For most of Jürgen Klopp’s time in charge at Liverpool, the team has defaulted to playing a narrow 4-3-3 that aids the high press typically favoured by the manager by. In recent weeks, though, there has been a change.
With the attack not quite clicking in the opening months of the season, a shift to the 4-2-3-1 has led to improved performances. Klopp, though, says regardless of formation, they’re all extensions of an underlying system.
“We played it from time to time,” Klopp noted. “We played different systems. But I don’t think too much about things like that, I’m always in the situation—I don’t go through my papers and think, ‘What did we do in that situation?’
“Our system, when we play with all three up front, is something like a diamond. It can be a 4-5-1, it can be a 4-3-3. Of course, 4-2-3-1. [Also] 4-4-1-1. But it’s never about the system, it’s all about the players.”
Klopp has his system, and the differing formations are about slight variations to it. A slightly more reserved second midfielder changes it from a single-pivot to double. Starting the wingers deeper puts more emphasis on the striker.
Changing formation is less about changing how the team plays in any grand, over-arching fashion than it is about slight tweaks to what each player is asked to do within the system Klopp has been training them in.
And, in the end, it always comes back to the players and trying to put them in the best position to succeed—against any given opponent and also by not overloading them with too much information to try to process as they play.
“My job is to bring the players into the best position where they can help the team most with the things they can do,” he added. “If I can do it with the system, I do it, but it’s not that we go through the week and be very creative with things like that.
“In the end, the players need to play. If I need an hour or two to explain what I want from them, that’s the problem. Don’t make football more complicated than it is—the game has enough demands for the players.”