Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has explained how the 3-1 defeat to Crystal Palace in November was a defining moment in the Reds’ season.
The defeat at a rain soaked Selhurst Park was the fourth in a row, having lost to Chelsea (home), Real Madrid (home) and Newcastle (away) immediately preceding the trip to Palace, then managed by Neil Warnock.
“The Crystal Palace defeat was a defining moment in our season,” said Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers speaking exclusively on talkSPORT. “Palace were excellent on the day.
“I needed to come away from that and really look at the team. We were certainly nowhere near the level we’d been in the last 18 months. That was a turning point.”
That Palace defeat was the last time Steven Gerrard was deployed as a holding midfielder.
In the games following, Gerrard was moved into an advanced role behind Rickie Lambert as Rodgers sought stability by initially employing a 4-4-1-1 formation for games against Ludogorets and Leicester City.
It was also the start of Gerrard being rotated out of the side, finding himself on the bench for games against Sunderland and Stoke City.
That change, bringing in Lucas Leiva to solidify midfield, saw Liverpool stop leaking goals at an alarming rate.
A month after the Palace defeat, and following the Champions League exit after failing to beat Basel in early December, saw Rodgers move to a 3-4-2-1 formation.
The first outing of that shape saw Liverpool succumb 3-0 at Old Trafford, but ironically the performance was improved and more chances created.
Since then, Liverpool are buoyant, 11 games undefeated in the Premier League.
Things that haven’t happened since the change to 3-4-2-1:
- Gerrard as a holding midfielder
- Dejan Lovren in a back four
- Jose Enrique in defence
- Mario Balotelli starting a Premier League game
Since the turn of the year we’ve seen Rodgers utilising ball playing defenders in his back three in Emre Can and Mamaadou Sakho, while using Raheem Sterling up front to ensure more movement and pace in attack.
Less involvement for Gerrard, Glen Johnson and Enrique has given Liverpool a fresh and energised team. The average age of the side in recent wins against Southampton and Manchester City was 23 years.