Liverpool will be without a holding midfielder this weekend, so Jurgen Kloop could explore a temporary formation to face Chelsea in their Premier League opener.
After the summer, the Premier League is finally set to kickoff this weekend, with Liverpool scheduled to face Chelsea in a high-profile opener on Sunday afternoon. The Reds will not benefit from an easy start to the campaign, with Stamford Bridge set to host the clash between two heavyweights of the English game.
Jürgen Klopp has very few injury concerns going into the bout, but it remains to be seen what he’ll do in the of the park. The German coach is without a specialist holding midfielder at present, after allowing both Fabinho and Jordan Henderson to move to Saudi Arabia in the past few weeks.
Interest remains in Roméo Lavia, but Southampton seems unwilling to accept a reduced bid for his services. As a result of the lack of a defensive-minded midfielder at Anfield, Klopp has been conducting experiments in pre-season, testing Curtis Jones and Alexis Mac Allister in the role.
Liverpool’s obvious void could be a problem in the opening game, especially considering how Klopp’s system tends to work. He has adopted a new-look 3-2-5 attacking shape over the past few months — which forms whenever the Reds have possession under control — but it is worth noting that 4-3-3 is still employed when his players are defending.
The player who is deployed in Fabinho’s place against Chelsea will have to be comfortable as a lone holding midfield presence at times, which is a concern considering both Jones and Mac Allister are naturally expressive and attack-minded. Ahead of the match, Klopp is toying with the prospect of installing a temporary fix.
After Liverpool defeated Darmstadt in a friendly on Monday night, the Reds boss hinted at the possibility of using a new formation for the one-off fixture.
In an interview with LFCTV, Klopp said: “Now we have to find, in the next five or six days, a formation for the Chelsea game, not for the whole season, and then we go from there.”
His choice of words is curious, with Liverpool perhaps possessing the players to use 4-2-3-1 at Stamford Bridge.
Indeed, 4-2-3-1 was the formation that Klopp favored during his primitive years as a promising coach. He used that structure every week during his successful time in charge of Borussia Dortmund, winning the Bundesliga on two separate occasions while also reaching the final of the Champions League.
He has barely used 4-2-3-1 since moving to English shores in 2015, but now could be the perfect time for him to roll back the years, with Jones and Mac Allister potentially capable of forming a partnership in the middle of the field, with Dominik Szoboszlai or Cody Gakpo deployed as Liverpool’s number 10.
Trent Alexander-Arnold also has the technical qualities to play in the center of the pitch, with Joe Gomez offering the necessary defensive perks to cope as a right-back against an offensive-minded team such as Chelsea. Klopp certainly has options at his disposal, but they are all offensive.
Mohamed Salah is almost certain to be used on the right wing with one of Luis Díaz or Diogo Jota used on the left. Darwin Núñez also has the poaching instinct to be fielded as Liverpool’s striker, although his defensive inefficiencies suggest that Klopp will be more inclined to start the South American against Bournemouth six days later.
Overall, a specific 3-2-5 shape has been fine-tuned throughout pre-season, but with Chelsea on the horizon and no established number six in the squad, Klopp would be well within his rights to opt for a short-term fix this weekend. And if a positive result can be secured on the back of his tactical curveball, no Reds supporter would complain.