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4 ways Liverpool’s attack could line up in 2022/23
– By Muhammad Butt
Published: 15:14, 25 July 2022
In 2022 Liverpool’s transfer business has been done early and ruthlessly.
By the time July began Liverpool had signed four attacking players, Luis Diaz from Porto (in January), Darwin Nunez from Benfica, Fabio Carvalho from Fulham and Calvin Ramsay from Aberdeen.
Three of those players are for the attack. which means that combined with the departure of Jurgen Klopp stalwart Sadio Mané, Liverpool’s front-line will have a very different look to it this season.
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But what, exactly, will it look like? We’ve had a look and come up with four options:
Some have speculated that Jurgen Klopp might ease Darwin Nunez into his starting XI gently but with all due respect when you spend €75m up-front with a potential €25m in add-ons it’s not to ease a guy in gently. And four goals in one pre-season game against RB Leipzig showed the terrifying scale of his potential.
Darwin goes straight in at the head of the side, leading the line in Sadio Mané’s stead in the formation that we came to expect as Liverpool’s best at the end of last season. Mohamed Salah is on the right in all his glory, running at defenders with and without the ball, finding pockets of space within which to terrorise defences and show why he’s worth every penny of that new contract.
On the other flank is new boy Luis Diaz. The Colombian’s ceaseless energy and dynamic dribbling has made him an instant fan favourite and more than that he provides so much more danger on the ball because simply put, just as with Salah, you can’t leave him 1-v-1.
The change comes as instead of Mané playing an intelligent, withdrawn role up-top Liverpool will now have the wrecking ball that is Darwin Nunez. The Uruguayan is all power, pace and shoulders, and should be a formidable opponent for any Premier League defence thanks to the directness of his play as a contrast to everyone else. Having him on the end of service from Salah, Diaz and those fabulous full-backs should result in lots of goals for Liverpool and lots of pain for other people.
The Plan B
Usually, a team’s Plan B involves throwing on the big striker but in Liverpool’s case, it will likely be taking him off and going for a more Classic Klopp route. Diaz and Salah retain their positions out wide but now Diogo Jota comes into the side as the centre-forward, more of a Michael Owen kind of centre-forward.
Jota’s not holding the ball up and bringing others into play, for sure, but we’ve seen since he signed how elite his movement is. Now place him in between Salah and Diaz given full license to be at their most self-indulgently dribbly and what you’ll find is Jota popping up to bag a lot of tap-ins. Whether they’re from passes and lay-offs from the wingers, cut-backs from overlapping full-backs, or just loose balls bouncing around in the box, Jota will be on hand to bag them.
It’s rare because of how good they are but Liverpool may sometimes find themselves in a drastic situation where they need to score a lot of goals in a hurry. In that instance, Klopp could throw an extra forward onto the pitch in the form of Roberto Firmino.
Yeah, remember him? Liverpool’s literal no. 9? The one guy who Jurgen Klopp said was “always world-class”? Obviously, he’s fallen off a bit, but you never lose the kind of talent Roberto Firmino possesses and if he’s used more sparingly and as a no. 10 instead of a false nine, he could find new joy and regain some of his former glory.
With Liverpool chasing goals in this imaginary scenario, Luis Diaz’s infectious dribbling takes a back seat and the wingers are in goalscoring mode. Mohamed Salah can effortlessly switch between the two but on the left, Diogo Jota comes into the side.
Those two along with Darwin Nunez can crash the box and try to get on the end of Firmino’s perceptive passes as the Brazilian drops into spaces between the lines and unbalances defenders with his intelligence and no-look passes (and, as always, crosses from those fabulous full-backs).
What if Mohamed Salah were to get injured? Or maybe he’s just in need of rest? What could Liverpool do to still put out a potent attack in that case? The answer is simple: go old-school.
21 years ago, Liverpool won a Cup treble and England beat Germany 1-5. Key to all of that glory was an attacking partnership of Emile Heskey and Michael Owen, two physically phenomenal strikes with complementary skill sets.
Heskey was a physical marvel of a man but he was also a fiercely intelligent player who knew how to create space for Owen with his runs into and out of space. Plus he won a lot of headers.
Owen, meanwhile, was a short, sharp bloodhound of a goal-poacher whose terrifying pace made him hard to catch but his lethal finishing is what really made teams afraid of him. When paired with Heskey, Owen was unplayable and won the Ballon d’Or in 2001.
Fast forward to 2022 and Liverpool has two forwards who fit those archetypes: namely Darwin Nunez and Diogo Jota.
That’s right, Jurgen Klopp should play 4-4-2.
Having Darwin lead the line alongside Jota is a perfect situation for the Reds, given that the Uruguayan has the kind of physical dynamism that unbalances defences while Jota’s ability to attack and exploit spaces in the box is world-class (even if the rest of his game isn’t).
Couple that with livewires like Luis Diaz and Harvey Elliott playing as classic wingers and, yes, those fabulous full-backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson (and Kostas Tsimikas) raiding forward and launching crosses into the box and Liverpool could genuinely make 4-4-2 a terrifying formation at the elite level of football once more.
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