Should Klopp consider a back-three in 2021-22?

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For much of Jurgen Klopp’s Anfield reign, Liverpool have favored a 4-3-3 shape. In this system, the Reds have enjoyed defensive solidity, offensive prowess and become one of the most dominant forces in world football. The results speak for themselves regarding the effectiveness of this shape, with the well-rounded formation taking Liverpool to Champions League and Premier League success. While the Reds weren’t always ruthless in their title-winning season, few can deny that they were efficient. But is it time for Klopp to freshen things up? Well, he may have the chance to try something new in 2021-22.   

The Players to Experiment 

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Liverpool wasted no time strengthening their defense after the injury crisis of 2020-21, signing Ibrahima Konate from RB Leipzig for £36 million. The Frenchman is a highly-talented young defender, and he possesses the pace to thrive in the Reds’ high defensive line. As per the official Bundesliga website, the 22-year-old has the speed to match the league’s fastest attackers, while he also has the strength to muscle them off the ball. As a result, Konate’s arrival on Merseyside isn’t only sensible from a depth standpoint, but it also opens the door to a potential new shape.   

With Joe Gomez, Joel Matip, and Virgil van Dijk all hopefully returning from injury in time for the start of the season, Klopp could go from having no options at the back, to several. It’s no secret that Gomez and Van Dijk thrive in Liverpool’s defensive line because of their recovery pace and positional awareness, and Konate could slot alongside them to form a formidable back three. While Konate played a the heart of the Leipzig back-three in his few matches last season, he could also play to the left of Van Dijk to allow the Dutchman to take control as the sweeper instead. The shape could also ease Andy Robertson’s and Trent Alexander-Arnold’s defensive responsibility, giving them license to create further up the field. This transition would be straightforward for the Scotsman, who’s played several games as a wing-back for his national team.   

Would It Hinder Their Attacking Play? 

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If Liverpool were to switch to a back three, it could serve them well from a defensive standpoint. Offensively, however, the transition may not be as seamless. It’s no secret that Klopp favors an attack of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, and Sadio Mane, meaning that the German is unlikely to move away from a front three. As such, it somewhat limits the six-time European champions to a 3-4-3. That said, following Georginio Wijnaldum’s free transfer to Paris Saint-Germain, it would potentially mean that the Reds wouldn’t need a replacement in the market as they’d need one fewer starting midfielder. 

By allowing Alexander-Arnold and Robertson to push further forward, a back-three shape would enhance Liverpool’s threat from wide areas. Not only that, but it would close the gap between the wing-backs and the offensive wingers, thus allowing Mane and Salah to take up more central positions. Crucially, this alteration could spark Mane back into life. If the Senegalese winger rediscovers his form, Liverpool could regain the title in 2021-22, and they are 11/2 in football betting to do so, as of June 18th.   

As touched on above, Liverpool’s success with 4-3-3 speaks for itself, and Klopp may feel that there’s no need to scrap his favored system after one below-par, injury-filled campaign. The Reds will be back with a vengeance in 2021-22, and Konate gives the club’s manager plenty of tactical food for thought.


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