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Centre Midfield Will Keep Struggling Until A Change In Tactics


Cooger

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If you look on the Liverpool FC forums, on twitter and chat to many LFC fans the bulk of them feel that something is not working in centre midfield. I think there is no doubt, we have not been controlling games this season, as we would have liked. If you look at the below chart you will see we are allowing the opposition to have far too many shots on goal and we can’t keep relying on Mignolet to save the bulk of these:

 

BV4_9dUCEAEHhQu.png

 

So what is the problem?

 

There is usually a few arguments that occur when discussing the centre midfield:

 

1) Lucas is not fit enough, mobile enough and is struggling as a result.

 

2) Gerrard doesn’t have the legs anymore to play the role he is being asked.

 

3) Both Lucas and Gerrard don’t have enough energy or mobility between them for the combination to work.

 

4) We need to be playing with three in the midfield to give them help.

 

5) Henderson or Allen should play instead of Lucas or Gerrard.

 

I think there is no doubt that number 4 is valid and obviously three centre midfielders has more chance of controlling a match than two do. However if we do that, it means sacrificing another attacking player and that isn’t ideal, especially against the weaker sides when we should really be playing more than three match winners to ensure we win games. Also if Sturridge and Suarez are playing as a partnership, only having one more attacking player would limit our options when looking at formations, as two wide players would be less likely with three in midfield, unless we play with three at the back like we have done recently. But three at the back isn’t always the right formation to play, so we really need to find a centre midfield partnership that works and if Rodgers sticks with Lucas and Gerrard, then getting the best out of them. Actually, even playing with three at the back we haven’t controlled games and the centre midfield has still looked vulnerable. But I believe if we are going to play with two centre midfielders, it doesn’t matter which combination Rodgers selects, they will still struggle because of the tactics.

 

I think Rodgers really doesn’t want to drop either Lucas or Gerrard for two reasons. Lucas is our best ball winner, we see this as he been near the top of the stat charts for most tackles for not only our team but in the whole league. For Gerrard it is simple, he is still a wonderful presence on the field with his composure on the ball and is still the best passer in the league for my money, certainly with his long passes, such as the one to Sturridge for the first goal against Sunderland. He launches counter attacks brilliantly and a lot of our best work has come on the counter attack this season. Actually some of our best football came on the counter attack last season, once the January additions joined the squad. But I don’t think many of our fans have an issue with Lucas and Gerrard in possession, both keep the ball very well. The issues have been defensively.

 

But it isn’t just Lucas and Gerrard that have struggled as a combination. Even Henderson and Gerrard combination struggled many times during the weekend. When I say struggle, I mean struggle to control the match and Crystal Palace had far too much time and space on the weekend and should have had a few more goals if we are being honest. I actually thought Henderson played very well on the weekend, he was arguably man of the match, although that’s always a debatable question. But I think very few Liverpool fans would say he didn’t play well and he did give the midfield more energy. But as the stats show with Lucas he is breaking up play plenty of times, Gerrard is still influence games with his passing and ideally I think we’d have a combination of all three central. All doing what they do best.

 

But for me whoever we select in a midfield two will struggle, because as a team we are not keeping possession as well as we should do, this obviously gives them more defending to do. Now that’s a team problem, not down to the centre midfielders, all of which have good pass completion stats for the season:

 

- Gerrard: 85.5% (376 of 440 completed)

 

- Lucas: 89.3% (316 of 354 completed)

 

- Henderson: 85.8% (290 of 338 completed)

 

(Source – Whoscored.com)

 

So that is one thing where the team could help the centre midfield, if we keep the ball better, then obviously the less defending the team has to do.

 

However for me the biggest issue is the defense, especially our centre backs have been far too deep. Now this isn’t a problem if the whole team are deep and compact. Yet we leave Sturridge and Suarez very high up the field, even Moses a lot of the time has freedom to stay high. This just creates a massive gap between our defense and attack, which gives the midfield a really tough job.

 

If you look at the below charts it shows how we often look on the field and the amount of space the midfield two have to cover:

 

Too-Much-Space-To-Cover-1.jpg

 

Figure 1: How we mostly look during 4-4-2, defensively.

 

Too-Much-Space-To-Cover-2.jpg

 

Figure 2: How we look mostly when playing 3-4-1-2, defensively.

 

I think that amount of space is hard for any midfield two to cover. But it really gives the midfield pair a problem, with the defense being so deep. They have a choice to either push up and press teams, but this would give the defense no protection and would ask for trouble. Or they drop deep and ensure there is little space between the defense and midfield, making us tough to break down and more often than not that is what they do. But they have to do it, because pressing would be a disaster with the defense that deep. If we are going to press you have to do it as a team, otherwise massive gaps will occur and they will be exploited.

 

But the above pictures are when things are going to plan. Many times during games the gap is even bigger than the ones shown us and this just makes the issues for the midfield two even greater, as figures 3 and 4 show below:

 

Too-Much-Space-To-Cover-41.jpg

 

Figure 3: 4-4-2 – When we’re attacking.

 

Too-Much-Space-To-Cover-3.jpg

 

Figure 4: 3-4-1-2 – While Attacking

 

As we know our full backs are given instructions to bomb forward every time we have the ball. Obviously the front two and other attacking players get forward as well. However our centre backs have still been staying deep and this makes the space between the defense and attack far too big. The thing is we attack at such pace, Gerrard gets the ball from the centre backs and it is often a long ball up to the front two and everyone rushing to get forward, but we are not keeping the possession well enough and this is giving the centre backs little chance to push up the field. Having said that even when we have kept the ball well at times they have been far too deep. I think this is because Rodgers wants space to open up the field and make it more likely for us to keep the ball. But when we lose the ball, which is inevitable, as all teams do it, then those gaps give the centre midfield a real problem, as I said whether to press or to protect the back four and I can understand why they are doing the latter, as it is the safest option.

 

So what is the solution?

 

Barring adding a centre midfield to help the midfield two, by including all of Lucas, Gerrard and Henderson in the same team. I really feel the team need to keep possession of the ball better. But more importantly the centre backs have to push up the field and make us far more compact as a team. This will reduce the space between our defense and attack, giving the centre midfield the opportunity to press and actually press as a team. It will also stop our side sitting back and inviting pressure, which we seem to be doing far too often.

 

People will say we need to buy new players. But I think we could have Mascherano and Alonso in this team and it would struggle a lot more than it used to do under Benitez, due to the amount of space. No doubt, they would be better as they are two of the best players in the world in that position. But unless the defense push up the field they might struggle more than we think. Under Houiller and Benitez we used to have very little space between our defense, midfield and attack. Gerrard would be the link between midfield and attack, being a midfielder he could drop deep to help them if needed. I think Coutinho will help with this as he’s more energetic and better at tracking back than Moses. Under Houiller we’d play on the counter attack, so being deep was not a problem. At our best under Benitez we would move up and down the pitch as a unit – defending as a team and attacking as one. I don’t think we have done that this season, except the first half vs Stoke and first half vs Villa.

 

Won't let me post image (already says I have posted too many images - see image on link)

 

Figure 5: Showing the less space Mascherano and Alonso had to cover under Benitez

 

Won't let me post image (already says I have posted too many images - see image on link)

 

Figure 6: Showing the Benitez team attacking as a team, making it easier to press as a team and control midfield

 

Won't let me post image (already says I have posted too many images - see image on link)

 

Figure 7: How the centre backs pushing up the field will help the current centre midfield two in 4-4-2

 

Won't let me post image (already says I have posted too many images - see image on link)

 

Figure 8: How the centre backs pushing up the field will help the current centre midfield two in 3-4-1-2

 

Conclusion

 

As I said originally, the centre midfield are getting a lot of criticism recently. Some justified, some of it is harsh. I feel the side would be best having Henderson, Lucas and Gerrard all in midfield, as they all offer qualities that make us a better side. I think a midfield diamond might be best to get them all into the team, as well as having Coutinho central in a free role.

 

However it doesn’t matter who we play in centre midfield, if the centre backs and defensive line continues to be far too deep they will have a thankless task and won’t know whether to press or sit back and protect the defense, as you can’t do both over such a large amount of space. It would also help massively if the team kept the ball better.

 

It is easy to pick on the individual players, but I really think the tactics are the biggest issue. Get the centre backs pushing higher up the field, then we’ll be more compact as a team, can press more effectively, put teams under pressure, win possession in more dangerous places on the field and the centre midfielders will probably look far better.

 

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Edited by Cooger
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Gerrard and Henderson were bloody good in the first 45 on Saturday. The drop off in the second half wasn't quite so bad as we had seen in other games. Maybe that's a sign of growing fitness.

I've been concerned about Gerrard and Lucas' mobility in recent games, but Henderson gets everywhere so I'd like to see him get a run of games in the position.

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To save me reading all that is the conclusion keep possession better?

 

It isn't no.

 

The article says that the centre defense are too deep and that is the main problem. Although obviously keeping the ball better will help.

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1381100961[/url]' post='3513834']

It isn't no.

 

The article says that the centre defense are too deep and that is the main problem. Although obviously keeping the ball better will help.

 

I don't being too deep is the issue. The bigger issue is Gerrard and Hendo's position.

The reality is that neither has the discipline to sit in front of the defence. As a result, the central defender of the three ends up acting as a sweeper I.e. Slotting in defence when oppo have the ball and striding forward when we have the ball, ala Mathaus or Matthias Sammer.

The issue is Skrtel is not really that adept at doing this hence our inability to keep the ball. Even Lucas is not great at retaining possession.

Allen is but he has been rubbish of late. If he recaptures the form at the start of last season then we are quids in.

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This isn't reddit

 

So I'm going to open this given that the OP asked for it to be opened. He failed to ask nicely though and seemed rather put out that I'd closed a thread that contained so much of his work. His work was however elsewhere and I didn't realise it was his work.

 

In future don't just post links to stuff elsewhere and understand that tl:dr posts tend to be too long and not read

Edited by Swan Red
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Gerrard and Henderson were bloody good in the first 45 on Saturday. The drop off in the second half wasn't quite so bad as we had seen in other games. Maybe that's a sign of growing fitness.

I've been concerned about Gerrard and Lucas' mobility in recent games, but Henderson gets everywhere so I'd like to see him get a run of games in the position.

 

They were and they weren't. Palace still got behind both of them a few times and had a few chances to score in that first half due to the side being far too open.

 

Henderson gives us more energy, but Lucas and Gerrard give us other attributes as well. As I say ideally we'd have all three in CM.

 

Palace didn't close our defenders down when the goalie gave them the ball.

 

There you are.

 

Don't see how that affects our CM. Please explain?!

 

I don't being too deep is the issue. The bigger issue is Gerrard and Hendo's position.

The reality is that neither has the discipline to sit in front of the defence. As a result, the central defender of the three ends up acting as a sweeper I.e. Slotting in defence when oppo have the ball and striding forward when we have the ball, ala Mathaus or Matthias Sammer.

The issue is Skrtel is not really that adept at doing this hence our inability to keep the ball. Even Lucas is not great at retaining possession.

Allen is but he has been rubbish of late. If he recaptures the form at the start of last season then we are quids in.

 

But isn't that the point - if Henderson, Gerrard or Lucas (whichever two are selected) sit deep then we can't press as a team and invite pressure.

 

Don't see how you say Lucas doesn't retain possession very well as it shows in the opening post:

 

- Gerrard: 85.5% (376 of 440 completed)

 

- Lucas: 89.3% (316 of 354 completed)

 

- Henderson: 85.8% (290 of 338 completed)

 

(Source – Whoscored.com)

 

So I'm going to open this given that the OP asked for it to be opened. He failed to ask nicely though and seemed rather put out that I'd closed a thread that contained so much of his work. His work was however elsewhere and I didn't realise it was his work.

 

In future don't just post links to stuff elsewhere and understand that tl:dr posts tend to be too long and not read

 

I thought I asked very nicely!

 

Yeah I only posted the link because it wouldn't let me show all the pictures. Must be a limit.

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Whoever it is, we badly need a midfielder who will score goals.....

 

You say that but Alonso and Mascherano would never get many goals, hardly any in fact.

 

They'd have Gerrard in front of them getting goals, I think Coutinho should be able to do that job.

 

The centre midfielders job is to control matches, not get goals. Even saying that Gerrard got 8 league goals and 8 assists last season. Henderson got 5 goals and 4 assists in the league last season and only started 16 matches.

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centre midfield will keep struggling until a change in personnel

 

I think a change in personnel could help. Obviously Mascherano and Alonso would be great, but we'll still look open until the centre backs push up and the gap between our defense and attack is reduced.

 

Cooger took a fair bit of time out of a busy schedule of chasing younger men to put this together.

 

WTF?

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As long as we have Sturridge and Suarez starting up front together and Mignolet in goal then we can win any football match.

 

We have Glen Johnson, Coutinho and Cissokho to come back in who are all made for this formation too.

 

Time to start worrying about the possession part is when it is costing us games, for now it's all good.

 

Joe Allen would be a great second half sub to come on and help us keep the ball when we are struggling like he did at times last season, he's back soon too.

 

There are more than one way to win a footy match and we've found a way that is working for us.

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As long as we have Sturridge and Suarez starting up front together and Mignolet in goal then we can win any football match.

 

We have Glen Johnson, Coutinho and Cissokho to come back in who are all made for this formation too.

 

Time to start worrying about the possession part is when it is costing us games, for now it's all good.

 

Joe Allen would be a great second half sub to come on and help us keep the ball when we are struggling like he did at times last season, he's back soon too.

 

There are more than one way to win a footy match and we've found a way that is working for us.

 

I don't disagree with any of that. But it would be nice to have more control and the amount of shots the opposition are having is concerning.

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I was not adverse to an entire restructuring of our midfield in the Summer but in reality, we were after attacking players as we needed more goals (Suarez situation was ongoing) and we really needed to look at center back. We also replaced the keeper - to restructure midfield would have been a massive overhaul.

 

That said, it is something that now needs addressing in January if possible but definitely next Summer.

 

I dont think the defence can play an aggressive high line simply because of the midfield. For the high line to work, the opposition need to be hounded in midfield. Its kamikaze to play a high line and affording the opposition time on the ball. I think its very clear that Gerrard and Lucas dont have the legs to play that game. In fact, the duo that have the best chance of making that work is Henderson & Allen who are not shy about being busy in midfield.

 

Just on your tacticsboard, you can't really have the attackers on the 18 yard line at one end of the pitch and the defenders on the 18 yard line at the other end of the pitch, that never happens. Football is alot more nuanced than that and the difference between a high line and a deep line is perhaps no more than 10 yards.

 

I am not drawing too many conclusions at the moment, we are 2 games into a new system with Suarez back. They are players that can cause alot of problems if they are supplied the ball early after the opposition loose the ball. If we sacrifice mundane possession for quicker balls to them and increase our chances of scoring then its more beneficial to the team. The 1st goal is crucial and if they can make an impact and get us the lead then perhaps as the game wears on, we could look at getting another midfielder in there to help close out the game.

 

Edit: Well played Leo :applause: Good use of the function

Edited by Rory Fitzgerald
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- Gerrard: 85.5% (376 of 440 completed)

- Lucas: 89.3% (316 of 354 completed)

- Henderson: 85.8% (290 of 338 completed)

 

Henderson hasn't been playing in the same position though (and making passes in the opposition area is obviously more risky/prone to failure than in your own half). When he did play in Lucas's position, his pass completion rate is 92%

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I was not adverse to an entire restructuring of our midfield in the Summer but in reality, we were after attacking players as we needed more goals (Suarez situation was ongoing) and we really needed to look at center back. We also replaced the keeper - to restructure midfield would have been a massive overhaul.

 

That said, it is something that now needs addressing in January if possible but definitely next Summer.

 

I dont think the defence can play an aggressive high line simply because of the midfield. For the high line to work, the opposition need to be hounded in midfield. Its kamikaze to play a high line and affording the opposition time on the ball. I think its very clear that Gerrard and Lucas dont have the legs to play that game. In fact, the duo that have the best chance of making that work is Henderson & Allen who are not shy about being busy in midfield.

 

Just on your tacticsboard, you can't really have the attackers on the 18 yard line at one end of the pitch and the defenders on the 18 yard line at the other end of the pitch, that never happens. Football is alot more nuanced than that and the difference between a high line and a deep line is perhaps no more than 10 yards.

 

I am not drawing too many conclusions at the moment, we are 2 games into a new system with Suarez back. They are players that can cause alot of problems if they are supplied the ball early after the opposition loose the ball. If we sacrifice mundane possession for quicker balls to them and increase our chances of scoring then its more beneficial to the team. The 1st goal is crucial and if they can make an impact and get us the lead then perhaps as the game wears on, we could look at getting another midfielder in there to help close out the game.

 

Edit: Well played Leo :applause:/> Good use of the function

 

Something probably needs to change.

 

I can see why the midfield two are dropping deep, as you say they probably aren't fit enough to do the high press, but the whole team need to do it, not just the CM's and it would be easier if we play in the oppositions half.

 

Re: The line that I have put in bold. I agree that a lot of the time, games are within about 10 yards. But far too often this season we have seen a massive gap between our attack and defense, as we do like a long direct pass straight up to the strikers and if they don't hold that ball up and have possession, then those gaps do occur.

 

I don't think Rodgers wants to play with a high defensive line. He didn't at Swansea, didn't last season or this season. But I think it would help the midfield two if we did.

 

Agree with your last paragraph.

 

Henderson hasn't been playing in the same position though (and making passes in the opposition area is obviously more risky/prone to failure than in your own half). When he did play in Lucas's position, his pass completion rate is 92%

 

Henderson is better at passing, I never said otherwise.

 

But Lucas' percentage is very good in itself.

 

If we want to have a go at people losing possession too cheaply, then Suarez is the most guilty.

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yer what lad?

 

Suarez loses the ball more than other players in the team. On the weekend he he had the lowest pass completion stats, he often does. He'll lose the ball when he runs at players as well.

 

However it doesn't matter because we want Suarez taking risks, as he is our best player and one of the best match winners in the league.

 

I am not having a go at Suarez, I'm saying ball retention is not what wins us games. Clean sheets and goals do and Suarez helps us get the latter. Someone had a go at Lucas' ball retention stats, but his stats are very good at keeping the ball.

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