With a new pair emerging, Jürgen Klopp has revealed something important about the new Liverpool lineup. | soccer4u
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With a new pair emerging, Jürgen Klopp has revealed something important about the new Liverpool lineup.



Against West Ham, Liverpool benefited from an unusual circumstance. Jürgen Klopp has already clarified its origins and potential long-term implications.

Both analysts and supporters are fascinated by how Liverpool’s midfield is evolving now and in the future. The Reds completed their first run of three straight league triumphs on Wednesday night, and the three games all used the new tactical approach, barring two sets of contests that occurred either side of the World Cup.

The same as in Saturday’s match against Nottingham Forest, Liverpool’s goals in its 2-1 victory at West Ham United came from the same source. Trent Alexander-Arnold or Andy Robertson both contributed to the last four goals for the Reds, and set pieces were crucial to both victories.

The former’s transition into a midfield position, with the latter frequently serving as a de facto third center-back, is proceeding quickly. Cody Gakpo’s excellent finish at the London Stadium was mostly responsible for Alexander-Arnold’s assist, yet he played the pass from a position more often occupied by a central midfielder than a right-back.

It’s interesting to think about what the new system means for the other midfield jobs if we believe it’s here to stay. Jürgen Klopp acknowledged after the Forest game that “Nottingham [Forest] tried to man-mark both number sixes and both number 10s, so that makes life slightly tricky,” hinting that he now views the non-holding midfielders in a more offensive capacity than in the past.

This was demonstrated at West Ham. Curtis Jones was Liverpool’s important player in moving the ball up the field, starting on the left of the regular midfield three. Only three Reds have reached eight progressive carries this season in the league or in Europe, and the 22-year-old also added eight progressive passes.

He also produced three chances, setting up Mohamed Salah, Fabinho, and Luis Diaz, however little came of the chances. Jones has produced more expected assists in the past, but his three vital passes in this Premier League game tie a career high.

The figure in the tweet above demonstrates how the homegrown midfielder also received a lot of forward passes, and this is where the argument about the midfield becomes intriguing. Jones was the receiver in Liverpool’s best combination for expected threat, according to DatoBHJ (which assigns value to passes and carries just like expected goals assigns value to shots). Jordan Henderson, the Reds’ other number 8/10, was the person who initiated the link-up.

The captain made three passes into the West Ham penalty area, three more than any other Liverpool player did during open play, with one of each pass finding Jones. Even though the number 17 got his head to one delivery and didn’t make fantastic contact, the notion that one Reds midfielder could give another one a chance has long seemed absurd.

If you look back through this season, you won’t find very many examples. Ten people seem to have met the ambiguous requirements, and some of them can also be dismissed. For instance, at Nottingham Forest, Fábio Carvalho and Harvey Elliott combined three times, despite the fact that they were positioned as wide men at the time. While Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was set up by Elliott at Brentford but started in the front three, the same pair combined after a set piece at Old Trafford, which ultimately led to a goal.

What Henderson and Jones produced on Wednesday was exceptional and might not be repeated. But speculating is entertaining. For the upcoming season and beyond, Liverpool’s transfer objectives and tactical approach may have been defined by their combination, with Klopp having many good reasons to continue with his twin offensive midfielders, who are now, in his own words, the number 10s.

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