Do Liverpool need to abandon their new shape?

Sam McGuire
11 months ago

Liverpool are currently on a 13-match unbeaten run in the Premier League.

It was 12 games ago that Jurgen Klopp changed the system. Yet there are still people who aren’t sold on the 3-2-2-3 shape now utilised by the Reds when in possession. 

You can understand why too. For example, Liverpool have kept just three clean sheets during this period and these arrived in wins over Fulham, Brentford and Leicester City. They’ve conceded 16 goals in their 12 outings in this new shape – though the 4-4 draw with Southampton having fielded a weakened defensive unit on the final day of the season does skew things a little. 

Still, the 1.33 goals conceded per 90 is a worry. Extrapolate that over an entire season and the Reds are conceding close to 51 goals in their 38 Premier League games. That figure is nowhere near good enough for a title push. It is also asking a little too much of the strike force to fire them to a top-four finish

The sample size is large enough to read into this sort of thing. After all, 12 games is the best part of a third of a season. 

However, despite their defensive issues, Liverpool’s record in this system makes them one of the most in-form teams in the Premier League. They’ve taken 28 points from a possible 39 on offer. For added context, they’ve won 72% of the points available to them. Only Manchester City can boast a better record during this period. 

When you did a little deeper, the numbers are just as encouraging. 

Across the 12 matches, Liverpool have averaged an Expected Goals total of 2.25. They’re attempting almost twice as many shots as their opponents (16.02 per 90 to 8.62) while averaging 60% possession. Their Expected Goals conceded average is just 1.06. 

READ MORE: Anfield Watch readers vote on preferred Liverpool tactical system

Extrapolate the Expected Goal numbers over a 38-game campaign and the Reds are on course to create chances worth 85.5 goals while limiting the opposition to chances worth 40.28 goals. 

Of course, these numbers do have to be caveated. These games have come at the end of a season and at the start of a new one. Liverpool have come up against rudderless opposition and teams still finding their feet under a new manager during this spell. All of that needs to be taken into account when analysing this. It isn’t 'a pinch of salt' type of territory but things do need to be taken into account. They should be anyway. 

But can a system really be that bad when Liverpool have out-shot 12 of their 13 opponents? The only team to match the Reds was Leeds in the 6-1 loss. 

Klopp’s side have won the Expected Goals battle in 11 of their 13 matches too. Only Villa (1.35 to Liverpool’s 0.75) and Chelsea (1.35 to 1.28) have created better opportunities. The Blues are also the only team to finish a match against this Reds team with more possession. 

Furthermore, in five of the matches, Liverpool have created chances worth over 2.5 Expected Goals. 

Going forward, the Reds have clicked in this shape and there’s no ignoring it. Some believe it isn’t sustainable though and against better opposition, this system will be exposed. This argument is supported by the number of goals the team has conceded, pre-season included. 

It is a high-risk system that requires complete concentration at all times given players are tasked with filling multiple roles and positions. If Trent Alexander-Arnold inverts but there’s no pressure on the opposition’s defence while they’re in possession, the space vacated by the Liverpool right-back is ripe for the picking. That is what has happened time and time again. 

No doubt the fear is that it will happen in a big moment and that this team won’t have it in them to come from behind to salvage a result. It is a valid concern. But Liverpool struggled last season, at various times, to figure out a system that allowed the attack to function properly. The fact they have that now is something that shouldn’t be overlooked or taken for granted. 

If the Reds keep creating chances, they are going to be in with a chance of winning games. If they look to shore things up and this caps what they do going forward, it is going to be much more difficult to pick up three points. 

Is it the best system ever used by Liverpool under Klopp? No.

Is it the most effective right now? It is difficult to dispute that, it isn’t?

The Reds are winning games and scoring goals. 

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