Last week I wrote this;
“…it wouldn’t surprise me if we played narrow again with the intention of forcing them to match our shape.”
We did indeed play quite narrow, but with a very specific shape which Andrea suggested was very much like a 4-2-2-2. Watching the game back I began to notice that he was really on to something. Palace defended deep and in numbers as you would expect, and quite often we responded to their defensive shape with a specific offensive shape. To me it appeared to be a box, with the players not more than 10 yards from each other. Of course it was flexible and of course it warped as the attack progressed, however it was very effective.
Here it is in the build-up to the first goal:
Here it is in the build-up to the second:
Perhaps it’s zonal attacking, or perhaps it’s a more advanced version of the ‘passing triangles’ we were all drilled in during our youth football days, (who remembers being yelled at by a coach to ‘make a triangle’). Either way it’s very good at breaking down those pesky buses that stand between us and a goal.
I don’t expect to see it too much at home where we can use the full width of the magnificent Emirates pitch, but it’s something to look out for away from home against all kinds of opposition. It’s also the reason why Ramsey must start, (on the right) when we are to deploy such a system. His partnership with Özil is key to its success, and because of his goal threat he can also operate as one of the front two when Alexis is further back. He may lose the ball a lot, but when it works it’s worth the effort.
Giroud is also incredibly important to the system because of his ability to hold the ball up, not to mention his finishing ability. I’m aware that people doubt that he’s top class, but he scores an awful lot of goals that he has no right to score. His strike against Palace was for me, top drawer.
I watched Liverpool play Bournemouth on Monday with interest. On another day it could easily have been a famous 0-1 win for the away side, as they had a goal ruled out for a foul (which I thought was harsh) and Benteke’s goal should have been chalked off because Coutinho was offside and attempted to play the ball before the big Belgian got the final touch.
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Overall I wasn’t impressed with them at all. They struggled to break down Bournemouth’s resolute defence and most of their good work went through Coutinho. Also he started ostensibly from the right but he popped up in the middle most of the time. Against us this will bring him firmly into Coquelin territory and if Le Coq keeps him quiet Liverpool will be quiet.
Alexis will most likely curb Nathaniel Clyne’s attacking enthusiasm in case he gets caught upfield when Alexis gets on the ball. It also wouldn’t surprise me to see Theo or the Ox deployed on the right (with Rambo on the bench) in order to really stretch the Liverpool back line. Henderson and Milner (or Can) will sit in front of their back four and try to stop Özil and Cazorla passing the ball, so using width to stretch them will give our playmakers more space to operate in.
For their part I wouldn’t be surprised to see them whipping low crosses into Benteke, (because Mertesacker will clear high crosses all day long), so Monreal and Bellerin will have to be alive to that threat. Brendan Rogers may also be tempted to deploy Firmino on their left to target the space between Bellerin and Per.
Overall this is a home game against a big side, and if we want to win the title we have to win. I feel like Liverpool are a better side this season than last, but we’re still better and at home we should take all three points.