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26 Mar 2021 00:05:05
The form of the front three are a concern, but not for the reasons you have mentioned.

The possession football we now play is not a choice, it is a necessity. For the front three, their most effective season was the 2017/ 18 season. Sure, we played counter attacking football that was electrifying, but only because the opposition allowed that to happen. Back then, we had a reputation for having a terrible defence and teams were rightly convinced they could get a result by getting at us. Remember, we started the season with moreno, lovren, pre-good matip, clyne and mignolet/ karius all as starters. The foundations of the defence that would become solidified in the 2018/ 19 season only started to take form in the new year. It was also the first season of the front three as a unit, and nobody knew how to deal with them.

The style of play we used that season will never be viable again, not in most games at least. It never brought us any trophies in the 3ish years that Klopp used it, and by 2018/ 19 teams were wary of the powers of van Dijk and Salah. We also added Alisson and had a very settled defence at that point. They knew there was no point attacking that defence with gusto and leaving Salah free, so they sat back and put 3 men on him instead. We had to change the style and improve on the tactics that came before. We started initially with a 4231, with shaqiri on the right and Salah up front, which worked quite well. Eventually the dependence on trent and robertson grew, and a lot of our goals began to come from crosses into the box. This didn’t suit salah, but he drew defenders away from firmino and mane, who proved to be surprisingly good in the air. Salah, being the beast that he is, still scored loads of goals and his all round game only got better. This style of play made us more viable against different types of opposition, plus it conserved energy over the course of the season. It brought us to within an inch of a league title, the highest points total ever in top european football to not win the league, and it won us the champions league.

Last year we played the same style as the season prior, but the finishing abilities of the front three dropped off a cliff. Salah was still being triple marked, and while firmino and mane did pop up with many late winners, most of the games were made to be far harder than they ever should have been, purely from the amount of chances missed. It caused concern for some observant fans, many of whom predicted that while we were getting away with it against the mid-table premier league teams, it would cost us in the big games and in Europe. Sure enough, after scraping our way to the round of 16, we got knocked out by Atletico due to horrendous finishing. We were missing our goalkeeper, it was up to the front three to step up and compensate, and they didn’t.

In fairness to the staff, they spotted the issue, and moved to resolve it with Jota. Jota is far more clinical than firmino and mane, and its no surprise our season tanked when he was no longer there to paper over the cracks. Salah has also seemingly been triple marked less this season, with the attention switching over to Mane. Safe to say he hasn’t coped with it as well as Salah did. We also brought in Thiago to further improve upon the style of play, and i honestly don’t think he’s been as bad as the media would have us believe. He hasn’t been great, but the front three have inexplicably stopped making runs for him, and when he is able to give them the ball, they cannot control it. During our horrible run from the Jota injury onwards, games in which our midfield and defence were obliterated, Mane and Firmino have been nowhere to be seen, at the time we needed them to step up most. Not only have they killed countless attacks with their tomfoolery, some games they have actually looked as though they are hiding. They have been unable to control, pass and even receive the ball, sometimes looking like they don’t want it, refusing to move or make a run. In spite of all that, the ball does very often make it to them in the box, and almost every time the finishing has been unacceptably poor. 3% conversion rate in 2021 at one point, something like that?

For me, what history and our recent struggles show is that the system is the least of our problems, it is the players that we have playing in it. Firmino and Mane once fitted hand in glove, but their wastefulness became impossible to defend a long time ago. Jota’s passing can be very off at the best of times, and he hasn’t fully developed an understanding with his team mates yet, but he is clinical, he makes great runs, he pops up with goals out of nowhere, he can dribble past people with ease, he steps up when we need him most. He is all the things that Firmino and Mane have ceased to be. If we had another centre forward with the terrifyingly clinical capabilities of someone like Haaland, we would be utterly dominant (when our centre backs return, of course) .

In my humble opinion, the time has come for change. We need to break up the front three and continue to develop the tactics that have delivered us so much success, not regress towards a style of play that delivered us nothing. If you were to ask the spurs fans how their commitment to counter-attacking football is going, i’m sure their answers would be unanimously negative.

{Ed0666's Note - I love it when posters use paragraphs on long posts it’s brings joy to my heart. Thankyou woolback.

Agree11 Disagree0

26 Mar 2021 11:15:34
Superb post.

26 Mar 2021 11:24:14
Great post and what this site should be about, thoughts put productively and not just a throw away comment.

Hoping for a big end to the season and then we will see how the summer develops.

Really believe that if we had our full team we would have walked the title again. With fans back next year and injuries behind us, we have walked through the storm and will have another golden sky!



26 Mar 2021 11:45:16
I’ve also noticed - maybe just not seen it previously, that the front 3 do a lot of tracking back when other teams have possession. This means when we do win the ball back there is almost 3/ 4 needed to cover to get to the opposition box. I would rather leave Mané and Salah on the half way line and not track back for the counter attack. If teams are brace enough to push their fullbacks beyond them then so be it. Nowadays it just feels like by the time we have won the ball back and started building up attacks the opposition already have 10 players behind the ball.

I also don’t think that Thiago has been as bad as made out. I think he is trying too hard to prove himself and wasting a lot of energy trying to press the play. Every attack should be going through him, it’s what I noticed was happening when he first joined before he got injured and he was able to dictate the play a lot better. Now it seems he is constantly making angles but not getting the ball as often as Trent/ Robbo try aimless balls over the top.

Agree on the front 3 - Salah aside the finishing is woeful and we’ve really missed Jota the last few months. Still what infuriated me the most is the poor decision making in the final third. Honestly the interplay has been atrocious for a while now and is what I thought Thiago was bought in to address.

When I watch Mané play this season it genuinely looks like he has lost half a yard and I think it’s apparent that he and Salah do not like playing together. All the front 3 have been great servants but I definitely think it’s time to upgrade. We either need a skilful creative winger with some end product to replace Mané or someone clinical to replace Bobby before we become stagnant and have to replace all 3 at the same time in a couple of years.

26 Mar 2021 12:09:50
AW, that post right there is the BEST diagnosis of our issues from top to bottom that I have ever read. Not a single journo or pundit has come anywhere near your brilliant review of our issues and what I liked about it was that, you went back into history to set a predicate for your end point and worked your way up there, Chapeau, Monsieur!

Your 3rd paragraph regarding our finishing is something many of us and even the Ed01, mentioned repeatedly last season and since we now do not have a full midfield and defence, it has been exposed, like you say. Now even if injury slowed Jota down, I am glad you recognized that Klopp knew of this situation and remedied it first via Werner (thank heavens, in hind sight) and then, Jota.

Now as to whether the front 3 need to be broken up, my gut feeling is that not yet of course, all things being equal. I just think that Bobbie has played way too much football for the past 3 years and that has told esp. this season due to the quick turnaround for games. I think with a good rest and a good preseason, that could do him good esp. if we have options to fill in cos on his day, he is simply unplayable and when he plays well, WE play well. Same with Mane, IMO even tho both need to improve. Same with Salah. I think they have one more very season left in them as a group.

26 Mar 2021 12:06:19
Just to clarify this was meant to be a response to JoshKel91’s post below but i posted it as a new one by accident, sorry mate😂

Glad you enjoyed it though lads, thankyou:)

26 Mar 2021 19:50:34
Great post. Pep said pre season we needed to evolve so enter Jota. I wonder if Klopp regrets focusing so much on the defense and not trusting Phillips sooner and playing Fab in the middle. Nice to see Kabak getting solid reviews this week too. Hope he really kicks on from here. Next season can't come quick enough for me but we still have a lot to play for.



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