After a positive display in Liverpool’s 3-1 victory over AFC Bournemouth, Jack Lusby ask whether this can spark a revival in fortunes for Brendan Rodgers.
Brendan Rodgers’ new tactical system at Liverpool proved a masterstroke on Wednesday night, as his side danced around Eddie Howe’s AFC Bournemouth side in a proficient attacking display.
Two goals from Raheem Sterling and another from a lively Lazar Markovic were enough to see off an off-colour Cherries side, although ex-Everton midfielder Dan Gosling did trouble the Liverpool defence, and scored Bournemouth’s consolation effort.
Creating consistent chances in the attacking third, this system looked hugely impressive.
Of course, this was not the first time Rodgers used this system, as a surprising 3-4-2-1 lined up in Sunday’s 3-0 loss away to Manchester United.
After that game, Rodgers praised how his side “created more chances today than we have done for five or six games.”
“I don’t think we deserved to be on the end of the scoreline.”
It wasn’t a poor display, although Rodgers’ words somewhat do a disservice to United’s clinical approach to victory, but there was work to be done as the result suggested.
For all the creation, Liverpool’s passing was disjointed and Sterling’s finishing in particular belying his role as a centre-forward; in short, Rodgers’ needed to tighten the joints in this new system.
As a comparatively low-profile affair, Wednesday night’s Bournemouth victory proved the perfect exercise for Rodgers to do so.
Standing with the torque wrench in the technical area, the manager was even helped by Tommy Elphick’s dismal defensive work and Callum Wilson’s welcome on-goal profligacy in stabilising this loose formation.
Against Bournemouth, Liverpool played reminiscent of the arrogant attacking side of last season, with a true flourish.
Sterling’s opening goal proved the perfect evidence of this.
Great goal! Brilliant pass from Markovic header back & finish from Sterling. Lallana doing his Johan Cryuff impressions was my favourite bit
— Jamie Carragher (@Carra23) December 17, 2014
Rounding off a move which contained a stunning 51 passes, from defence to attack, Sterling deftly nodded home a cushioned header from Jordan Henderson after a brilliant cross from Markovic.
With this being his first headed goal for the club, Sterling proved himself a surprisingly accomplished finisher at the Goldsands Stadium.
Like against United, Sterling once again had the most shots, with six, but this time was able to translate these into goals—only two of the forward’s shots were on target, but both saw the net bulge.
Sterling’s second outlined his ability to dribble and bamboozle defences, and it is this element that Liverpool have been missing in a forward
The Reds’ other scorer against Bournemouth, Markovic, proved a devastating outlet on the left-hand side of the attack.
Aside from his hand in Sterling’s first, Markovic also added Liverpool’s second with a confident, placed finished from the edge of the box.
Markovic, after impressive cameos against both Real Madrid and United in recent weeks, went some way to evidence why Rodgers paid £20 million for his services in the summer; Liverpool’s busiest attacking player, Markovic made 80 touches of the ball on Wednesday night.
Formally fielded as a left wing-back, and although both he and Henderson were primarily utilised as attacking support, Markovic also proved a diligent defensive prospect.
Markovic made six tackles, more than any other player on the pitch.
Overall, these two performances hallmarked an impressive attacking display, with the likes of Adam Lallana and Philippe Coutinho also impressing in victory—but is it too soon to call this a comeback?
After the game, the Liverpool Echo’s James Pearce opined: “For an hour Rodgers’ men recaptured the kind of swagger which was their calling card during the dizzy heights of last season’s title challenge.”
However, it must be measured that this was a performance against Championship opposition—albeit a hugely impressive, table-topping outfit.
There were still huge defensive deficiencies apparent at the Goldsands, and an early effort from Wilson is the perfect example of this.
Callum Wilson should have Bournemouth up 1-0 over Liverpool. Discards both Skrtel and Lovren in the area, pushes shot wide.
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) December 17, 2014
The 22-year-old foxed both Martin Skrtel and Dejan Lovren, before poking the ball just wide of Brad Jones’ goal.
Limp defensive displays were another calling card of last season, and this continued on Wednesday night.
With Liverpool facing the prospect of another Premier League top-four rival clash on Sunday, as they welcome Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal to Anfield, Rodgers must be wary that this successful display doesn’t hide these blemishes.
After the game, Rodgers praised Sterling’s display, saying “[watching that] you think of Alexis Sanchez when he plays for Arsenal.”
Sanchez is the man that Liverpool must fear on Sunday, and “his speed in front of the back four,” as Rodgers attributes to Sterling, will be a considerable threat.
This is where Rodgers’ formation will be tested.
Mamadou Sakho replaced Lovren at half-time and evidenced a stable ability to take the ball and move from defence, and also proved strong at the back, making more successful tackles (two) than Skrtel and Lovren combined.
Rodgers must look to Sakho, in combination with a confident Kolo Toure, to complement Skrtel’s brash physicality in a back three.
This new system is proving a welcome innovation from Brendan Rodgers, with performance levels rising, and the likes of Lazar Markovic, Adam Lallana and Raheem Sterling must continue their roles against Arsenal on Sunday.
But the manager must next address his leaky defence in order to compete.
Is this new system the right way forward for Liverpool? Let us know in the comments below.