For a manager considered by some to be stubborn, Jurgen Klopp is perpetually tweaking the Liverpool system in an attempt to keep things fresh, writes Sam McGuire.
The Reds lined up in a 4-4-2 shape during the win 4-1 over West Ham, ditching the 4-3-3 fans have been accustomed to since the start of the 2016/17 season.
Though a formation is just a rough template for where players will line up when a team is defending, and the real identity is shown during offensive phases of play, it helps paint a picture of what the manager wants from his players.
The switch-up with the system being deployed certainly got tongues wagging and it’s been the topic of debate ever since. On paper it’s a dramatic move on Klopp’s part.
Liverpool went from playing a possession-based style with the deepest midfielder dropping back between the centre-backs to form a three.
The width arrived from the full-backs who could push on to join the attack and the wide forwards would tuck inside.
Against West Ham it was different: Liverpool looked to play a counter-attacking system.
Joe Gomez, the right-back on the day, drifted inside to form a back three alongside Ragnar Klavan and Joel Matip.
Emre Can and Gini Wijnaldum made up a midfield two with Alberto Morenooperating as a left-sided midfielder when Liverpool were in possession.
It was the front four of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and the returning Sadio Mane.
Klopp wasn’t shy about revealing the idea behind the change during his post-match press conference: “Changing the system without proper training; yesterday was the first time we did it, the 4-4-2, which looked maybe from the beginning like a very offensive lineup.
“We actually had a different idea. We wanted to defend deeper, more compact, using the space which we have then for the counter-attacks.
“We will never know how it would have been if we don’t score the first goal, but it was kind of an open game until then. We have to get used to it. It’s difficult for the boys to wait a bit more for the challenge than always jumping in.”
However, should Klopp’s word be taken with a pinch of salt? The 50-year-old is a meticulous planner. Changing the system without proper training isn’t something he would leave to chance.
On the Friday before the match he claimed Mane might be fit enough to play 20 minutes yet he started the match and finished with two assists.
Klopp has a superb poker face.
There are a few examples as to why his post-match words shouldn’t be taken on face value, and why there have been signs over a number of weeks that the shape was evolving, it’s just never been as blatant as it was against Slaven Bilic’s charges.