In this article, I’ll be analyzing Liverpool’s unique style of play, and how it helps break down opposing defences in unconventional fashion.
Liverpool have recently been crowned champions of the Premier League. They did it spectacularly, brushing many challengers aside en route to their first English top-flight championship in thirty years.
But just how did they do it?
Well, Jurgen and his buccaneering Reds were in “flying” form throughout the season, literally.
You might have noticed Virgil van Dijk throw some brilliant passes into the forwards from the defence, or maybe you’ve noticed Trent Alexander-Arnold switch the play quickly with a long diagonal to Andy Robertson.
Well, it’s no fluke. If you look close enough, you realize those actions happen again, and again, and again. The Reds weren’t just displaying a brilliant range of passing because they wanted to, it’s all part of the game plan.
In football, the ultimate aim of all actions on the pitch is to score a goal. The actions that lead up to a goal being scored are numerous, but when broken down can be easily understood. One of the aforementioned actions is the concept of “breaking the lines”.
The concept is simple enough, in a football team, there are three lines of opposition; the forward line, the midfield line, and the defensive line. A pass or dribble in between one of these lines to break down the opposition’s defensive shape is known as “breaking the lines”.
Teams that have more possession of the ball often employ orthodox line-breaking methods to breach opposition defences. Liverpool however have a peculiar, yet effective style.
They do make use of the method above when the opportunity presents itself, but the ace up their sleeve is up above.
Liverpool make use of long balls, high passes, and quick switches of play to unsettle opposing defences.
You’re probably thinking “Liverpool? Long balls? Really?” Well yes, they do play a long ball style whilst dominating possession, and they do so effectively and efficiently.
They don’t just lump it forward randomly though, instead, they take a more calculated approach, switching play when they sense the opportunity to exploit spaces vacated by the opposition between the lines.
Liverpool have switched the play 857 times this season, the most of any side in the division.
They also tend to play high passes more than most, in a bid to exploit the spaces in behind enemy lines.
They tend to “skip the midfield” in a sense. One of the midfield three (usually Jordan Henderson) is often tasked with dropping into the defensive line, taking opposition markers with him, and making space for Liverpool’s flying full-backs to exploit.
Once the opposition is slightly out of shape then Liverpool either;
a. Play a long ball above the midfield into an attacker who has inhabited the spaces between the lines.
b. Quickly switch the play from one flank to another, advancing the ball on that side and unsettling the opposition.
Using these methods, they advance the ball very quickly across the length of the pitch and are able to orchestrate deadly attacks.
One moment you’re closing down Virgil van Dijk on the halfway line and the next moment Sadio Mane is through on goal.
Not many teams are able to defend these situations well and with the quality Liverpool have up top, they take advantage of this in devastating fashion.
Consequently, Liverpool have won the league, and they quite literally flew to the top in the process.