When Liverpool first unveiled their new hybrid formation in April, the move was made not only to save their season but also to get the best out of Trent Alexander-Arnold.
They previously drew 0-0 away to Chelsea, while a 2-2 home draw against Arsenal saw them use a 3-2-2-3 formation for the first time.
In this formation, the England international started at right-back in the Reds’ traditional 4-3-3 formation and only moved to the center of midfield when Klopp’s team were in control of the ball.
Liverpool remain unbeaten following the squad change, with Alexander-Arnold scoring one goal and providing seven assists in the final 10 games of the season as they reclaim fifth place after a very disappointing season in Europa League qualification. Consequently, the new lineup is the system of choice for the Reds throughout the preseason.
After the first four games of the season, Klopp’s team
They are currently unbeaten in their last 15 games, the longest unbeaten streak in the Premier League. However, injuries to a central defender and midfielder, as well as delays in signing a new number six to replace Fabinho, have forced Klopp to restructure his squad this season.
In the 3-1 home win against Bournemouth, Alexander-Arnold’s movements towards the center were more limited, with the defender splitting his time attacking down the right.
Liverpool played a controversial role in Sunday’s 3-0 win over Aston Villa. When the Reds had the ball, Alexander-Arnold repeatedly did not drop into midfield, but moved into central defense, allowing Joel Matip to move to the right and help the team attack from the back.
Indeed, Klopp’s long-term plans for the Liverpool team are still unclear. That’s because the midfield has just been red-hot after signing Ryan Gravenberch from Bayern Munich on deadline day.
The Netherlands international became the German’s fourth engine room, joining in a deal worth up to £40m to complete a £150m overhaul alongside Alexis Mac Allister, Dominik Szoboszlaì and Wataru Endo. But Liverpool lack a distinct starting midfielder from that quartet.
While this is Endo’s natural position, the 30-year-old will need time to adapt to the Premier League and prove he is more than just an experienced teammate.
Additionally, Mac Allister has played in a deeper role in three of the Reds’ four games this season, although it is not his favourite.
Although Gravenberch is primarily used as a number eight, it is understood that Klopp believes the player can develop into a more defensive-minded position over time.
Alexander-Arnold himself occupied a midfield role at the start of pre-season, with youngster Conor Bradley impressing at full-back.
However, a stress fracture in the Northern Irishman’s back will sideline him for around three months, ensuring that such an experiment is unlikely to continue into the new season.
Curtis Jones briefly occupied sixth before Mac Allister became a more suitable option.
Meanwhile, Kostas Tsimikas is the only player to be used as a reverse full-back during pre-season. While Bradley and Alexander-Arnold started on the right in the first half of Liverpool’s five friendlies, the Greek took over the role when he replaced Andy Robertson and was dismissed on the wing.
The Red Army’s new system is under development, and its implementation has both positive and negative aspects. Five months after that debut, Liverpool are still improving and working to improve. So despite the initial success of the hybrid formation last season, the jury is still out.
Klopp’s long-term vision will only become clear as new signings are brought in and players return from injury. But for all the different midfield combinations, this set-up is perhaps awaiting its biggest test. Ultimately, this formation change is all about allowing Alexander-Arnold to receive the ball in a central position as much as possible. So what will the Reds do if their vice-captain is unavailable? We may find out.
The 24-year-old was forced off with a hamstring injury after 71 minutes of Liverpool’s 3-0 win over Aston Villa and was replaced by teenager Jarrell Kwasa on his Anfield debut. After the introduction, Joe Gomez switched to right-back and replaced Alexander-Arnold in the 76th minute as the Reds beat Bournemouth 3-1.
Either way, Liverpool will switch to a more traditional defensive setup. But after 15 minutes it was a different story and the game was already won.
Alexander-Arnold’s hamstring injury is said to be minor but has ruled him out of the England squad for the international break in September.
According to The Athletic , the defender will be sidelined for two weeks, making the Reds a doubt for the lunchtime clash with Wolves on Saturday 16 September.
With Bradley injured, James Milner is now a Brighton player, Calvin Ramsey is on loan at Preston North End, Gomez is Klopp’s replacement for Alexander at right-back – Arnold’s only senior replacement.
However, Ibrahima Konate also pulled out of international duty with France due to a muscle injury and Virgil van Dijk is awaiting observation after being charged by the FA following his sending-off against Newcastle United. Should the suspension be extended, Liverpool have a light centre-forward position – a position that was ultimately not reinforced this summer.
If Alexander-Arnold, Konate and Virgil van Dijk are unavailable, Quasa is likely to make his first Premier League start alongside Joel Matip with Gomez at right-back. In addition, Endo has experience playing as a central defender in Germany.
However, if Gomez gets his second England cap against Wolves, he will not be used as an inverted full-back.
So if the Greek is deemed more suitable for the position, will Klopp switch flanks and perhaps consider starting Tsimikas in place of Robertson? Or will the Reds revert to a traditional back four with no obvious midfield up front?
“We’ll see how we manage because we can play on different systems,” Klopp admitted before the clash with Aston Villa. “We’ll have to think about it during the season, that’s for sure.
“But we are still early in the season and we have to find it during the season. Instead of making 12 changes in four days, we stick with the status quo and go from there.
“That’s what we have to do at the moment, but we’ll keep an eye on what particular line-up is best and then adjust.”
Although his midfield was largely the talk of the town on this occasion, the German did not expect to have to adapt to such an extent in Liverpool’s next game. Of course, in an ideal world, Alexander-Arnold would be back in time to face Wolves. But if not, as has often been the case in the 24-year-old’s Anfield career, the Reds face the almost impossible task of trying to replace the full-back. In their mixed composition, such a task is now even more difficult.