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Talking Tactics

Liverpool need forwards to find their form

Adrian Clarke 9 Mar 2019
Sadio Mane Mo Salah react

Adrian Clarke says Jurgen Klopp is struggling to get his midfield to offer threat ahead of Burnley match

Adrian Clarke looks at a key tactical talking point in Matchweek 30.

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A drop in creativity has been behind dropped points for Liverpool's title bid in recent weeks.

Until their defeat by Manchester City on 3 January, Liverpool had produced at least 10 shots from open play in 14 of their 20 matches of the campaign.

By contrast, in 2019 their open-play shot tally has dipped below 10 in six of their nine matches.

So it is no surprise that Jurgen Klopp’s side are scoring fewer goals as they prepare to face Burnley.

Liverpool's shots and goals
 2018/19 Open-play shots Goals
MW1-20 11.7 2.4
MW21-29 8.7 1.8
Overall 10.7 2.2
Looking behind the front three

Dips in form are normal for star forwards over the course of a 38-match season, but two of Liverpool's three main front men have suffered drops at the same time.

Sadio Mane’s output remains high, scoring in five of his last nine Premier League appearances.

But over the same period, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino have failed to score in six outings apiece, during which Liverpool have accrued 16 points from a possible 27.

Missing creativity

I think there is too much reliance on Mane, Salah and Firmino to score goals and create them.

They are not only the club’s leading goalscorers, but their main providers, too.

If the three are not firing on all cylinders, there is a burden on Liverpool's full-backs to carve out almost all of the clear-cut openings.

Contributions from central midfield have been few and far between, not just of late but throughout the campaign.

Open-play key passes 2018/19
  Total PL rank
Mohamed Salah 43 4
Roberto Firmino 28 20=
Sadio Mane 27 22=
Andrew Robertson 27 2=
Georginio Wijnaldum 15 93=

The excellent Georginio Wijnaldum is Liverpool’s most creative midfielder.

The Dutchman has produced 15 key passes from open play, but is only just ranked inside the Premier League’s top 100 in that category.

Klopp can call upon only five players who have created 15 or more chances from open play.

More creative rivals

By comparison, Man City and Arsenal each have nine players to have passed that mark, including six midfielders apiece.

Manchester United have eight such players, Chelsea have seven and Tottenham Hotspur six.

The impending return of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will help.

But with Naby Keita yet to settle, Liverpool are missing a productive, attack-minded midfielder who can unlock defences.

Also in this series

Part 1: Form of Lukaku spells danger for Arsenal
Part 2: Capoue and Doucoure key to Watford success
Part 3: Fearless Wan-Bissaka proving hard to beat

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