LbJordan Henderson has started every game for Liverpool since Jurgen Klopp adopted a new 3-2-5 form, but Nottingham Forest have shown he can be improved.
Jordan Henderson has played a particularly disciplined role throughout Jurgen Klopp’s stay on Merseyside. Although his duties have changed at times, he has primarily been tasked with providing Liverpool with an element of defensive security, marking players like Trent Alexander-Arnold and regularly winning possession of the ball in the middle of the park.
The Reds skipper was all about diligence, running, intensity and safety, with more creative players like Mohamed Salah tasked with scoring goals and assisting further. Liverpool have taken the footballing world by storm with that original momentum, but for now Klopp is playing with a new tactical range to improve results and performance at Anfield. Last week, when his side were eighth in the Premier League, Klopp felt it was time for a structural change.
Ahead of Liverpool’s Hollywood battle with Arsenal, he instructed his players to stick to their 4-3-3 go-to on the defensive side of the game, but adopt a new 3-2-5 formation when possession was insured.
The tactical adjustment saw right-back Alexander-Arnold slip into the center circle to play alongside Fabinho, while Andy Robertson moved from left-back to form a back three alongside Virgil van Dijk and Ibrahima Konaté. Henderson and Curtis Jones then push higher in the final third, allowing the Reds to form a 3-2-5 with a box in center park.
On Saturday afternoon, Liverpool used the new concept for the third game in a row, beating Nottingham Forest by three goals to two. In fact, the Reds haven’t lost since their structural change, but the weekend game highlighted a potential issue surrounding Henderson’s inclusion.
Instead of providing a safety net for his teammates, Henderson is now being asked to fill tight spaces in the final third. He needs to pose a threat by connecting with others and generating scoring chances, which makes him part of an attacking bench of five.
Henderson is reasonably capable of performing those duties, but Nottingham Forest’s approach has caused problems. From the first whistle, Steve Cooper’s men showed their intention to play for a point and a bit more, with the Tricky Trees determined to defend without attempting to score.
In the first half, Liverpool controlled 86% possession, but the score remained 0-0. In fact, the Reds’ 80% possession percentage at the end of the game is by far their highest total of the season this season. “We had 86 per cent possession in the first half, it’s really strange,” Klopp said after the game. “It made everything difficult. We had to work hard.”
Nottingham Forest essentially asked Liverpool to break them up, and for long periods they failed to do so. Henderson was one of the reasons, perhaps more than ever, why he was asked to create, connect and pose a threat in the final third, despite the fact that he is not particularly skilled or offensively inclined.
The 32-year-old is a functional presence, used to playing in deeper areas and that’s a potential concern if Klopp sticks to his 3-2-5 recipe in attack. Whenever Liverpool are in the spotlight for creating openings in the final third, Henderson won’t be particularly fit to play in that bank of five forwards, with Harvey Elliott perhaps fitting into the bill a bit more.
The silent dilemma perhaps offers some insight into why the Reds are chasing Mason Mount and Ryan Gravenberch in the transfer market ahead of the summer window, as both midfielders are technical and more comfortable than Henderson when they receive the ball under pressure.
Overall, Liverpool certainly won’t dominate 80% of the ball every week, but as they continue to improve on the pitch, their opponents will continue to respect them as they try to defend deep from start to finish. When Klopp is faced with these hard-to-master scenarios, his skipper almost tends to become an obstacle.
Henderson can still be a useful and effective presence on Merseyside, but the 4-3-3 has helped his skills more than the 3-2-5. For now, Klopp seems to ignore this truth but the summer may offer a chance to add better suited players.
Liverpool could sign Laliga midfielder with €100m release clause in cheap summer transfer
Liverpool have once again been linked with a transfer of Valencia midfielder Yunus Mensah as the struggling La Liga side remain at risk of relegation
Liverpool continue to be linked with a host of midfielders ahead of their planned summer engine room refurbishment, with their decision earlier this month to pull out of a potential move for long-term target Jude Bellingham only adding to the speculation and uncertainty.
Chelsea’s Mason Mount, who is keen to sign at least two midfielders, has become the Reds’ new priority. They have since also been linked on several occasions to Conor Gallagher, Matheus Nunes, Ryan Gravenberch, Joao Palhinha, Alexis Mac Allister, Moises Caicedo, Nicola Barella, James Maddison, Teun Koopmeiners and Youri Tielemans.
With the uncertainty over where the Reds will actually finish this season, Champions League qualification looking rather unlikely and their decision not to move to Bellingham only adding to the mystery, it’s no surprise to learn Liverpool’s long list of potential targets with so many different names. As a result, who will actually land at Anfield this summer remains up in the air.
Another name reappeared in the transfer gossip columns last week when 90min reported that the Reds were one of several teams to have watched Yunus Munsah this season. The 20-year-old impressed for the United States at last winter’s World Cup in Qatar, but his club spell with Valencia leaves his future uncertain.
If you mention the La Liga side to Liverpool fans, most will remember how the Spaniards, then managed by Rafa Benitez, beat the Reds in both the Champions League group stage in 2002 and in a torn-with-ease friendly at Anfield in 2003.
La Liga champions in 2001/02 and 2003/04 under Benitez and UEFA Cup winners in the latter, such success would see the Spaniard move to Liverpool in the summer of 2004. Entering the Champions League final champions under former manager Hector Cuper in 2000 and 2001, Valencia had built a reputation behind Real Madrid and Barcelona as one of the best teams in Spanish football. © 2023 a subsidiary of Reach plc
However, it is a very different reality at the moment in Mestalla, where Valencia are in serious danger of relegation to the Segunda Division, having last played in the Spanish second division in 1986-87. Although they recorded a 2-0 victory over bottom-placed Elche on Sunday, it was only their third La Liga win since the World Cup.
Ruben Baraja, who was a key member of Benitez’s impressive squad 20 years ago, took over as manager in February but has failed to turn the tide. They have lost 11 of 16 league games since the mid-season break, as a result remain in the relegation zone in 18th place and are yet to clash with Spanish giants Real Madrid and Champions League hopefuls Villarreal and Real Betis to be in the bottom eight to come. matches of the season.
Given this situation, it would come as no surprise that Musah is leaving the club this summer. Valencia opened talks with the midfielder late last year over a new, better deal but have yet to reach an agreement.
Struggling financially with supporters protesting against owner Peter Lim, a sellout at Valencia is likely should they suffer relegation. But whether or not they avoid the drop, 90min reports that they still couldn’t turn down a big offer for Musah.
The American remains under contract until 2026, with his current deal including a €100m release clause, but given Valencia’s struggles on and off the pitch, he is likely to demand a much larger fee. more modest if he joins.
That alone could make Musah an attractive option for Liverpool this summer if they were suitably impressed when scouting. Finally, while discussing the Reds’ revised stance on Bellingham, Jurgen Klopp said: “We can’t have six players this summer because each player costs £100m.”
Liverpool have a history of opportunists in the transfer market, using Newcastle United, Hull City and Stoke City’s own relegations from the Premier League to bring in Gini Wijnaldum, Andy Robertson and Xherdan Shaqiri on reduced fees. As a result, they may review those tactics if Valencia are relegated.
However, Musah is more than just affordable. He also ticks many of the boxes that Klopp and the Reds’ recruitment team are looking for in potential signings.
First of all, he is only 20 years old but has a lot of experience for such a young player. As well as impressing at the World Cup, he has played over 100 games for Valencia over the past three seasons. His best years are still ahead of him. He would turn 21 in November, would still be considered an Under-21 player and therefore would not need to be included in the Premier League squad next season. Also, when he reached adulthood, he would actually be considered a native.
The midfielder spent seven years at Arsenal’s youth academy before joining Valencia in the summer of 2019 aged 16. Although he is already comfortable in England and fluent in English, he already has the required 36 months of registration with an affiliated club before his 21st birthday in the Football Association or the Football Association of Wales to obtain native status.
Admittedly, such a status is more difficult to achieve in continental competition. Even if he qualifies as an Under-21 player for Premier League action next year, he would still need to be signed up for a 25-man squad for Europe as he wouldn’t be with a new club long enough to ‘List to be registered ‘.B’ despite being under 21 years old.
However, should he join an English club this summer, he will qualify as home-grown in Europe as an association-trained player. Having been on Arsenal’s books as a 15-year-old and 16-year-old, the 2023/24 season could see him earn the required third year on a club’s books in the same association between the ages of 15 and 21 to earn such status.
Meanwhile, he is extremely versatile. While predominantly a central-midfielder, he has senior experience of playing on either flank, behind a striker, as a holding midfielder, and even at full-back.
As a player, his physical attributes have been lauded throughout his career, with his strengths getting on the ball, retaining possession and carrying it forward. Such traits certainly fit into what Klopp demands from his midfielders.
“I was the under-16 coach and Yunus was playing up a year group,” former Arsenal academy coach Trevor Bumstead recalled to First Time Finish back in 2021. “He was a really likeable lad. He had a fantastic smile, was very softly spoken but sociable.
“As a player, he was ‘wow’. He’s got fantastic physical attributes and the drive and determination to go with that. His versatility is a coaches’ dream really. He would play anywhere to get in the team but his favourite was as a central attacking midfield player.
“His physical stats at under-16 would compare to our first-team players. The sports scientists dragged him off the pitch. He was consistent in his behaviours which led him to be consistent in his performances. He recognised his strengths and weaknesses.
“It’s always difficult predicting who will go on to play first-team football. Having worked with Declan Rice, Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe, I would consider Musah to be on the same level as those.”
Truly praise for a player who certainly also has the ‘right’ attitude to improve. When you consider that he was born in the United States, raised in Italy and spent his teenage years in England before moving to Spain, it also paints a picture of a player who is comfortable adapting to a new environment.
Whether Musah will become a Liverpool midfielder this summer remains to be seen. But there are a number of reasons why he could be an attractive signing, as ties to the American remain.
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