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3 Tactical trends shown by Liverpool this season | Premier League 2019-20

Modified 04 Feb 2020, 18:15 IST

Liverpool FC
Liverpool FC

Liverpool FC have undoubtedly been the best team in Europe this season. They sit atop the Premier League, 22 points ahead of their nearest rivals and without having lost all season. They are into the knockout stages of the Champions League as well as still competing in the FA Cup.

The Reds have looked virtually unbeatable this campaign and there are important tactical reasons behind their unmatched dominance. Here, we take a look at three tactical trends displayed by Jurgen Klopp's side in their pursuit of success on all fronts.

1. Attack-oriented full-backs

Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold are arguably the best full-back duo in football at the moment. Their relentless attacking efforts and output is unmatched by any other players in Europe.

Liverpool's attacking approach is heavily reliant on how much Robertson and Alexander-Arnold get forward. Both players are brilliant crossers of the ball and constantly trouble the opposition defences with their pacey yet accurate deliveries.

Andy Robertson
Andy Robertson's stats

Trent Alexander-Arnold
Trent Alexander-Arnold's stats

In the above graphics, we can see that both Robertson and Arnold have a high attacking output of 93 and 98 respectively. This metric works by comparing them to players in the same league who play in the same position. Therefore they are statistically the best in the league in their respective positions. Similarly, both of them are good at recovering the ball and defending when required.

To put their importance into perspective, the duo have contributed a massive 16 assists and three goals towards Liverpool's overall stats this season. This is nearly 20 per cent of Liverpool's goals scored in the league despite being 'defenders.'

Liverpool's full-backs are so insistent on going forward that even sides playing low-blocks and attempting to reduce the space they have to operate in.


2. Disciplined midfield

Liverpool do not have the most talented midfield in comparison to the other top four sides. What sets them apart, however, is their work-ethic and discipline off-the-ball. Fabinho, Georginio Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson have been Klopp's favoured midfield trio. What these three players bring to Liverpool's balance is extremely under-appreciated.

Wijnaldum is an energetic midfielder and a strong presser. It is no coincidence that in the big games he is, more often than not, the star performer, with the Dutchman pressing, Henderson and Fabinho act as the third line of defence. They have to compensate for Alexander-Arnold and Robertson's attacking exploits by being extremely disciplined themselves.

Heatmap for Wijnaldum, Henderson and Fabinho
Heatmap for Wijnaldum, Henderson and Fabinho

The above image illustrates the role the midfield trio play in Liverpool's success. We can see them carefully protecting the centre-backs while also venturing forward into the opponent's half to apply pressure. They are also seen in the half-spaces when Liverpool assert their dominance through possession. All three players are extremely calm on the ball and press-resistant making it difficult for opponents to counter-press.

3. Freedom for Sadio Mane

While the statistics still indicate Mohamed Salah being Liverpool's best forward, Sadio Mane's newfound freedom was crucial in Liverpool starting the season well despite Salah taking a while to get going.

The Senegalese has 15 goals and 7 assists in all competitions this season and has been ever-present in all the marquee games against the big sides. The stamina of their full-backs means that Liverpool rarely require their wingers to defend extensively. This freedom has kept Mane close to the goal.

Source: Understat
Source: Understat

From the above graphic, we can see how vital Mane is to Liverpool's buildup. He also takes high-quality shots with a greater probability of scoring. The Premier League Golden Boot winner averages 0.55 goals per 90 minutes and contributes significant value to the Expected Goals chain. Mane's finishing has markedly improved as the forward is ruthless and precise with his goalscoring exploits.

He also averages 0.3 assists per 90 minutes. Now that Salah is in form, Mane has dropped off a bit but the Cameroonian is arguably more dangerous than Salah given how he can change games on his own.

Published 04 Feb 2020, 18:15 IST
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