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Klopp's quirky title-winning tactical formula makes Liverpool unique champions

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When Jürgen Klopp told Liverpool fans they needed to turn from ‘doubters to believers’ upon his arrival in 2015, very few would have predicted the scale of success he would go on to have at Anfield.

Such a significant period of success may have only started in Madrid last year, but the Reds have won four major honours since then. As with any title-winning side, the questions that always arise are: what’s next? How long can this continue? Where do we need to strengthen to stay at the top?



At the same time, though, there needs to be a recognition of what has got you to the very top of English football, European football and world football too. This Liverpool side has become highly prolific in winning trophies but the way in which they have done it from a tactical perspective is indicative of the world-class players and management team at the club.



The unique nature of Klopp’s side is fuelled by relentless intensity and energy yet equally based on a unique tactical system which plays to the strengths of Klopp’s preferred starting XI. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Roberto Firmino, for example, performs roles that are incomparable with any other players across Europe’s top five leagues.



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Both Alexander-Arnold and Firmino are the obvious examples of unique tactical roles, but the expectations placed on Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez at centre-back highlight how much faith Klopp has in the two defenders.

As shown below, the average positions of each Liverpool player in Premier League matches this season shows how well advanced Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson are placed.

Liverpool’s average positions from Premier League matches this season (Image: Twenty3)

Whilst we already know that creative responsibilities placed on both full-backs means they are likely to function further forward, the visualisation showcases the quality of Van Dijk and Gomez to be able to register such a good defensive record this season.

Just 21 goals conceded in 31 matches means that Liverpool could become one the best Premier League defences of all time by the end of the season but the fact that two of the back four are an integral part of things going forward means Klopp’s defence is inherently different to other great defences of the past.

The way in which Liverpool’s formation above looks more like a 2-5-3 rather than 4-3-3 is a testament to how dominant they have been over the course of this season. It offers huge strength in attack and multiple options every time someone is on the ball which only increases the task facing any opposition.

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More than anything, though, this great Liverpool team should be viewed as another development in football’s increasingly sophisticated use of tactics and analysis. Any title-winning side always has something unique about it - whether that be Jose Mourinho’s defence in Chelsea’s 04/05 side or Pep Guardiola’s goal-scoring record in 17/18. For Liverpool, though, it may well go down as a team that reinvented what it means to be a full-back in the modern game.

When the teamsheets are released an hour before kick-off, we more or less know how Liverpool are going to line-up both in terms of personnel and the system used. However, graphics showing it as a 4-3-3 formation ignore the fact that Klopp’s side is far from a normal tactical system in the traditional sense.

Klopp places great emphasis on the full-backs to get forward and the two centre-backs have the defensive capabilities to essentially make it a 2-5-3 formation at times.

Whilst other teams around Europe also provide interesting tactical shapes, Liverpool’s successful use of such a unique system and world-class personnel emphasises why they are one of the most imperious forces in world football.


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