This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Liverpool prevailed against Genk in the Champions League on Tuesday, winning 2-1 thanks to goals from Georginio Wijnaldum and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Their tactical switch shows Jurgen Klopp has a plan B up his sleeve should he need it.
With Manchester City coming up at the weekend, Klopp rotated his side, making six changes to the team that beat Aston Villa last Saturday. There was a tactical switch, as well.
If you looked at the match reports from this game, you would have seen Oxlade-Chamberlain in the striker position and would probably have asked yourself what the former Borussia Dortmund manager was up to?
However, it was part of the 52-year-old’s cunning scheme.
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The 33-time England international actually played in a false nine position as the heatmap below shows. As he is not a natural striker, it made more sense for him to take up an overall deeper role.
As such, this forced the midfield to be more proactive going forwards. You can see from the two heatmaps below the effect it had on their offensive play.
The first, against Aston Villa, shows Jordan Henderson, Adam Lallana and Wijnaldum sitting further back in the midfield. On Tuesday, though, the trio of the latter, Fabinho and Naby Keita were more advanced, and it paid dividends as the Netherlands international opened the scoring from inside the six-yard box.
Wijnaldum, who moved to Anfield from Newcastle in 2016 for £25m, has played for Liverpool mainly in central midfield, but it was his performances as either a left-midfielder or an attacking midfielder for PSV and the Toon that caught the six-time European champions’ eye. His offensive contribution has been restricted on Merseyside, though – he has scored just four more goals for the Reds than he did in 116 less games for the north-east outfit.
Here, however, a false nine allowed him to be more adventurous, and the goal he scored was proof of that. Whilst Roberto Firmino will continue to play as the main forward – and rightly so, considering Klopp and co have won 1o of their first 11 Premier League games with him in the side – here is a plan B that could be used to great effect if needed.