Liverpool will repeat Jota-Salah-Mane-Firmino in ‘fab four’ attack, says Jurgen Klopp

The Reds boss wants to ensure Liverpool's formation and selection keeps the opposition on their toes during a taxing season

Melissa Reddy
Senior Football Correspondent
Monday 09 November 2020 10:46
Premier League 2020/21 in numbers

Would Jurgen Klopp stick with the in-form Diogo Jota in the starting line-up or skip back to Roberto Firmino, so fundamental to Liverpool for so long?

That was the question commanding the pre-match conversation around the fixture the Merseysiders first circle when the list is released and feel is their most daunting of a campaign: Manchester City away.

Klopp flipped the script, deciding not to choose between Jota and Firmino, selecting them both in a 4-2-4. It was an incredibly bold move given the opponents and also surprising.

More often that not and cutting through the popular perception of him as an orchestrator of chaos, Klopp opts for safety first. He has prioritised a foundation of organisation, discipline and being difficult to beat.

The German explained, though, that Liverpool were not relinquishing that ahead of kick off. "If you want to get something here you have to be really brave,” he said. “It's an offensive line-up, but if everyone does their job it's a solid defensive formation.”

The opening 25 minutes showcased exactly that. Pep Guardiola revealed City had considered Liverpool using all four attackers during their preparations, but they were still overwhelmed by it.

The visitors could have been ahead inside a minute at the Etihad and were incredibly aggressive in possession. They were also hugely obstructive without the ball, not allowing City the opportunity to build any meaningful play.

Mohamed Salah and Firmino were thwarting the supply to Rodri and Ilkay Gundogan and Kevin De Bruyne in midfield.

On 13 minutes, Liverpool’s courage was rewarded. Sadio Mane switched up the pass to cut inside Kyle Walker, who barged into him. It was an easy enough penalty for Craig Pawson to award and Salah smashed it into the bottom-left corner, past the dive of Ederson.

City were rattled by the speed, movement and intent of the champions, but Liverpool did not maximise the opportunities they carved out - especially on the counter.

"The start was probably the best period of the game. That’s how football is,” Klopp analysed.

“You have to – especially against City – use your chances or create even more. We had really top situations, top football moments, but for the football we played in that period, we didn’t have enough 100 per cent openings, let me say it like this.”

City eventually grew more comfortable with the state of play, and with De Bruyne playing further up the pitch, got back in the game.

Just before and after the hour-mark, Guardiola’s men shaded the game and evened matters when Gabriel Jesus superbly turned Joel Matip and poked past Alisson.

De Bruyne, who provided the assist, then saw a cross hit Joe Gomez around the elbow with referee Craig Pawson awarding a penalty for handball after reviewing the play on the pitchside monitor.

The Belgium midfielder took the spot-kick and sent Alisson the wrong way, but unexpectedly dragged his effort just wide of the left-hand post.

City were superior in the second half, dominating possession and territory without threatening much as the game faded somewhat.

But Klopp’s big takeaway will be that his attacking experiment was a success against Liverpool’s toughest opponent at a ground where they had lost the previous three league games, conceding 11 and scoring only once.

“When you can do it against City then you can do it against other teams as well,” he said of fielding Mane, Salah, Firmino and Jota.

“It will not be our new, all-the-time formation, but there are moments when we might use it. That’s very helpful for us.

“Usually people know which system we play, that’s now water under the bridge.

“From now on we can play three or four different systems, which is good, and it worked really well.

“We wanted to use the skills and the power of the four up front in specific moments to cause City problems, that’s one thing.

“The other thing is that we all like to prepare a game in the way that we know exactly what the opponent is doing and Pep, I don’t think he knew we would play 4-4-2.

“It’s not important but it needed a while for City to adapt to it, that was the plan.”

Liverpool’s ability to shape-shift will be an important asset during an unforgiving season.

In the meantime, they are sitting pretty on 17 points – one off leaders Leicester – having already travelled to Chelsea, Everton and City as well as hosted Arsenal and Leeds. 

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments