Jurgen Klopp has favoured 4-3-3 throughout his time at Liverpool. The Reds have developed a strong association with the system, having used it to win every available piece of silverware over the past few years.
The German coach is in the process of constructing a new-look team at the moment, with Sadio Mane joining Bayern Munich this summer. On the back of Liverpool’s recent transfer business, much of the talk ahead of next season surrounds the prospect of 4-2-3-1 at Anfield.
With Klopp toying with the prospect of changing formation in the coming months, which players could benefit, and which players could suffer? Let’s take a look at the potential winners and losers in the squad if 4-2-3-1 becomes the first-choice option.
Another winner would be Ibrahima Konate. The French centre-back contested against Joel Matip for a starting spot in the team last season but more often than not, Klopp went for the more experienced man.
However, as a result of how 4-2-3-1 works in a tactical sense, Konate could be the better option. Due to the system incorporating just two central midfielders rather than three, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson would receive less cover on the flanks from their midfield teammates.
As a consequence, Klopp’s central defenders would naturally face more one-on-one battles with opponents, and Konate has proved to be a master at dominating those situations, more so than Matip.
In Darwin Nunez, Klopp has acquired the services of a striker who is more in the traditional mould than what he’s previously worked with on Merseyside.
Standing 6-foot-2 and proving to be a clinical poacher when presented with opportunities to convert, Nunez would certainly benefit from staying in dangerous zones and dedicating most of his energy towards finding the net.
4-2-3-1 would allow him to do exactly that, simply because the no.10 behind him would be the player dropping into deeper areas, allowing Nunez to remain in the penalty box to finish moves.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, by contrast, could be a playing to lose out. When the Englishman plays, he’s typically deployed as a no.8 who showcases his energy and physical perks to get up and down the pitch to an impressive level.
4-2-3-1 would remove his customary role as a box-to-box contributor, as the midfielders in the team would instead be instructed to hold their positions in deeper areas rather than getting forward.
Ultimately, within the confines of 4-2-3-1, Oxlade-Chamberlain’s preferred role would disappear and upon reflection of his offensive teammates higher up the field, he could find it difficult to make an impression.
Mohamed Salah could be another player to lose out. Although he’s almost certain to play virtually every week, the system would be less tailored to his skill set.
The Egyptian would spend more time on the flanks than normal if 4-2-3-1 was the team’s system. He would be required to make fewer inside runs and with Nunez leading the line for the team, Salah would be unlikely to score as much as he did with Roberto Firmino as his partner.
The 30 year-old wouldn’t struggle by any means – having used 4-2-3-1 during his time at AS Roma – but it is reasonable to suggest he wouldn’t assume the spotlight as much. In Rome, it was Edin Dzeko who scored every week, not Salah.
Overall, with just one year left on his contract, it might be in Liverpool’s best interests for Klopp to move away from a system which relies upon Salah’s output.
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Curtis Jones is a player who is still very much finding his place under Klopp. The Liverpool academy graduate has a relatively unusual skill set which still appears prone to changing.
Jones isn’t quite a forward, but he can also appear too offensive to be a central midfielder at times. As a no.8, Klopp has allowed Jones to lean towards the final third while still contributing enough on the defensive side of the game to be a positive for the team.
However, much like Oxlade-Chamberlain, 4-2-3-1 would not include such a role and Jones would have to adapt. He appears unlikely to be suited to one of the holding roles, leaving him either the no.10 spot or the left flank, which looks destined to be primarily occupied by Luis Diaz.
The 21 year-old is still young enough to continue evolving but if Liverpool settle on 4-2-3-1, his most effective position in the team would be unclear.