Having unleashed a 4-4-2 against Man City, Jurgen Klopp has warned his managerial rivals that, “from now on,” Liverpool will be more unpredictable in their setup.
Ahead of the Reds’ trip to Manchester, few would have predicted that both Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino would start, with the talk ahead of kickoff being one or the other.
Klopp threw Pep Guardiola a curveball, however, as he fielded Jota, Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah in a system that resembled 4-4-2 out of possession and 4-2-4 in attack.
It overwhelmed City early on, and though their hosts grew into the game to secure a 1-1 draw, it is a situation that benefits Liverpool going forward, with it more difficult to predict how they will set up.
A 4-3-3 is likely to remain Klopp’s go-to formation, but he explained after the game that “we can play three or four different systems,” and that being able to forecast his approach is now “water under the bridge.”
“When you can do it against City, you can do it in other games as well,” he said of his 4-4-2.
“It will not be our new all-the-time, or whatever, but there are moments when we might use it. So that’s very helpful for us.
“Usually, people know which system we play. That’s now water under the bridge.
“From now on, we can play three or four different systems which is good, and tonight it worked really well.
“We thought we want to use the skills and the power of the four up front in specific moments to cause City problems, that’s one thing.
“The other is that we [managers] all like to prepare for a game in the way that we know exactly what the opponent is doing, and I don’t think Pep knew we would play 4-4-2.
“It’s not important, but it needed a while for City to adapt to it.
“That was the plan for today, and we will not have used that for the last time.”
It is not the first time Klopp has deviated from his 4-3-3, with a 4-2-3-1 in use for periods when Xherdan Shaqiri was a regular starter, but this feels more like a genuine tactical evolution.
Jota was expected to come in as a rotational option, serving as backup to the front three, but the form he has shown early into his time at Anfield has demanded a place in the starting lineup.
Now, with four genuine top-level forwards, and the likes of Shaqiri and Takumi Minamino waiting in the wings, it will be tough to predict how Liverpool will set up for any particular game.
This is even more so given the manager has shown no reluctance to field all four of Jota, Salah, Mane and Firmino in arguably the biggest fixture of the season, and now Guardiola and his peers face a tougher task in preparing for the Reds.