Pitch to Post: Jurgen Klopp's tactical tweak assessed - will it help Liverpool?

Will Klopp go with 4-2-3-1 again this week? Follow live updates from Liverpool's Champions League clash with FC Midtjylland at Anfield on Tuesday evening on the Sky Sports app and skysports.com; kick-off 8pm

Jurgen Klopp Liverpool pitch to post

After Jurgen Klopp opted for a 4-2-3-1 formation in Liverpool's 2-1 win over Sheffield United on Saturday, the Pitch to Post Review podcast asks: did it work?

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Klopp played Georginio Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson in a midfield two as Fabinho started in central defence again, with summer signing Diogo Jota playing further forward and scoring the winner at Anfield.

The result suggests the tweak worked for Klopp's side, but speaking on the Pitch to Post Review podcast, Sky Sports' Gerard Brand analyses where the formation both helped and hindered Liverpool as they returned to winning ways in the Premier League.

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"It's worth mentioning Klopp has tried this system a handful of times over the past 18 months - he'd usually put Adam Lallana or Xherdan Shaqiri there in some way alongside Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah.

preview image 3:01
FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Liverpool's win against Sheffield United in the Premier League.

"But still these Liverpool players know the 4-3-3 system probably better than they've ever known a formation in their careers. It's been so well-drilled over the past couple years it's like brushing your teeth in the morning, you don't think about it, it just happens, it's muscle memory!

"But I do think in the first half Liverpool missed that third person in midfield and Sheff Utd got on top of them a bit - there was never really that easy get-out-of-jail pass on for Henderson and Wijnaldum, though you've got to give Sheffield United credit there, too.

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To hear more, download the Sky Sports Pitch to Post Review podcast on your provider

"I also wasn't certain if the front four knew their role inside out at the start, and despite scoring the goals Firmino and Jota were popping up in places where you felt they were just desperate to see the ball rather than impacting the game. Looking at the average positions, a lot of Jota's touches came in that midfield line.

Alisson Becker of Liverpool shows a thumbs up 0:50
The Pitch to Post Review podcast discuss how Alisson’s return to the Liverpool XI could go some way to making up for Virgil van Dijk’s absence.

"I'd be interested to see if Liverpool carry this on because you're playing a Sheffield United side who have a unique system too, so it's probably not the easiest game to get a case study.

"I've just got to say though, Mo Salah, playing in the so-called centre-forward role in this formation, is looking fantastic this season. He's trying new things, he looks sharp, and it's impossible for defenders to book him this season. For a large chunk of last season he wasn't fully fit after his ankle problem. He looks it this season."

Will Klopp go with 4-2-3-1 again this week? Follow live updates from Liverpool's Champions League clash with FC Midtjylland at Anfield on Tuesday evening on the Sky Sports app and skysports.com; kick-off 8pm

Fabinho will need to think like a defender

Fabinho Liverpool
Image: Fabinho gave away the penalty for Sheffield United to take the lead early on

The spotlight has been firmly on Fabinho in the last week following Virgil van Dijk's lengthy injury, and after a solid performance in the 1-0 win over Ajax in midweek, the midfielder-turned-defender gave away a penalty as Sheffield United took an early lead. Fabinho recovered, and so did Liverpool.

"I think Liverpool's defence overall actually handled Sheff Utd quite well, and although they had a few shots on goal, they were never truly worrying them. I think we're going to have to be careful because the first time Liverpool concede a couple goals in a game - and it will happen because of the nature of this season - naturally we'll look to the defence and blame the absence of Van Dijk. But don't forget Liverpool conceded seven goals to Villa in Van Dijk's final full game before injury.

"All eyes have been on Fabinho; he did give away the penalty and he doesn't need to make that tackle, it's a midfielder's tackle, and I don't think Gomez or Van Dijk are making that challenge. So Fabinho will need to get in the rhythm of thinking like a defender and not a midfielder.

"I thought Gomez's second-half performance was quite encouraging, but like City when they put Fernandinho at centre-back, my interest sits with how the midfield cope without Fabinho."

To hear more, download the Sky Sports Pitch to Post Review podcast on your provider

Hits and misses: The grit of champions returns to Anfield

Liverpool celebrate against Sheffield United
Image: Liverpool celebrate during their return to winning ways in the Premier League

Sky Sports' Ron Walker:

'Without a win in two Premier League games and missing their defensive talisman, let's not get too excited about a narrow victory over a side who can't buy a win at the moment.

'But behind that word of caution, the Reds' performance in their 2-1 win over Sheffield United bore a few remnants of their Premier League-winning campaign.

'It does not take long for memories to become rosier in hindsight, but Liverpool's route to the title last season often did not come through flowing football or total domination, but grinding out results. Remember the last-minute win at Aston Villa in November? Or even Dean Henderson's howler which gifted them a win at Sheffield United in September?

'There were no such gifts from the Blades at Anfield on Saturday, but there was plenty of Liverpool grit to move joint-top against a Sheffield United side who, like their hosts, produced a performance far more reminiscent of their successful 2019/20 than their shaky start this campaign.

'While Chris Wilder's men were growing in confidence after taking their first league lead of the season 13 minutes in, it was Liverpool who struck next out of nowhere thanks to some Jordan Henderson magic and a Roberto Firmino tap-in.

'And with the Blades holding firm well into the second period, a brilliant Sadio Mane delivery found Diogo Jota to power home his first Premier League headed goal at the perfect moment.

'It wasn't vintage Liverpool, but it was winning Liverpool. And after dropping points in back-to-back games, and without Van Dijk, victory in this style may have felt satisfyingly familiar for Jurgen Klopp.'

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