Throughout Manchester United and Liverpool’s uninteresting, goalless draw on Sunday afternoon, it was unquestionably Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s facet who have been affected extra damagingly by accidents, with three gamers limping off earlier than half-time. Compared, Liverpool misplaced solely Roberto Firmino, who was seen departing Outdated Trafford on crutches.
In a wider context, although, it is the Firmino damage that carries extra weight. The Zero-Zero draw might need been a disappointing outcome for Liverpool, however it took them to the highest of the Premier League. The title stays of their fingers, and the very last thing they wanted was an damage to their centre-forward.
The Brazilian’s damage, it appears, is much less severe than first feared. On Tuesday, Jurgen Klopp steered that Firmino had an out of doors probability of constructing the midweek recreation towards Watford, although the derby towards Everton on Sunday was a extra lifelike return date. His absence, nevertheless temporary, will pressure Klopp into some tactical tinkering.
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Klopp’s tactical decision-making on Sunday was questionable. When confronted with changing Firmino, Klopp opted for a pure centre-forward, Daniel Sturridge. He stays a helpful penalty field striker, however Liverpool weren’t even working the ball into the penalty field, and due to this fact the striker contributed nearly nothing. It is simple to be sensible in hindsight, however even on the time, the extra logical alternative gave the impression to be Xherdan Shaqiri, who gives some invention and creativity in midfield.
That is what Liverpool are desperately missing for the time being. The only largest query about their beginning XI this season has been the relative lack of creativity. For the reason that departure of Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona final January, Liverpool have lacked a participant able to opening up a defence with an incisive go. Klopp’s facet are literally superior total with out Coutinho, it is price reiterating, however there are circumstances by which some additional ingenuity is required. Adam Lallana has been used sparingly, regardless of a beautiful piece of trickery within the build-up to Sadio Mane’s aim at West Ham just lately, and Shaqiri stays best-placed to come back into Klopp’s facet within the absence of Firmino. The pure choice can be for Shaqiri to play from the correct flank, with Mohamed Salah transferring up prime.
However Klopp may have to be extra creative. Shaqiri is comfy on the correct flank, however he tends to be considerably predictable when fielded in that place, at all times drifting inside onto his left foot, and threatening to shoot. To permit him extra inventive freedom, Klopp is likely to be higher off utilizing Shaqiri centrally, as a extra excessive false 9. With Liverpool struggling to progress the ball from midfield into capturing positions, this could successfully create a diamond whereas retaining the motion from broad positions supplied by Mane and Salah.
Even when Firmino returns for the Watford recreation, Klopp should be giving severe consideration to utilizing Shaqiri and returning to the Four-2-Three-1 formation that has usually produced Liverpool’s finest shows this season. The Four-Three-Three is Klopp’s desire in massive video games towards stronger opposition as a result of it beefs up the midfield and gives extra safety for the defence, however clear sheets aren’t notably beneficial to Liverpool if they don’t seem to be scoring targets. Manchester Metropolis probably will not drop many factors between now and the top of the marketing campaign, and Liverpool want to deal with their shortcoming when it comes to creativity. With or with out Firmino, it’s Shaqiri somewhat than Sturridge who seems to be one of the best answer for Liverpool’s woes.
With Fernandinho and Roberto Firmino each injured, whichever membership copes finest with out their key man might edge to the entrance in an in depth title race. Photograph by Shaun Botterill/Getty Photos
Fernandinho’s damage might show problematic for Guardiola, Metropolis
Manchester Metropolis’s personal damage setback for a Brazilian — the absence of Fernandinho for, it appears, round three weeks — may show extra severe. Metropolis have loads of power in varied positions, however they lack a ready-made alternative for his or her first-choice holding midfielder — therefore their pursuit of Jorginho final summer time and their current curiosity in Frenkie de Jong, who has agreed to affix Barcelona in the summertime.
The apparent stand-in is Ilkay Gundogan, who has performed the deepest midfield function on a variety of events this season, together with in varied matches by which Fernandinho performed a peculiar half-defender/half-midfielder hybrid function. That’s arguably the larger situation, contemplating it has change into one among Guardiola’s favorite tactical tips. Gundogan, for all his qualities, will not be entrusted with that form of function.
It is a specific situation as a result of Fernandinho is not the one one injured. John Stones is predicted to overlook Metropolis’s subsequent couple of matches, whereas Aymeric Laporte is one other who might be unavailable till after the worldwide break within the latter half of March. Now, Guardiola is relying upon Nicolas Otamendi and Vincent Kompany. That is hardly a catastrophe, however the latter not often appears to be like comfy enjoying a collection of matches in fast succession.
In optimistic phrases, nevertheless, the introduction of Gundogan may enhance Metropolis’s possession play. Fernandinho, for all his qualities, has typically made errors when Metropolis have performed out from the again this season, often making an attempt to compensate for a poor contact with a fast foul. Probably the most notable instance of this got here within the shock defeat away at Newcastle, and there was one other instance within the Carabao Cup ultimate towards Chelsea.
Gundogan would not provide Fernandinho’s positional high quality, and he would not disrupt the opposition’s play fairly so successfully, however he is definitely extra composed on the ball. Snug receiving possession on the half-turn and easing previous opposition challenges, Gundogan types a remarkably technical midfield trio alongside David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne. That stated, with Metropolis missing Fernandinho’s battling qualities, Guardiola is likely to be extra inclined to area Bernardo Silva centrally in upcoming weeks. Typically shifted out to the correct flank, the Portuguese worldwide is more practical than Silva and De Bruyne at scurrying after opponents and placing his foot in — not typical qualities that Guardiola appears to be like for however qualities that might be extra needed now.
Thankfully, Metropolis aren’t being overly examined of their upcoming matches. This midweek, they’re at dwelling to West Ham earlier than a visit to Bournemouth and a house contest towards Watford. West Ham have some inventive midfield abilities, whereas the journey to the south coast means having to deal with Ryan Fraser’s intelligent positioning. However Gundogan must be comfy sufficient towards sides of this calibre, as Metropolis will common round 70 % of the possession, and it is practically two months earlier than Metropolis face one of many Premier League’s different massive six: Tottenham in mid-April. By then, Fernandinho ought to have returned, maybe having benefited from a delayed winter break.