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The Rhombus Conundrum

After a fortunate win against Ludogorets, is the diamond central to restoring balance to Liverpool's attacking force?

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Clive Brunskill

Liverpool have struggled in games this season but go into the game against West Ham United with a decent start in terms of points. The recent home defeat to Aston Villa possibly evaporated notions of a solid start to the season but Liverpool are not too far from rival clubs at this stage. Ludogorets offered a quick chance for "bouncing back" in footballing parlance and Liverpool did a middling job of seizing such an opportunity. Three points is three points and the fun little stat swirling round is that Liverpool were the only English side to win in week one of the Champions League group stage. However, it wasn't the resounding win predicted and the side still needs something.

Looking at the players signed in the transfer window, virtually all of them have clear roles in a diamond formation. The demands on the fullbacks to get up and down their respective flanks is perfect for Javier Manquillo and Alberto Moreno with their excellent ability to regain defensive positions relatively quickly even if a football will always travel quicker than a player. Emre Can fits in a variety of midfield setups while Adam Lallana could prosper in the hole or as one of the two central midfielders. Segueing into what some may see as "clutching straws territory", Lazar Marković could be used as a ten or even as a one of the two attacking support players in a 4321/41221: a possibility when Liverpool are comfortable and want to give the young Serbian a chance to run at weary defences.

Brendan Rodgers could be avoiding the diamond as he could see it as a starting formation when two strikers of undoubted quality are fit to start. He did this last season, when he could call upon the two highest scoring players in the Premier League to push Liverpool forward. Liverpool's sixth manager to compete with the club in Europe did start both Daniel Sturridge and Mario Balotelli together against Tottenham. Perhaps the Antrim man sees Adam Lallana, Lazar Marković, Philippe Coutinho, and Raheem Sterling as superior support options for Liverpool's number 45 than Fabio Borini and Rickie Lambert.

Is it time to reduce the number of new signings that are starting right now, considering one is not quite match fit and another will benefit from being integrated gradually from the bench? The match against Tottenham Hotspur was probably the closest to Liverpool's most in-form and balanced squad at the moment. It is eminently unfortunate that Joe Allen won't return against West Ham to fulfil a key role in midfield, but Raheem Sterling is the leading and perhaps only candidate to play behind the strikers. It may be worthwhile to note that the game against Tottenham featured four summer signings as starters; there were two against Southampton, two for the trip to Manchester City, six versus Aston Villa, and five in the return to the land of milk and honey. Three of these new signings are in the back four, but when the team has three at the back and three in attack, is it any surprise to witness initial problems?

Playing the best players looks to be sound yet greater balance could be served, amply mind you, by adding a striker. Lambert may be a good foil for Sturridge or Borini, but he may be too prosaic in speed as well as movement to be an effective partner for Balotelli. Super Mario has proven to be less dynamic in his runs as Sturridge, Suárez, or Sterling. Perhaps Fabio Borini, the man with the movement, will be the most profitable move for Rodgers on Saturday.

Daniel Sturridge looked like he needed support against Southampton and Manchester City while Mario Balotelli needed a friend against Aston Villa and Ludogorets. Neither scored when paired together against Spurs but the result was emphatic. 3 nil and a clean sheet. Daniel Sturridge is set to return this month and strangely enough, Rodgers will probably turn to the diamond to facilitate the striker's reintroduction alongside Balotelli. The all-consuming, omniscient, and omnipresent goalscoring behemoth known as Sturritelli will have its day, so foundations Rodgers must prepare a superior way. Perhaps Liverpool's early season conundrum requires a rhombus to find solutions.

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