Daniel Sturridge’s return from injury gives Brendan Rodgers a dilemma given the potency of Liverpool’s forward line against Wigan. Luis Suarez’s hat-trick strengthens his claim to the central berth, although Rodgers will argue that the Uruguayan has been equally dangerous from deeper, wider positions. Both Philippe Coutinho and Stewart Downing also performed well, and will be difficult to drop. Rodgers is likely to choose between including Sturridge in his usual front three, probably at the expense of Coutinho, or switching to a 4-4-2 variation with Suarez and Sturridge through the middle. However given the threat of Gareth Bale for Tottenham Rodgers is likely to want to keep an extra man in midfield, so a 4-1-2-3 seems the likeliest option.
Tottenham’s impressive victory over Arsenal last weekend will have increased their confidence further and Bale, and his teammates, have adapted well to the Welshman’s new central role. Jermain Defoe’s return after a long absence will be a relief to Andre Villas-Boas, who must be getting worried about Emmanuel Adebayor’s lack of form. Elsewhere Lewis Holtby and Gylfi Sigurdsson will compete for the left midfield role – Sigurdsson was solid against Arsenal and supplied Bale for the first goal, but Villas-Boas probably still identifies Holtby as a longer term solution. Despite the manager rotating his defence throughout the campaign, Jan Vertonghen and Michael Dawson’s excellent performances against Arsenal may suggest a first choice partnership has been found.
Contrary to popular belief it is Liverpool that come into this game in free-scoring form, having scored three or more goals in 7 of their last 13 league games. In contrast Tottenham haven’t won a league game by more than one goal since the 1st of January… (Read more)
That Liverpool signed Daniel Sturridge in the January transfer window was no great surprise. Following the loaning out of Andy Carroll in August and the failed attempt to sign Clint Dempsey as a replacement, Brendan Rodgers endured the first half-season of his Liverpool reign with only two senior forwards. In theory Sturridge seemed well suited to Rodgers style of playing, being quick, comfortable on the ball and capable of playing wide or through the middle. Yet there were issues with the forward that still made the move a little curious, and questions were raised about how exactly he would fit into the Liverpool side… (Read more)
Transfer activity is often a fascinating way to identify a teams’ tactical ambition as a club’s transfer policy is dependent on the manager’s approach. A systemic manager’s priority is to sign players that are better adapted to their style of play, and thus improves the strength of the team not necessarily by signing better quality players, but by signing better fitting players. An adaptable manager is less focused on tactical suitability as they are happier modifying their game-plan to suit the players at their disposal, and therefore can use the transfer market solely to improve the quality of the squad. In reality few managers are strictly one or the other and tend to be a mixture of the two, but the contrasts were still evident in the January transfer window… (Read more)
When the reverse of this fixture was played back in August, Manchester City were adopting a 3-5-2 system led by Mario Balotelli, and Fabio Borini and Andy Carroll constituted Liverpool’s only back up to Luis Suarez. Two uncertain sides drew 2-2 that day, although Liverpool began to show glimpses of what they might achieve once the squad had adapted to new manager Brendan Rodgers’ tactics. Roberto Mancini has since seemingly abandoned his 3-5-2 experiment, and the current City side should offer a far more imposing challenge… (Read more)
Two managers committed to strongly held tactical preferences that is likely to result in a 4-2-1-3 vs a 4-1-2-3, meaning parity in midfield and a spare man for both defences. Both managers have options – Wenger could take a defensive approach by moving Cazorla from midfield, Rodgers could be aggressive and play Suarez in an advanced midfield role – but both are likely to stick to what they know… (Read more)
Liverpool’s appointment of Brendan Rodgers is surely the most exciting managerial signing of the summer. After years in which the biggest jobs in the Premier League appeared to be a closed shop for British and Irish candidates (Redknapp was hired when Spurs were at the foot of the table) it is exciting to see a successful domestic manager given the opportunity to prove himself at the top table. Recent seasons may mean that Liverpool aren’t quite in the position they once were, but in terms of expectation Rodgers will be under no illusions of the size of the job he has taken on… (Read more)