TTT: Liverpool 3 Cardiff 1: In-Depth Tactical Analysis

By Mihail Vladimirov. Unsurprisingly Rodgers kept the same XI, continuing with what was a cross between a lopsided 4-1-2-3 and a very asymmetrical 4-2-3-1. On the other side Mackay reverted back to what was closer to 4-4-2 than 4-4-1-1, given how Mutch was supporting Odemwingie high up the pitch rather than the midfield duo. The only change from the WBA game saw Gunnarsson (replacing Campbell) selected to partner Medel in midfield. Whittingham and Noone kept their places down the flanks. The main question before the game was, given the off-pitch turmoil the club is currently in, how well (if at all) Cardiff would apply themselves in this match. As it turned out the Bluebirds were really up for the clash, showing enough desire and making an effort to perform right from the start. Therefore it was somewhat ironic to see them handicapped by a rather poor tactical approach from their manager which initially left them too vulnerable against a team of Liverpool’s calibre. Cardiff’s tactical naivety As soon as the game started there were two peculiar things that immediately caught the eye. The first was in relation to the exact role Mutch was obviously asked to perform. Before the game it was expected that Mackay would revert to a more solid 1-2 midfield trio for this game, going back to the 4-1-2-3 formation. Instead he opted to go with the 2-1 alternative. The problem wasn’t the structure per se – a 2-1 triangle is capable of being defensively solid too, if the double pivot is sitting deep and the ‘1’ is conscientiously supporting them by patrolling the zone just ahead. But here Mutch was acting as a second forward, staying closer to the forward rather than dropping deeper to be a proper third midfielder. It was widely expected that Rodgers would keep the same XI and shape as used in the Spurs game. So presumably Mackay’s idea was to use Mutch to stick tight on Lucas and minimise his influence on Liverpool’s passing flow. However, with Lucas often dropping between the centre-backs, Mutch needed to go very high up the pitch in order to follow the Brazilian to have any chance of preventing him from receiving the ball. However, Liverpool’s recycling trio had a numerical advantage over Cardiff’s pressing duo, so the home team found it easy to pass the ball out of defence. The problem for Cardiff increased once Liverpool fed the ball into the midfield zone. Not only was Mutch failing to fulfil his apparent aim while being easily bypassed, but by remaining higher up it resulted in Medel and Gunnarsson facing the same overloading effect in midfield. Liverpool had the 3-v-2 advantage here too, so were able to quickly and purposefully move the ball around. The second thing was in relation to Mackay’s decision to employ a high defensive line. This is something that goes against his usual approach, so it was particularly interesting thing to see. There can surely be no doubt that he must have watched how easily Liverpool trashed Spurs thanks mainly to the stupidity of using a high defensive line while not using the required pressure on the ball in midfield. So, to see Cardiff, more or less, using the same defensive strategy is at the very least questionable. Given their exact structure and the high defensive line, the visitors should have ensured their midfield quartet were backing the individual efforts of Mutch and Odemwingie from high up the pitch and so offer a much more cohesive pressing strategy. Instead, Cardiff’s front duo sporadically tried to close down Liverpool’s recycling trio, but the midfield continued to sit back and the back four kept a high line. These ingredients were a clear recipe for potential disaster. Not only did Liverpool enjoy a 3-v-2 advantage both at the back and in midfield (so finding it extremely easy to construct their passing patterns), but given Cardiff’s high line the home team had space to exploit via their forward passes. All this made Cardiff extremely vulnerable to quick attacks with direct passes either in behind their defence, or searching Liverpool’s pacey players on the right flank (especially with Whittingham not having the pace to track back Johnson and also sitting narrower on the left flank as usual). It came as no surprise that Liverpool wasted no time creating potent attacks using these routes. In the first minute, Johnson sent Sterling down the right flank for him to send a dangerous cross into the box. In the sixth minute, Henderson’s diagonal ball sent Sterling in behind the defence for him to then lay the ball off for a Suarez shot that Cardiff were fortunate to block. The rest of this article is for Subscribers only. Member-only content – you need to subscribe to read it ! A subscription costs only £3.50 per month. Find out what you get with your subscription, or Subscribe now.

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METRO – No hard feelings as wantaway Peter Odemwingie’s welcomed back by West Bromwich Albion

West Brom duo Gareth McAuley and Ben Foster insist Peter Odemwingie’s transfer-window controversy is no longer an issue at the club and claim they are relishing his return to the starting XI. Odemwingie ruffled Albion’s feathers by turning up at QPR on deadline day without his club’s permission in a vain bid to force a

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METRO – Liverpool’s Brad Jones defends Pepe Reina as he prepares to take over

Brad Jones has dismissed any criticism of fellow Liverpool goalkeeper Jose Reina and says he has no worries about the Spaniard’s form. Brad Jones says he has no worries about Pepe Reina (Picture: Action Images) Reina has, by his own high standards, had a poor last 18 months with mistakes last season being followed by errors already in the current campaign against Manchester City, Hearts and Arsenal. But Jones, who is set to take over in goal as Liverpool begin their defence of the Capital One Cup at West Brom tonight, stressed that did not mean Reina had become a bad keeper.The Australia international said: ‘You don’t get to the top, which is where he has been for the last five or six years, if you are no good – it is as simple as that – and you don’t stay there. He has been at the top since he was 17, starting playing at Barcelona, so I wouldn’t be worried if it was me and I don’t think he is too worried about himself.’ Jones was frustrated by his limited opportunities last season but has featured twice in the Europa League this term and is relishing the extra playing time under Brendan Rodgers. ‘The new manager involves me a lot more and I’m hoping the manager has been happy with the way things have gone and the way I have trained and played in the few games,’ he said. Meanwhile, West Brom go into the game without suspended striker Peter Odemwingie and winger Jerome Thomas, who has a knee injury. Midfielder James Morrison is a doubt after injuring his hamstring in Saturday’s win over Reading.

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Steven Gerrard: Liverpool were in total shock after West Brom defeat

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has admitted their 3-0 opening day defeat to West Brom left the dressing room ‘shocked’. Steven Gerrard has urged Liverpool fans not to panic despite the weekend’s heavy defeat (Picture: PA) The loss marked a poor start to Brendan Rodgers’ tenure as Liverpool boss, having taken over from Kenny Dalglish in the summer.The Reds had Daniel Agger sent off as goals from Zoltan Gera, Peter Odemwingie and on-loan Chelsea forward Romelu Lukaku sealed the win for West Brom.’The feeling after was one of total shock with the result,’ said Gerrard.‘It was never a 3-0 game. I fancied us to go there, dominate and win but things didn’t work out that way. ‘It’s not the start we wanted but it’s no time for panic. It’s only the first game and it was one bad day at the office.’We’ve got to look at the bigger picture.’Meanwhile, former Liverpool midfielder Gary McAllister has said the Reds can’t rely on frontman Luis Suarez to deliver enough goals to help them challenge for a top four place. Luis Suarez is not a natural goalscorer, according to Gary McAllister (Picture: Getty) ‘Suarez is a fantastic player, but I don’t know if he is a natural goalscorer, somebody like a Michael Owen,’ said the Scot.‘I can see him chipping in with a good amount of goals but is he somebody who is going to get 25 plus? I’m not so sure.’Liverpool travel to Hearts on Thursday night in the first leg of their Europa League play-off tie, before hosting Manchester City in the Premier League on Sunday.

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Liverpool fans must expect more bad days as I rebuild side, says Rodgers

Brendan Rodgers has warned of more tough days ahead after his Liverpool side crashed 3-0 at West Brom. Brendan Rodgers’ first Premier League game as Liverpool manager ended in a disappointing defeat (Picture: Getty) Rodgers and the Reds’ supporters were given a reality check on the opening day as goals from Zoltan Gera, Peter Odemwingie’s penalty and Romelu Lukaku sealed their fate. In addition, defender Daniel Agger was sent off for a professional foul when conceding the first of two spot-kicks awarded to the Baggies. ‘There is a big job to do and we will have more days like this along the way,’  admitted the former Swansea boss. ‘That is the reality of it. It is still a work in progress. There will be days along the way that will hurt and it will be difficult. It is going to take time.’ Rodgers felt his side were harshly done by in terms of the two penalties awarded against them by referee Phil Dowd – the first of which Jose Reina saved from Shane Long. ‘A couple of harsh decisions went against us, we never scored our chances and West Brom took full advantage of the extra man,’ he said. But new Albion boss Steve Clarke  believes his former club – he was  assistant to Kenny Dalglish at Anfield – will revive their fortunes. He said: ‘Liverpool are a top team and for me they will be up there challenging for the top four this season. ‘But I expected to win. I knew I had a good group, that they were ready for the game and they proved me right.’

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