

14

Jordan Henderson (Captain)

Center-Midfield

5

Georgino Wijnaldum

Center-Midfield

11

Mo Salah

Right-Wing Forward

9

Roberto Firmino

Center Forward

10

Sadio Mane

Left-Wing Forward

Liverpool FC players celebrating after a goal against Leeds United FC.

Liverpool FC players celebrating after a goal against Leeds United FC.

The 4-3-3 formation is generally an attacking formation, but in the Liverpool FC team, you will see Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson playing slightly higher up the field during an attack. That's because they have now become an inverted full-back, which is a left or right back playing similarly to a traditional winger.

Trent's role as the inverted right back helps in most attacks as he plays closely with Mo Salah at the front. Inverted full-backs play in a triangular movement with the midfielder and the winger to move the ball into an attack. Robertson has a similar job in the inverted left back role where he plays closely with Sadio Mane to attack from the left.

In short, you may see up to five players attacking at the same time, with both sides of the full-back moving up front to join up with the attacking trio. However, at certain times, the midfielders will join up with the attack to make it seven players simultaneously attacking, which will be hard on the opponent's defense.

The Front Trio

Here is the front trio for Liverpool.

Mo Salah

Arguably one of the best fairy tale stories in world football was the return of the Egyptian King, Mo Salah, to the English Premier League with Liverpool FC. When Salah was signed to the team, he was given the right side winger position. In this role, he has to play into the penalty box of the opponents. With his pace and a good eye for the ball, he is able to move the ball between the right-back and/or the center forward and make runs into blind spots to receive the return pass in order to score.

Roberto Firmino

Formerly an attacking midfielder, Roberto Firmino has now moved into a central forward role, playing as a false 9. In layman terms, this is a dummy striker role. The role of a false 9 is to divert the central-defenders so that the wingers can cut into the penalty box for a goal-scoring opportunity. The player in this position will occasionally be the one to pass to before they make another pass back to the wingers for a goal.

Sadio Mane

Another one of Klopp's early managerial signings, Sadio Mane initially played on the right side of the front trio. Like Salah, his duty is to make runs to a blind spot to receive the ball from the center forward or create passing chances.

Fabinho (Left) and Jordan Henderson (Right) celebrating a goal.

Fabinho (Left) and Jordan Henderson (Right) celebrating a goal.

The Midfield Three

Here are the midfielders for Liverpool.

Georgino Wijnaldum

Georgino Wijnaldum is known by Liverpool fans as the dancer of the team. While he is sometimes seen as a playmaker, Wijnaldum is able to play as an attacking midfielder as well. Wijnaldum's job is to support the attack from the left side, playing closely with the left-back and the left-winger in a triangular movement.

Fabinho

Also known as the eye of the midfield, Fabinho is the defensive midfielder of the team and the one who receives the ball from the back to start a build up from the midfield. He usually creates passes to Wijnaldum and Henderson for them to start the attack on the wings. Fabinho also supports the defense by dropping to the defending half and pressing to dispossess the opponent strikers.

Jordan Henderson

The captain of the team, Jordan Henderson plays on the right side of a narrow center midfield. Similar to Wijnaldum's role, the captain plays a triangular movement with the right-back and the right-wing to move the ball to the back or to the front depending on the attacking pressure.

Virgil Van Dijk with Liverpool FC

Virgil Van Dijk with Liverpool FC

The Great Wall of Liverpool

Here are the main defending players for Liverpool.

Andy Robertson

One of Klopp's newest inverted full-backs, Andy Robertson plays a huge role in the attacking part of the team as well as defending. Robbo's role in the team is to create passing opportunities to Sadio Mane and getting ready to receive a return pass in order to assist for a goal in an attack.

Virgil Van Dijk

Virgil Van Dijk is the center-back of the team. He is in charge of most of the defensive work while being pretty good with a header. In this 4-3-3 formation, he plays the ball around with Fabinho or, in some cases, provides a long pass to the wingers to start a counter attack.

Joe Gomez

Just like Van Dijk, Joe Gomez's role in the 4-3-3 formation is to defend, but he is also tasked with providing passes to the midfield, creating a build up or to move the ball straight to a winger to start a counter attack.

Trent Alexander-Arnold

Similar to Robbo's role in the team, Trent Alexander-Arnold is an inverted full-back playing on the right side of the field. His role is to move forward and support Mo Salah in an attack, provide passing chances and anticipate return passes to give an assist to the attackers.

The inverted full-back's role in this 4-3-3 formation.

The inverted full-back's role in this 4-3-3 formation.

© 2020 Nigel Koay Talks Football

Related Articles