Possession based football

Posted by DonkeyWan on April 5, 2011, 10:49:45 AM

There has been a lot of talk since the signing of Carroll about the style of play Liverpool are developing. Various formations (433, 451, 4411, 442) have been spoken about and a lot of emphasis placed on certain positions in the pitch (we need wide men, ball-playing CBs etc). However, I believe the real issue is not about the numbers, or the positions, rather it is about the style of play we are engaging in. Success in the 70s and 80s was built on, I would argue, possession-based football, midfielders like Molby who would take the ball, hold it and find a pass. Surrendering possession was a crime and had to be rectified by working hard to retrieve the ball, a two-pronged approach. Various coaches (Houllier for example) have tried different, more defensive tactics with less emphasis on ball work, but with limited success.

To play a possession based game requires a certain type of player, with good feet but also  a calm demeanour able to patiently hold onto the ball before releasing it. Currently however, we lack these kind players in the squad. Across out backline Aurelio, Johnson and Agger fit that profile, but two of those are injury prone and more often our back four contains Carragher, Skrtel and Soto, hardy players but limited in terms of passing and more importantly vision.

In the midfield Gerrard is an explosive player but lacks patience and finesse at times, too often looking for the killer ball rather than patiently building. Lucas is the only player who some close to the Alonso/Molby/Hamann style of metronomic passing in the centre, with Meireles more a box-to-box shoot or spray. While his passing is neat, he does not control the play or the tempo. Out wide Maxi is a pass and move player and under-rated in my opinion, we always seem to play better when he starts. But he's probably the only one. Cole is akin to Gerrard, Kuyt like Meirles in approach, no one else other than Maxi and Lucas are in that passing groove mold.

Up front Suarez has quick feet and should be the fulcrum of all attacks. unfortunately when Ngog and Carroll are on the back line just aims long balls at the head of Ngog or Carroll, neither of which look like they would be entirely comfortable playing a possession game though both have good touches at times.

The point is, I for one would like to see a more possession-based game. But to achieve that would require a serious, serious overhaul of the squad and the purchase of a lot more technically skilled, mobile players. I would argue in the current squad only Agger, Johnson, Aurelio, Maxi, Lucas and Suarez fit the profile (to a lesser extent Spearing) and two of those have poor fitness records. The other option is to bring in widemen to use Carroll, Kuyt and Ngog as targetmen and concede greater possession of the possession of the ball in favour of more direct attacking play. But that may take us down a different route, a longer more circuitous one that would see that kind of possession play taking a lot longer to achieve. So, this summer, do we focus on getting the most from what we have now, or aim to achieve a certain style of play at the cost of effectiveness? Do we want ball players players, or players that complement?

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