Liverpool’s attack has not been questioned much, and for good reason, but the addition of Nabil Fekir asks two big questions.
- Is his playmaking ability in the center of the park, combined with Fabinho and Naby Keita behind him, enough to push Liverpool to Manchester City’s level?
- Is he enough to lead Jurgen Klopp to abandon a 4-3-3 that served him so following the sale of Philippe Coutinho?
First things first, Fekir is a great get. Even coming off a career year that begs a comparison to Liverpool selling high on Coutinho, this is a nice add for the Reds.
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Fekir brings a silky skill set and a very good 85 percent pass completion rate given he plays in an advanced part of the pitch and takes a lot of audacious chances will the ball. Eighteen league goals and eight assists are no jokes, either.
He was, however, deployed in a manner inconsistent with how Jurgen Klopp uses his midfielders in a 4-3-3. Fekir played a lot in the 4-2-3-1, a formation Klopp stopped using after the sale of Philippe Coutinho.
In fact, when Lyon boss Bruno Génésio opted for a 4-3-3, it was usually because Fekir was injured or unavailable. Génésio used Fekir once as a right wing in the 4-3-3, and twice as a right central midfielder in an inverted triangle. One time, they beat PSG. Conversely, they also lost to Bordeaux.
Klopp could easily opt to go back to a 4-2-3-1, especially with more safety in defensive midfield thanks to the arrivals of Fabinho and Naby Keita (It’s also worth noting that the trio combined for 23 yellow cards and two red cards last season, so Liverpool could set some sort of record there).
Liverpool used a 4-3-3 in all four of their meetings with Man City last season, the only loss coming when the Reds had 10 men. City used a 4-3-3 twice against Liverpool, a 3-1-4-2 in the 5-0 win, an a 3-5-2 when chasing the second leg of the UEFA Champions League tie.
The Reds had so much success in the 4-3-3 late last season, and especially against City, even if the formation was demanded largely due to injury. Klopp will probably use both, but perhaps it’s best to expect a lot more 4-2-3-1.
And it would probably look like this:
— Karius —
— Alexander-Arnold — Matip — Van Dijk — Robertson —
— Fabinho — Keita —
— Salah — Fekir — Mane —
— Firmino —
That is a very good lineup, and it’s unreasonable to think any of the players take a dramatic step back next season.
But going to a 4-3-3 with Fekir in the center of the park is not a formation I’d hazard against Man City. And using Fekir on the wing means benching Sadio Mane (likely to use Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Keita on top of Fabinho).
As good as Man City was last season, it’s difficult to believe they are going to find another 100-point season. Bounces alone should knock them down to 95. Can the Reds be 15-20 points better?
It’s possible, sure, but don’t forget that City is going to be improved by familiarity with the system alone (not to mention additions like (probably) Riyad Mahrez).
Is it August yet? Oh yeah, we’ve got a World Cup first.