The majority of the time that Jürgen Klopp has been in charge at Liverpool, the team has played in a 4-3-3 formation, but there has always been a nagging question about whether it will continue.
A switch to a 4-2-3-1, which has been heavily discussed over the past few weeks as it frequently is in pre-season, would theoretically be possible given the signing of Fábio Carvalho this summer and the possibility for Curtis Jones and Harvey Elliott to play higher up the pitch.
But rather than something Liverpool will do right away, that has always seemed more like a potential in-game remedy.
The explanations are straightforward. First off, why would Liverpool abandon a formation that has brought them league campaigns that totaled 97 points, 99 points, 69 points without center backs, and 92 points?
Moving away permanently would seem risky because there are no indications that the 4-3-3 that Liverpool has used successfully for at least three seasons has ceased to be effective.
The 4-3-3 system also provides Liverpool with the degree of control they require during games. You need to control games and maintain the ball as much as you can while you are playing a record number of fixtures.
Having an extra attacker on the field does not necessarily prevent that, but having Thiago Alcântara and Jordan Henderson flank Fabinho can only help you keep possession.
In response to a question on the potential positions for Darwin Nunez’s deployment, Klopp told reporters, “We have a settled formation if you want and everyone understands how it is like this.
However, “we have some real options to change the dynamics of the pitch, and I believe that makes sense for us.”
The 4-2-3-1 formation — or a 4-4-2 type system, similar to a 4-3-3 in many ways except for the two-man midfield pivot, was used a fair number of times last season.
However, that frequently happened when Liverpool was trailing in a game. When his team was in need of a goal, Klopp used it to substitute Divock Origi or move Luis Diaz into a central position (against Norwich at Anfield and Wolves at Molineux, for instance).
The last time Liverpool consistently deployed a front four was during Philippe Coutinho’s final six months at the club, which is now almost five years ago.
Although Sadio Mané, Roberto Firmino, and Mohamed Salah were present, Liverpool’s midfield ranks were not as strong at the time, and the Reds were not the controlling and dominant team they are now. However, Coutinho was so good during that time that Klopp almost had no choice but to find a way to play him alongside them.
Liverpool can now use that rule to change games more frequently (as well as to rotate their options) thanks to the Premier League’s introduction of five substitutes, but it seems unlikely that they will do so frequently from the start.