The landscape within football is an ever-changing one, and this is particularly relevant in this season of all seasons.
This is because most teams, especially those situated near the top, are partaking in congested schedules involving highly intense matches every few days. In this current environment, it can be difficult to properly deconstruct one fixture, before the next is at the doorstep.
This has been the case for Liverpool this week who had their feel-good factor following their impressive 3-0 victory over Leicester City on the weekend quickly dampened by their 2-0 Champions League loss to Atalanta three days later.
The fallout from that defeat has been relatively level headed from most Liverpool fans, with the context of the schedule and injuries all being rightfully considered. Additionally, that bad night at the office shouldn’t take the shine away from Sunday’s win.
Beyond the three points, Sunday’s victory also proved to be another match in which Liverpool seemed to enjoy success in facing a side playing a three at the back formation. Teams usually use this formation to add some further solidity to their backline, and the most popular version of the set up is often a 3-4-3.
Brighton are the Reds’ next opponents, and this is a formation that they have almost exclusively played for the bulk of the campaign so far. This is also the formation that Brendon Rodgers deployed his Leicester City side in on Sunday.
Yet, the reason it often plays into the hands of Liverpool is largely down to the territorial dominance they obtain in most matches they play. Due to the threat they pose in behind with scintillating quick forwards such as Sadio Mane, Diogo Jota and Mohamed Salah, most opponents opt to sit deeper without the ball, limiting the space in behind their defence.
To not leave too many spaces in between the lines, these teams normally have to drop in a compact shape that turns that 3-4-3 formation into something closer resembling a 5-4-1.
Grouping into this compact 5-4-1 normally means there’s plenty of space for Liverpool to push up the field, which is why we so often see their defence within touching distance of the halfway line when they’re in possession.
Despite the comfort for these teams in sitting back and forgoing possession to Liverpool, they do obviously have ambitions to score. Therefore their plan of attack is to launch fast attacks in transitions, with the two wide attackers breaking out quickly to support the centre-forward.
Yet the issue these teams often have against Liverpool is that the Reds counter-press so quickly and efficiently that the ball has to go forward quick or they risk being dispossessed by a Liverpool player in a dangerous area.
The speed in which the ball is won and then sent forward means that opposition forwards struggle to break out in time to support their centre-forward who will find himself on his own and having to compete against two Liverpool centre-backs, as we see below.
Even with Liverpool currently deploying a makeshift backline, you’re unlikely to get much joy on your own against a duo containing two of either Joel Matip, Fabinho, Rhys Williams or Nathaniel Phillips.
Looking ahead to Brighton, it’s interesting to note that across their previous two matches, they have adjusted their set up and deployed two forwards in attack, with both Danny Welbeck and Neal Maupay working in tandem and linking well. In the first fixture, a 0-0 draw with Burnley, they went for a 3-5-2 whilst in their win away at Aston Villa it was a 4-4-2.
It’s somewhat of a rarity for modern centre-backs to have to deal with two forward players directly. When these moments do arise, it’s no longer about working with your partner to chaperone and nullify one player, but instead, each having to deal with a direct threat of their own throughout the game.
Welbeck and Maupay may look an unremarkable duo on paper, and Liverpool’s defence could quite easily go on to have a comfortable afternoon on the South Coast.
Yet, the fact that there’s a chance Graham Potter may deploy a proper attacking duo in this weekend’s clash could at very least mean that Klopp’s chosen centre-back pairing on the day could have their hands more full than usual. If this is the case, then it may prove to be a more testing afternoon than most on the red half of Merseyside will be anticipating.