Talking Tactics

How midfield trio have given Liverpool new energy

27 Sep 2023
Liverpool TT

Adrian Clarke says energy and quality of Szoboszlai, Mac Allister and Jones can reap rewards against Spurs

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Liverpool’s new-look central midfield is purring.

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Summer signings Dominik Szoboszlai and Alexis Mac Allister have effortlessly fitted into Jurgen Klopp’s all-action style of play, alongside the improving Curtis Jones.

Together as a collective they exhibit a nice blend of athleticism and technical quality, and this has laid a strong platform for Liverpool's forward line to plunder goals.

As you would expect from three attack-minded individuals, they do have flaws without the ball.

Sometimes the trio are not as compact as Klopp would like, enabling opponents to slice through on a number of occasions to create opportunities.

See: Why Liverpool can be City's rivals again

Eight Premier League sides, for example, have faced fewer shots than unbeaten Liverpool so far.

Yet ahead of an exciting match at Tottenham Hotspur, the positives this three-man midfield provide heavily outweigh those areas of development.

Dynamism aplenty

Szoboszlai is a powerful but elegant midfielder who has already drawn comparisons with Liverpool great Steven Gerrard.

While it is premature to put the 22-year-old on that pedestal, he has been highly influential across the opening weeks of the campaign.

The Hungary international has tremendous skill on the ball, while his pace across the ground is also an outstanding asset, in and out of possession.

Clocked at a top speed of 36.76km/h, he is the third-fastest Premier League player this season, and by some distance the quickest among central midfielders.

Fastest PL players 23/24
Player Top speed (km/h)
Chiedozie Ogbene  36.93
Pedro Neto 36.86
Dominik Szoboszlai 36.76
Dominic Solanke 36.10
Bryan Mbeumo 35.94

Szoboszlai is averaging 23 sprints per 90 minutes, a figure way in excess of the 13 per 90 of Jordan Henderson last season, the player he effectively replaced on the right side of midfield.

He uses that pace to frequently recover possession, and to drive past opponents in midfield.

His runs off the ball are hard to track, but he will also take players on with a dribble to open up space.

See: What to look out for this weekend

Tireless work

With World Cup winner Mac Allister holding the central ground as a single pivot, fellow box-to-box midfielder Jones works also tirelessly.

Last season Liverpool’s midfield was often overrun, but the Szoboszlai-Jones axis is machine-like in their athletic capabilities.

Of players to have made at least three starts, Jones ranks fourth for distance covered per 90, averaging 12.3km.

Midfielders' ave. distance covered 23/24
Player Starts* Mins Distance/90
Christian Eriksen 3 316 12.7km
Sander Berge 3 245 12.4km
Mahmoud Dahoud 3 247 12.4km
Curtis Jones 3 255 12.3km
Dejan Kulusevski 6 534 12.1km
Billy Gilmour 4 346 12.1km
Smooth in possession

This current midfield trio are all very accomplished passers, with exceptionally high levels of technical ability.

Szoboszlai is a wonderfully clean striker of the ball, as he showed when fizzing an unstoppable half-volley into the bottom corner against Aston Villa.

His progressive forward passes are also lovely and crisp.

Szoboszlai's stunning strike v Villa

Playing to the left of Mac Allister, Jones - who also switches to the right on occasion - has simplified his distribution this season.

Keeping the ball moving with short, sharp passes, his 93.9 per cent passing accuracy is the best in Liverpool’s squad.

And Mac Allister, who has been occupying the holding role, is also top-class on the ball.

His sumptuous chipped pass for Darwin Nunez’s goal against West Ham United last Sunday was one of the assists of the campaign.

Mac Allister's superb assist for Nunez
Tough test

The Spurs' new midfield unit they will face of Yves Bissouma, Pape Matar Sarr and James Maddison are also in wonderful form.

Brilliant for large parts of last Sunday’s north London derby, they are a midfield unit that works incredibly hard out of possession to crowd the man on the ball.

Sarr's heat map v Arsenal

They will try to rush Szoboszlai, Jones and Mac Allister, and force mistakes from them.

Their effectiveness in that tactical ploy is likely to have a huge influence on the outcome of what promises to be a fascinating contest.

Also in this series

Part 1: Will Emery or De Zerbi win battle of master tacticians?
Part 2: How Hudson-Odoi and Elanga can speed up Forest's evolution

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