Talking Tactics: Season 2011/12 Review


We continue our look back at last season, with an overview of the tactics used during season 2011/12.

kenny dalglish

Kenny tried to bring back pass and move football to Liverpool. Did it work? Yes. And no. In the early stages of the season, it worked beautifully. It contributed to a decent, if not great, start, to the league, and a Cup run that got us to two finals, winning one.

Trouble is, we needed certain types of players to help facilitate the beautiful game. Hard, ugly players (and I don’t mean their looks!). Players to mop up the mess when the pass and move broke down.

In Lucas and Adam, we had those players. The players to harrie the opposition, to win back the ball when it was lost further up the field.

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When we lost both Lucas and Adam to injury though, those tactics went to pot. We didn’t have the players to cope or cover. Spearing wasn’t up to it, Gerrard preferred to be further up the field, neglecting to track back – when he wasn’t injured too that is. And Henderson was played out of position on the right rather than honing his skills in the centre.

When we lost Lucas and Adam, it really didn’t look like Dalglish had a ‘Plan B’. We didn’t sign a defensive midfielder in the January transfer window, when we really needed one. And the down turn in league results reflected the lack of options or ideas.

Liverpool's Most Used Formation - Season 2011/12

Attacking tactics were also fairly baffling. We hit the woodwork an amazing number of times this season, and it should have been obvious to even a 5 year old fan we needed another striker alongside that midfielder in the January window, yet he too failed to materialise.

Dirk Kuyt was either left out in the cold, on the bench, or at times on the right of midfield, rather than being placed up top. The treatment of Andy Carroll was, also, baffling to say the least. Instead of being given a run of games that he needed to build an understanding and partnership with Luis Suarez, he was too often given one or two games, then dropped to the bench for the next five or six games.

The same with Maxi. One of our best players, when he was given a game, scored almost every time he played. Yet Dalglish insisted in starting more often than not with Downing on the left, when it was clear Maxi would have been a better option. If he was given more games, certain results may have been different. But Dalglish almost appeared to be freezing him out.

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And then we come to Luis Suarez. He’s not now, and never has been, the type of player that can lead a line on his own. He needs someone up there with him. Whether its Diego Forlan in the Uraguayan national side, or Andy Carroll, Dirk Kuyt or Maxi Rodriguez here at club level. He’s more effective alongside a partner, yet plenty of times, Dalglish used Suarez as a lone striker. It didn’t work the first time, or the second time, yet Dalglish insisted on sticking with it. He didn’t seem to realise, to learn, it didn’t work.

And then there’s the substitutions. There were games last season that were crying out for a sub as early as half time, if not no more than 10 minutes into the second half. Yet those changes were never forthcoming until the 80th, 85th minute. By which time it was to late to make any effective difference. And like the players, Dalglish insisted on sticking to this method, even when it was clear, game after game, it wasn’t working.

There was no ‘Plan B’. There were times we needed a ‘Plan C’, but it never happened. At times, Kenny seemed lost, even out of his depth, standing there as a forlorn figure on the touchline.

The tactics Dalglish used worked, to a point, but when it came time to change them, he couldn’t, or wouldn’t. Only results from the first half of the season, saved our season. Results post New-Year were relegation form. And the tactics were a large part of that.

Dalglish tried the old 4-4-2, he also used the 4-2-3-1. Neither worked with any great success. Mainly due to Kenny’s reluctance to mix things up.

The tactics failed the team. The team failed the tactics. Both contributed to our poor league finish, and ultimately caused Dalglish to receive his marching orders.


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  1. My apologies if it may be taken as offensive. However what written above was not really a tactical review. It’s more of stating all of the obvious of:
    a) we keep rotating CDM role showing we clearly missed Lucas
    b) we have no plan B
    c) our striker missed chances
    d) Kuyt and Maxi is frozen out

    When clicked in this article, i expected a higher analysis of our season tactic. Like how Henderson was showing best when he stay in RCM and move our wide to right flank for counter attacks or receive through ball (rather than holding RB to cover up Johnson like how Kenny assigned him). With nice diagrams, lots of arrows and stuffs like that

    • Apologies, I wrote a tactical “review” – what you’re after is a tactical “analysis”. Something slightly different.


      • Well written. And something most blind fans failed to realize. Kenny is a good motivator, but a really bad tactician. Hence the reason Liverpool does really well against top teams, because they feel motivated to win.

  2. Very poor article. The article merely reiterates most of the ill-informed opinions that germinated as a consequence of unfortunate results, rather than an intelligent look at how LFC actually played. KD, it is clear, invested total faith in the players he selected for particular games. Such faith pays dividends in building confidence, but not always immediatedly. What he saw in training all week before a game will have been influential. He, and the coaching staff know their players far better than a non-involved supporter. If informed supporters knew what the coaching staff knew their decisions would differ very little.

    There is no need for an in-depth analysis of tactics (I’m saying this as the author of Understanding Soccer Tactics – apparently influential in Spain). Quite simply, goals dictate much that goes on in a game, and can change games. Put it another way: with a bit of luck the drawn games, and even the defeats, would have been radically different, had one of LFC’s chances, early in a game, found the net.

    There was no need for a Plan B or C, when your team is playing great football. Why change things when the team continues to create chances. All the team needs is a goal, and the way they are playing suggests the goal will come. Perhaps it will happen next season. It cannot be ordered no matter who the manager is.

    • That is why Liverpool played better football without Jay Spearing as well as improved against Chelsea the moment Spearing was out and Carroll was in. Not to mention giving Carragher more play time than a developing Coates who could actually have used the extra minutes. Problem is KDs love for Liverpool (And maybe homegrown players) is what in the end cost him. Had he actually picked a squad based on results things would’ve been different. Spearing was no replacement for Lucas. Downing was doing nothing. 2 obvious facts.

    • As the author of “Understanding “Soccer” Tactics”, you claim luck was the missing ingredient in our season, where does luck figure in your book? Correctly you say goals change games, yet Kenny continued to leave Maxi and Kuyt (players who scored goals last season) on the bench and continued to play Downing and Henderson in wide positions.

      Having spent vast sums of money, Dalglish didn’t cover the areas in most serious of concern in our squad, back up/competition for Lucas and a striker who scores goals.
      The original writers seasons review on tactics is pretty spot on. The tactical nous and flexibility we had 2nd half of last season just disappeared.
      With a said budget of £30m this summer, we would do well to go into the market and sign Yann M’Vila (£17.7m) and Luuk De Jong (£12.65m). Two players who added to our squad enable us to be more flexible in our tactics and style of play.

    • @Conrad That might be the case that there was no need for a Plan B or C but if you look at a lot of the chances that hit the post they are shots from the edge of the area. The blatant chances number about 6 or 7 which is average for a season.
      What worried me as a fan last year was the lack of chances created from the by line, think Valencia for Man U or Dyer from Swansea. It seemed to me to be a problem of creation of gilt edged chances. As a team I thought LFC looked very average in and around the 18 yd box. Suarez was in a league of his own in my opinion and created many of the chances for himself that the rest of the tem should have created for him.
      I think the talent in the team is there but that organisationally and tactically we lacked something. ESPECIALLY against teams who are happy to win a point against us.
      I cannot stress how much emphasis I want to put on the last sentence.

    • ‘There was no need for a Plan B or C, when your team is playing great football’

      There’s every need to come in with a Plan B, C and D when your team is playing good football but not winning games

      It suggests something is seriously awry. If it happens 2-3 times a season then you can out it down to bad luck, but if it happens somewhere between half a dizen and a dozen times a season (as it did with us) then its a clear inmdication that somethig is missing – and i don’t just mean a goasl-scoring striker

      However, it’s easy to forget that we saw some pretty abject performances as well this season – Bolton (away), Wigan (home – but we didn’t do much better away either), Tottenham (away), Fulham (away), Sunderland (away) Newcastle (away), Man Utd (away)

      I think the article is one of the most balanced I’ve read on this forum

      I also completely agree with Chris Jones. Of our attacking players Suarez was head and shoulder above the rest. Of the rest, only Maxi and Bellamy – who played too sporadically – performed with any kind of consistency and Bellamy petered out towards the end of the season

      Kuyt had a season best foregotten about (and i don’t really blame him for that, the less said about wingers Downing and Henderson the better, and whilst Carroll started to make his marl in the last hanful of games it hardly mitigates for his poor form for the first three-quarters of the season

      Fact is Kennbuy had absolutely no alternative plan to beat those sides who came to Amfield in the hope of getting a point, and often left with all three

  3. That is why I think we needed to play with 3 up front with Downing on the left hand side of a spear head 523 formation would have been more productive.
    Playing Johnson and Enrique as right and left wing backs respectively would have allowed us to have a greater number of bodies in the box enabling us to score more goals. This formation uses 3 center backs with one attacking the ball giving support to the staggered defensive midfielder, the other attacking or creative midfielder tucks in to the 3 spearheaded attacking formation to create a devastating Diamond 4 in attack with the fullbacks pushing forward.


  4. The fans have to ask themselves what is it exactly they want, boring defensive football, never really achieving any thing apart from the possibility of a fourth place, or flowing football with attack the main emphasis producing cup finals, cups and probably a serious challenge for the premier league, and Champions league within 3 to 5 years, the question must then be asked why sack Kenny? it just dose not make sense, I strongly believe F.S.G and John Henry by sacking Kenny Dalglish as manager have made a mistake which they, and the supporters now realize will not be easy to rectify.

    • This is why a lot of we the supporters want Rafa back, his tactical play is much better than most, ok sometimes he might get it wrong but not very often, another point some people have stressed his style of plays borering i dont care as long as where winning? Kenny played exciting football but some of the players let him down unfortunately, thats what led to his demise as ive already said before i dont think Kenny was given enough time to put things right, but if the next managers not given a decent chance i can only see the same result? If i was him i would demand a 3years contract and no interference from the owners until the 3years were up. Goodluck too whomever takes charge i will give them my full support whoever he may be. LFC 4life.

      • mick the kidder yes I agree that all the supporters should give the new manager their support, but for how long remains a serious question because if he wins nothing in his first full season and dosn,t achieve a fourth place then will some of the supporters start to call for his dismissal,will he be called to the U.S.A and sacked and if not why not, after all any new manager can not expect to be given preferential conditions over a living legend Kenny Dalglish, as I stated earlier F.S.G have created conditions by their treatment of K.D that very few quality managers including Rafa would be willing to put up with,which verify s that F.S.G have handled this whole episode from start to what ever stage they are at now very poorly to say the least,

  5. I watched too many games over the course of the season that ‘drifted away’ and was very frustrated to see changes made at the 70 minute mark. With Carroll, Ballamy, Maxi and Downing frequently on the bench we should have tested teams organisation much more, as you have referred to in the article as plan B.

  6. I dont get all this bullsh’tting from the kenny party . What does it serve? Do they think it’ll get him back in ?

    Dalglish was a joke of a manager. He doesn’t seem to know of any tactical manoeuvres outside of attack, attack! It all just seemed like an extension of his insane delusions and his universe-sized ego.

    Any good performances came courtesy of Rafa’s intelligent, world class players, who are so good they overcame the rather large handicap of Dalglish’s witless, hapless, British donkey’s.

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