FM15 Liverpool #02- Squad Analysis 

Following staff changes and dealing with all the other stuff, which in truth can be pretty boring, the obvious thing I had to do was take a look at the squad. In the last few seasons, particularly under Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool have spent fortunes on players, well over ¬£100million in fact. Despite this, Liverpool have a fairly average squad, it’s obvious that the money hasn’t been spent wisely. Overspending is something I will look to avoid, especially on declining players. 
Although the squad is pretty average, the only ‘world class’ players I have are Daniel Sturridge and Phillipe Coutinho, I do have quite a lot of depth in most positions meaning I shouldn’t have to spend much in my first summer. 
I will go from back to front when analysing the squad.

Simon Mignolet

Mignolet will be first choice goalkeeper for this season at least, however I’m not entirely convinced on him and if he can’t impress me then I won’t hesitate to replace him next summer
Brad Jones

Will be clear second choice goalkeeper, may get the odd game in the Capital One Cup
Daniel Ward

Will be backup, however I still want him to develop into a decent goalkeeper for both his sake and our sake as he has potential to be a good keeper, will train with the first team but made available for under 21’s so that he still gets game time
Martin Skrtel

Skrtel is a really limited players in terms of technical ability but is probably good enough to play for one season, it’s likely I’ll look to replace him with a better technical player than him next summer
Mahmadou Sakho

The kind of centre-back I’m looking for, able to pass and is pretty comfortable on the ball, will be an important player, especially in the build-up as his passing ability is key so the progression from the back is clean
Dejan Lovren

Was signed for a lot of money but will be second choice, isn’t a very good defender unless he has an outright defensive midfielder in front of him(which I won’t usually be using), if Sakho or Skrtel gets injured he will be the man to come into the team though
Kolo Toure

Will be a good personality to have at the club and should make an excellent tutor ut won’t get too much game time
Glen Johnson

Will probably be used a back-up full-back(both right and left)but I will look to sign a first choice right back, has come under heavy criticism but I still see him as a player I could use, is decent technically and has good physical attributes which at times make up for his weak positioning and general intelligence on the pitch
Jon Flanagan

Flanagan is injured for almost the whole of this season so obviously won’t see much game time this season however, following this I will keep him as a back-up full-back and may even consider retraining him as a centre-back with a view to playing as an outer centre-back in a back three in future
Javi Manquillo

Despite only being recently signed, I will be terminating Manquillo’s loan as soon as I sign a new right-back, his attributes are pretty underwhelming and his loan will only limit the development of players owned by the club 
Alberto Moreno

Moreno will be my first choice left-back, is a player I imagine will excel in the diamond formation I will use as he will have the whole left flank to attack, will have to improve the defensive side of his game but I’m sure this will come with age
Jose Enrique

It’s pretty obvious Enrique is past his best so I will look to sell him for the benefit of both us and his career, however if I fail to sell him(I imagine this will be the case)I will give him some game time in the Capital One Cup as I feel it would be harsh to totally isolate him from first team football as he was a very good left-back at one point
Emre Can

Could become a key player under my management due to his versatility, will be perfect in a midfield diamond as he should be able to play any one of the roles in the diamond
Lucas Leiva

Won’t see too much first team football, however he isn’t the worst back-up to have and his experience may make him a decent tutor, so I will keep him around for at least one season
Steven Gerrard

Is obviously leaving the club at the end of this season, however I will make the most of his wonderful attributes in his final year. Will have to manage him carefully and rotate him wisely as his stamina is at just 10 now
Jordan Henderson

Still not sure on my opinion of Henderson, his mentality and physicality really impresses me but I’m not convinced his technical attributes are good enough to be playing central-midfield in my passing game, I will be watching him closely in the first few months to see if he is able to nail down a place in starting 11 
Joe Allen

Impressed me massively at Swansea and that impression has stuck with me, so despite his poor form at Liverpool I’m still willing to give the guy a chance, could possibly thrive in my passing game if given enough protection in the defensive phase
Phillipe Coutinho

One of my key players. Will look to build formations around him as he dictate the game and carve oppositions open, might not be able to hold onto him for more than a couple of seasons if he continues such wonderful form
Adam Lallana

Could become an unsung hero under my management, cost a hefty fee but I believe his versatility and well rounded attributes are something that I can definitely make the most of, will experiment with him on the wing, behind the striker and as an interior to find his best position, I may need to be patient but I’m sure Adam will come good
Raheem Sterling

Another terrific young talent, despite naturally being a winger I think he will be able to play as a striker in the 4-4-2 diamond so I will retrain him as a striker, his pace combined with decent technical attributes are something which really excites me for a player of his age
Lazar Markovic

May have a frustrating first season as Sterling, Lallana and Coutinho are all guaranteed starters for now, although if an injury comes up, Lazar may get his chance, will look to give him plenty of game time in the cups as he has big potential
Jordon Ibe

The only under 21 player I feel is ready for first team football right now, there are other under 21’s who will be promoted to the first team(I’ll speak about this in my next article)but Ibe is the only one ready to play matches for the first team, really exciting player who I believe could turn into a key player in the future
Daniel Sturridge

Arguably my best player…when fit. Far too injury prone so will have to be managed extremely carefully or I risk losing him for extended periods of time, sadly, if Daniel’s injury record doesn’t improve I will be left with no choice but to cash in on him and buy a more reliable striker
Mario Balotelli

Mario is another who I will have to manage very carefully, this time due to his attitude. If nurtured correctly, Balotelli could become one of the world’s best strikers, if not, he will fail. Mario will usually have a partner with him up front who will do his defensive work for him
Fabio Borini

Actually not too bad a player and can play up front, as well as either wing so is arguably worth keeping, but I feel selling him would be better for both parties

After taking a more in-depth look at the squad I’m actually pretty satisfied with it! Obviously I’m needing an addition or two but the depth of the squad isn’t the worst, and I believe it will strong enough to challenge for top four once I make the necessary signings. In my last article, you may remember I mentioned youth development quite a lot, and you’ll now say to yourself, so where are the promoted youth players? In my next article I’ll be talking about the youth players who’ve been promoted to the first team, as well as a look at our full pre-season and the hot topic, who we have signed! Again, keep your eyes peeled and regularly check here, and my Twitter (@boxtoboxcb) for the next article. 

Cheers for reading again guys.

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Liverpool 1-1 Southampton: 25/10/15

Following a frustrating couple of draws for Jurgen Klopp in his opening two games(0-0 vs. Spurs and 1-1 against Rubin Kazan), the German would be looking to get his first win as Liverpool manager in his first home Premier League match against Ronald Koeman’s Southampton. In his opening games, Klopp has added solidity to the Liverpool team, not just in defence but all over the pitch, this is something the Reds have lacked in recent years. Although Liverpool haven’t wowed fans with beautiful attacking play in these matches, and we haven’t even seen Klopp’s “heavy metal” play, it has undoubtedly been a step forward from the final months under Brendan Rodgers in which it looked like he couldn’t take the team any further forward. Going into the match Liverpool were without a 100% fit Benteke or Firmino, as well as cruciate ligament injuries to Joe Gomez and Danny Ings, a foot injury to captain Jordan Henderson and key player Daniel Sturridge is very doubtful with fluid on his knee.

Southampton go into the match with 8 points out of 15, including a superb 3-1 victory at Stamford Bridge. Southampton have played impressive football this season, which is also very nice to watch. Ronald Koeman is without first choice keeper Fraser Forster, centre back Florian Gardos and attackers Jay Rodriguez and Shane Long.
  

Liverpool again played in a 4-3-2-1 formation. In goals was Mignolet. Skrtel and Sakho kept their partnership while Clyne and Moreno flanked them. Lucas Leiva played as a 6, never venturing too far from his position. James Milner as 8 however he provided some width in attack by moving closer to the right flank, as the left 8 was Emre Can who played as a standard 8 in attack rather than moving wide to provide width, however the German did often move into wider areas of the pitch when carrying the ball. Lallana played mostly in the right halfspace however, like Can(on the opposite side however)moved wide with the ball, Coutinho played in a similar role on the left. Up front was Divock Origi.

Southampton played in a relatively narrow 4-2-3-1. Martin Stekelenburg was protected by Cedric Soares, Jose Fonte, Virgil van Dijk and Bertrand. In front of the back four was a double-pivot of Wanyama and Clasie. Although Steven Davis was at times seen on the right wing, he spent most of his time in the right halfspace. Sadio Mane played behind striker Pelle, also making runs behind the big Italian. On the left was Tadic. 
 

Defences on Top

Firstly, we will start of with perhaps the most analysed area in the Premier League since Klopp’s arrival; Liverpool’s pressing game. Obviously Jurgen Klopp is famous for his team’s being so excellent at pressing but no one expected Liverpool to adapt so quickly to Klopp’s pressing, after being in charge for just a few days Klopp was tasked with facing a good Spurs side, in the match (which finished 0-0) Liverpool pressed very well and there were clear signs of improvement without the ball. In the match against Southampton further improvements were seen, which we will come to. 

Despite playing in a 4-3-2-1 which can be diffuclt to press intensley in without allowing the opposition space centrally, Liverpool managed to press intensley as well as denying Southampton access to central areas which the visitors so wanted to use. In order to deny Saints access, Lallana and Coutinho marked Wanyama and Clasie to make them a risky passing option in build-ups, this often lead to Southampton’s centre-backs passing the ball between themselves to wait for a passing lane to open up. In order to force Southampton away from the centre in build-ups, Origi used his body shape when pressing to block the other centre-back, forcing the ball towards a full-back. As the centre-back shaped to pass to the full-back, Lallana/Coutinho would shift over to press the full-back near the touchline. 

  
Although all the focus was on Liverpool’s pressing, Southampton too had a very effective defensive structure which denied the opposition access centrally. Graziano Pelle and Sadio Mane had important roles in blocking lanes from Liverpool’s centre-backs to the 10’s, this wade done successfully and due to this, Liverpool were forced to play long balls into Southampton’s channels which Divock Origi had to chase, often to no avail. Another build-up method Liverpool were forced to use was to go out wide, using Clyne and Moreno, this too was pretty unsuccessful as when the full-back received it he was often without an option as the ball near 8 would usually be marked by Mane,Pelle or even a pivot.

Saints Direct Approach

Due to Liverpool’s high press and Southamtpon’s lack of options in the build-up, Saints were forced to go with a more direct approach. A pattern of play often seen was Van Dijk/Fonte playing a lofted pass to Pelle who would lay the ball off to an onrushing pivot or Davis/Tadic who would move infield, the player receiving the lay off would then look to play a pass in behind for the rapid Sadio Mane. Southampton often carried out this play on Liverpool’s right as Skrtel’s lack of pace could be exploited by Mane.

  
Benteke’s Arrival

During the interval, Jurgen Klopp substituted Origi for Christian Benteke. The arrival of Benteke suited Liverpool’s direct approach far more than Origi’s more slight frame. Another change at the interval was from the 4-3-2-1 to a 4-2-3-1, this saw James Milner move into a more advanced role on the right while Lallana and Coutinho shifted left. To aid Liverpool’s poor build-up play, we saw Lucas drop in between Skrtel and Sakho, this prevented so many long balls into the channels but instead more accurate, aggressive passes towards Benteke. As Lucas dropped in between the centre-backs, Milner moved a bit deeper, and we saw the 4-3-2-1 again at times.

Conclusion

Following a late Sadio Mane equaliser, Klopp was forced to wait a few more days for his first win a Liverpool manager (a victory over Bournemouth in the COC). Despite struggling for goals, Liverpool fans would be intrigued to see their side constantly improving under Klopp, particularly in a defensive sense. Christian Benteke looks to be a player well suited to Klopp’s style, as does fellow substitute Jordan Ibe, whose direct running caused Cedric Soares problems both with and without the ball.