LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Boxing Day, Wednesday, December 26, 2018: Liverpool's Fabio Henrique Tavares 'Fabinho' celebrates scoring the fourth goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Newcastle United FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Fabinho returns but in 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1? – Predicting the Liverpool lineup vs. Arsenal

The excellent form displayed throughout the squad leaves Jurgen Klopp with some tough selection decisions for Liverpool’s clash with Arsenal.

It’s been a great festive period for the league-leading Reds but things now get serious with two huge games, starting against the Gunners.

Klopp’s shrewd rotation is working a treat currently, with subtle game-by-game changes paying off as performances and results remain impressive.

The manager is likely to continue with his successful policy at Anfield, and the excellent form of all those regularly called upon gives the boss some interesting decisions.

The biggest of those come in the midfield selection and therefore how to shape the attack, so how could Liverpool’s starting XI look against Arsenal?


Injury Update & Rotation Options

Who is out? Gomez (leg), Matip (collarbone), Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee), Milner (hamstring), Brewster (knee), Solanke (muscle)

Who could come in? Clyne, Moreno, Fabinho, Keita, Lallana, Origi, Sturridge

Who could be come out? Alexander-Arnold, Robertson, Henderson, Wijnaldum, Shaqiri

Speaking in his pre-match press conference, Klopp revealed James Milner will miss out again and cited the trip to Man City as a more realistic return date for the vice-captain.

Dominic Solanke is also sidelined with a muscle problem, but Alberto Moreno is available after a back issue and in contention to return to the matchday fold.

Joel Matip, Joe Gomez and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain all remain out, but Klopp revealed the latter is progressing rapidly and could make a surprise early return to training in February.

Klopp has options in all departments to keep things fresh, if required.

We could see rotation at right-back with Nathaniel Clyne available to allow Trent Alexander-Arnold to be managed sensibly after his return from injury.

Nathaniel Clyne (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Fabinho will be full of confidence after scoring his first Reds goal against Newcastle and is in line for a recall to midfield.

Naby Keita will also hope for a starting role after watching the Boxing Day win from the bench for the duration.

The likes of Adam Lallana, Daniel Sturridge, Divock Origi offer further alternatives.


The Potential Lineups

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Friday, December 21, 2018: Liverpool's captain Jordan Henderson during the FA Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers FC and Liverpool FC at Molineux Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It was a slight surprise that Klopp didn’t rotate more heavily against Newcastle with these next two huge games in mind.

Sticking with a near-full strength selection on Boxing Day at least ensured that the Reds maintained rhythm and top form for this first heavyweight clash.

Klopp has tweaked things shrewdly throughout the busy run and it would be no surprise to see the same happen again here.

The adjustments will come in midfield again, with the first-choice back four and front three of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino continuing to pick itself.

One thing Klopp could consider is switching back to a three-man centre and restoring Fabinho within it.

The Brazilian can slot in to protect behind a more free-roaming Jordan Henderson and Gini Wijnaldum, who both deserve to keep their places after dominating against Newcastle.

Xherdan Shaqiri would miss out and could consider himself unlucky, but fielding a powerful, aggressive centre could be key to winning the midfield battle to expose Arsenal’s weak defence.

That solitary change would see the Reds start with this XI:

(4-3-3) Alisson; Trent, Lovren, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Salah, Mane, Firmino

Liverpool’s excellent form has largely been built upon a 4-2-3-1 setup and it would be a surprise if Klopp moved away from that system.

It would be better to simply alter the selection rather than switch formation and potentially risk upsetting the balance of a team firing on all cylinders.

In the key area, Fabinho will enter but in place of Henderson or Wijnaldum—with the captain perhaps the more likely to drop out given the previous successful balance between the Brazilian and Dutchman.

Staying with this shape would be ideal for keeping Shaqiri in to unleash the new Fab Four on a suspect Arsenal defence.

But Klopp may instead deploy Keita from the left as seen recently—with Mane switching to the right—to keep Shaqiri as a game-changer from the bench.

One final adjustment could see Clyne start at right-back, ensuring Alexander-Arnold is 100 percent fit for the crucial showdown with Man City:

(4-2-3-1) Alisson; Clyne, Lovren, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Wijnaldum; Mane, Firmino, Keita; Salah

Saturday’s game will be a tough test, but it’s one the Reds can attack with full belief to claim another crucial win, which would set up everything perfectly for the trip to the Etihad.

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