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Jürgen Klopp and Pep Lijnders have created ‘undercover’ formation as Liverpool frees Cody Gakpo



Jurgen Klopp and Pep Lijnders have unleashed a subtle tactical quirk in recent weeks. He quietly helped Cody Gakpo and gave Liverpool some big wins.

Jurgen Klopp and Pep Lijnders have tried many different solutions at Anfield this season. As the Reds duo watched their side develop in form month on month, they tried to stem the decline by changing things up tactically and sometimes straying from their 4-3-3 formation.

The first change involved a switch to 4-4-2, but that was hampered shortly after due to serious injuries to Diogo Jota and Luis Díaz. Then Klopp opted for a 4-3-1-2 form – also known as the diamond – which was very tight and allowed Liverpool to protect themselves from losing their wingers.

After the World Cup, the 4-3-3 was reintroduced as results and performance had not improved with the new formations. The Reds have stuck to their usual system ever since, but a very subtle and low-key tactical adjustment has been made in recent weeks which has benefited Liverpool – and Cody Gakpo in particular.

He was perhaps first introduced against Newcastle United in an important and difficult away game at St James’ Park. When playing at home, the Magpies are energetic and aggressive off the ball and that presented a particular challenge for Klopp and Lijnders as they figured out how best to give Liverpool a platform to succeed. To defend against what the Toon had to offer in defence, the Reds added an extra man in the center of the park in Gakpo, who arrived from PSV Eindhoven in the January transfer window and has since come to terms with life in the Premier League League. .

Instead of taking the lead on his own, Gakpo staying high up the pitch, regularly dropped into midfield to play on the same lines as Jordan Henderson, with Fabinho and Stefan Bajčetić sinking even further as a duo, see below.

When Liverpool had no ball, Henderson, Fabinho and Bajčetić defended by forming a trio in midfield, but whenever possession was secured Gakpo joined the trident almost causing the Reds to form something of a box in the centre.

The Dutchman’s presence allowed Liverpool to build moves with an extra player, while also providing more central protection for the team in the moments following a loss of possession. Furthermore, the movement of him withdrawn from him allowed Mohamed Salah and Darwin Núñez to rise higher by playing on the backs of their opponents. Both forwards are quick and capable of threatening from behind, so it makes sense that they play in a way that allows Gakpo to fall like Roberto Firmino at the height of his Anfield career.

It was unclear at the time if this 4-2-2-2 variation was only used for the Newcastle United game, but it reappeared on Sunday afternoon as Liverpool beat rivals Manchester United by seven goals to zero. although on paper it looks more or less like the usual 4-3-3.

In the record-breaking triumph, Gakpo moved into left midfield and helped the Reds’ engineer with attacking moves. Henderson played in place of Bajčetić as Fabinho’s partner against the Old Trafford side, with Harvey Elliott playing further on the right.

In these two games, Gakpo scored three times. Whether Klopp and Lijnders’ undercover 4-2-2-2 is here to stay remains to be seen, but either way it appears to be an effective means of unlocking what Liverpool’s latest signing can do.