Liverpool Should Start Moving Away from The Hybrid Initiative 

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Reds Need A Change of Tactics Soon

The way this current 2023/24 season is unfolding has me in little doubt that whatever formation initiative is being undertaken (this year), will eventually be replaced by the Reds’ illustrious German manager. Whether or not the decision to switch Trent Alexander-Arnold into the hybrid role (late last season) was a momentary choice, or a Pepijn Lijnders-driven vehicle, this ongoing campaign has seen the tactical shift persisted with. There have been varying plus points that are probably equalised by the negative, which is why I believe the system is little more than a short-term experiment, one that is being conducted for longer than was originally planned.

Due to the recruitment team’s lack of signing a specialist (and elite level) defensive midfielder in the summer, I would suggest that the hybrid movement of our vice-captain (also Joe Gomez on occasion), is as much to do with having that player support the starting holding asset, as much as trying to unleash the right back into more central areas. This twelve-game old Premier League season has seen Liverpool 2.0 performs admirably, at least in terms of the points attained. With regards to the actual level of performance, it has been a mixture of world-class output alongside some inconsistent displays.

Ultimately, the hybrid model is something that can be exploited (by the opposition) in the instances where the Reds are lacking in structure. This very international window saw our 25-year-old right back starting for the Three Lions (against Malta), as one of three designated midfielders. The words spoken this week by the academy graduate, point to undertones of where he sees his long-term future, which is something I believe will be embraced at Anfield, sooner rather than later.

How Can England Impact Liverpool…?

The fact that Gareth Southgate is now utilizing the 22-cap England international away from the controversial right back spot, has now reinvigorated a previously uncertain England career. The technical side of Trent’s game was never in doubt; however, it was impossible to draft the former Champions League winner into anything other than his usual fullback position, prior to this season at least. The dogmatic approach by former Middlesbrough manager Southgate often had him picking a more defensive and more reliable defensive piece at right back.

Essentially, for almost the entirety of Klopp’s and Trent’s alliance, the assist wizard has predominantly been a wide attacking option, whose defensive requirements were little more than sporadic. The fact that several international matches are being played with TAA midfield, allows the Reds’ German coach to see his fabled number 66 in that central midfield position, thus becoming part of the long-term strategy to reestablish the player as a permanent middle ground fixture.

What Next…?

There are probably two missing ingredients in the current Liverpool squad, which were being sought through the 2023 summer of change. A starting calibre destroyer is very much still needed, so that the shape could be adjusted away from the hybrid design. Additionally, to this, is the need for a new defender who can operate as both a fullback and central version. I have no issue with Joe Gomez being given a run as the starting right back, though only once these recruitment needs are met. To facilitate the 5ft 9-inch vice skipper into midfield would require a new right back in his place.

I would absolutely like to see Stefan Bajčetić being trained to occupy this space, as a 6ft 1-inch ball of clay that could be moulded into a first team regular. The issue with that, is that we cannot know where the ceiling of the teenage Spaniard sits right now, given the very small sample size in his career and his ongoing injuries. If an elite defensive midfielder were to be deployed from January, I would have no problem seeing a 4-2-3-1 system being utilized, with that new player (perhaps Cheick Doucouré) being allowed to better shield an often-exposed rearguard.

No one knows for sure what will unfold, which is both exciting and worrying. What I am sure of, is that Trent Alexander-Arnold no longer considers himself a defender, therefore it is time to start adjusting the team to suit the world-class midfield talents of our homegrown star.

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