Klopp’s XI in Liverpool FC 2016-17:

Now that Klopp has put his stamp on the team (keeping the players

he wanted, bringing in the players he wanted, and having had a

proper pre-season with them), and after having our first few games in

the season, we have the first few samples in these early days to get

an idea about what our team will look like.What’s our best starting XI.


Screen shot 2016-03-19 at 13.29.24


In this first part, we’ll have a look at the attack and midfield.


Sadio Mane: The Supermane

Mane has impressed early on, and is a rare kind of player in our

team. Certainly one of the fastest, our best dribbler, a defence

stretcher, a forward that can beat his man, assist and score.

Possibly our best instrument to unlock defences – what I consider the

main worry in our attempt to raise the points that will allow us to reach

any of the top 4 positions, in what is now a very, very competitive

league, with City, Chelsea, Utd, Arsenal, Spurs, and the occasional

surprise (such as last year’s Leicester, or tough solid teams such as

Southampton and West Ham last couple of seasons) all competing

for the 4 slots.Barring some lack of fortune during the season, the Right Wing

Forward position seems to be sealed by him.


Daniel Sturridge: The Wave Dancing scorer

Daniel Sturridge is definitely our most lethal finisher, but 3 questions

hang over his head when considering whether he can be our

mainstay starting XI striker:

– Whether he can stay fit and sharp

– Whether he can be more of a team player

– Whether he can contribute when we don’t have the ball, in a

pressing Klopp system

Fitness and sharpness are currently (touch wood) not much of an

issue, and the question to be answered is how many games he’ll be

able to play for us this season.

The second question, he decided to answer in our game vs Leicester,

where he was exactly that – a team player, creating for others and not

putting his own goals first. He showed he can be that player, and

share the goals for the team.

The 3rd question will always be the issue of course, but it’s not black

an white: He’ll never be the presser and runner that Firmino is when

we are not in possession, but as long as he can contribute at least at

the minimum required and as long as he can make up for it when we

do have the ball, he can’t not be considered.


Roberto Firmino: The anti-Suarez

No player in Liverpool reminds me more of Suarez’s attributes, since

the Uruguayan’s departure.

He looks like he’s on his way of becoming what Suarez was for us

(bar the trouble). Goals, hunting the ball, running, creating out of

nothing, winning mentality, feats of skill and magic.

There was a conclusion dominating the pundits’ and fans posts this

past year:

Firmino is exceptional leading the line.

This was mainly concluded because when Sturridge was injured, he

featured as a striker in a series of games in Winter, scoring in pretty

much every game. It was also popular because of Firmino’s pressing

from the striker position and because of his sprints (one of the best

runners in the team).

But in the game vs Leicester, and in the absence of Coutinho on the

left and with Sturridge leading the line, we saw Firmino being brilliant

on the left as well, at least as good as (if not even better than) playing

up front. It’s quite possible that he has no equal match on the left

forward position in the team.

This means that in the absence of Sturridge, he can lead the line, and

that he can play on the left forward too while Sturridge is fit and


This sees him seal his position in the starting XI regardless of

whether Sturridge is fit.


Philippe Coutinho: The Magician

Our Player of the Year Award winner these past two seasons, and a

player that can pull a goal out of a magician’s hat when it seems

there’s no way of scoring (perhaps the single player in the team that

can do that best), and widely considered our Star Player – by Klopp

as well, based on the many occasions he spoke about him or reacted

after his impressive feats.


The goals vs United in the Europa League is one example of this

ability. The goal in the Arsenal game this season is another. There are

many more examples.


As much as these moments render him a star player, there are equal

moments of frustration causing misfiring shots from outside the box,

and the many shots he takes.


To me, this reminds me of early Suarez years for Liverpool – and the

age is similar too. I’m laying it down to age/development, and to

position: he can’t beat his man with pace out wide, and he can’t find

as many ideal passes from that angle, and it’s not like his strengths

include crossing the ball from wide, so it seems he very often feels

that it’s his best option – the wonder goals he occasionaly produces

from there are telling him to go for it. I’m certain that with the right

management of the situation, and with Coutinho developing, it won’t

be an issue in the future.


A point of debate these past few years was whether Coutinho is

better a) on the left wing, b) behind the striker(s) in the #10 role, or

  1. c) in Central Midfield.

I’ll sum up my review of his performances on each of these 3


  1. a) Left Wing Forward:


– The occasional magic from cutting inside and striking from distance

to score wondergoals.


– The outrageous number of shots and the even more outrageous

number of misses it took, to result in those wondergoals (Coutinho is

currently our most frequent shooter, reminiscent of Suarez’s first,

misfiring season).

– The limited passing angles he is left with from that position. Magical

passes is what excited us first when Coutinho started playing for us,

and the wider he plays, the less options he has to do them.

  1. b) #10 role:


– Better passing angles and possibilities.

– The occasional magic from striking from distance to score



– Still tempting for him to overdo it with shooting (not as much as

when coming from LW though, because of the better options to utilise

his strengths).

  1. c) Central Midfield:


– Making the most out of his ability to find the pass behind the

opposition defense, both long range and short range.

– The position where he displayed defensive abilities the most

(featured in 2013-14’s 4-3-3, where his pressing alongside

Henderson was very efficient, and saw us muster demolitions vs

Arsenal and Everton among others, in a long and great unbeaten

run that saw us challenge for the title).

– Can still contribute with goals from deeper, but without overdoing it

with excessive efforts.


– In such a role, it all depends whether he can find chemistry with the

other 2 central midfielders. The danger is the midfield becoming too

attack-minded – and Klopp’s role in such an option would be to

discipline the players he’ll choose for those roles.

(Attacking Midfield)

In the 4-1 win vs Leicester, Coutinho started on the bench, after

having played with Brasil (and had a good game too).

This saw the attacking trio of Firmino, Mane and Sturridge thrive, with

all 3 being excellent, and claiming the front 3 positions.


(Adam Lallana: The late blooming star?)

With Lallana recently featured in midfield and doing an excellent job

there too, impressing with his performances, and with Henderson

being back to his good self and adapting quickly in a more deep-lying

midfield role, let’s explore where all this leaves Coutinho with.


Who could he displace from attack or midfield, and where does he

serve the team best?


Based on the above, the only ways I see him back in the attack line,

is a) with an unfit Sturridge, and then only if Origi doesn’t impress in

the meanwhile (i.e. a cup game where he’ll thrive brings him back in

the foreground), or b) if we play 4-2-3-1, in which case we’ll see

Sturridge up top, and Firmino LW, Coutinho AM, and Mane RW.


(Emre Can & Jordan Henderson: The engine cogs)

The return of Emre Can may be the time to do that – a player who,

together with Henderson (who’s enjoying a good spell in deep-lying

midfield), can form a double pivot.


The “problem” with that formation is that it will see Lallana benched,

or at least used as a sub, replacing any of the 3 AMs that doesn’t

seem to be on his day during a game (or, if Sturridge is that player,

Firmino moved up to striker and Lallana subbed-in in LW).


(Gini Wijnaldum: The potential Gini-us?)

It will also inevitably see Gini Wijnaldum benched, who may have

needed time to find his best game here – and in such a case, cup

games could become the stage to find that.


But when Klopp opts to play 4-3-3, the most appropriate/likely role for

Coutinho seems to be in central midfield. That means either replacing

Lallana or Wijnaldum, and currently, Lallana is too good to bench.

Wijnaldum is not too bad, and contributes well, bar some suspect

passing and loss of possession, but seems to be the only option for

Coutinho to replace and to slot him in this system.


Wijnaldum looked like a potential genius before coming here, but it

remains to be seen whether he can be that kind of player for us.

So those are the two options I see that feature Coutinho in the

starting XI.


The remaining cogs of the engine I’ve only covered in bracket titles,

within Coutinho’s topic, but they certainly pose a factor worth their

own section.


Adam Lallana: The late blooming star?

While Firmino and Mane are our two runners in attack, pressing and

covering miles in each game, Adam Lallana is our runner in Central

Midfield as of late – his running exceeds that of the two attackers just

mentioned. Last season, Lallana found himself in big competition to

secure a starting XI slot in Liverpool’s attack, even in the usually

injured Daniel Sturridge’s absence. Now, with Mane added in and

sealing a spot, and Sturridge back after managing his case for a

whole year under Klopp – and having had a full pre-season, Lallana’s

chances seemed to dim further.

But Klopp sees what he can provide to the team, and in the absence

of the injured Emre Can and the re-positioned James Milner from

Central Midfield, he found a way to make use of him – and the best

use of Adam Lallana it proves to be too, as a pressing, box-to-box

midfielder, with the result seeing him as joint second top scorer so far

with 2 goals, most distance covered in the team with 13.1 km, 3rd

dribbler in the team with 2.4 dribbles per game, and 3rd shooter in the

team with a 3 shots per game average.


Jordan Henderson: The back in form, rediscovered Captain?

Many questioned Jordan Henderson should remain captain when

Klopp arrived. Many others remembered his vital role in our 2013-14

campaign, and wondered whether after his injury that form could be


Others questioned whether he could find a role in Klopp’s midfield

and style of play.

Klopp seems to have contemplated all these as well, and the signs of

his answers are starting to show, as Jordan Henderson is finding his

way back to sharpness, and in a new rediscovered role in Klopp’s

midfield: the deep-lying midfield role. This takes advantage of

Henderson’s long range passing (some passes I’ve seen him muster

in 2013-14, and up to his injury, were the closest thing to Gerrard’s

long range passing that I’ve seen in Liverpool FC), and of his tackling

– currently the team’s leading tackler with 4.8 tackles per game.

I think that the captain will grow in this role under Klopp, and he will

thrive in it. I also see a possible great partnership with Emre Can,

which brings me to:


Emre Can: An ace in Klopp’s sleeve

There were certain games (in particular some advanced stages of

last season’s Europa League) where Emre Can’s performances were

oozing maturity and dominance in midfield, and great contribution in

attack as well. At his age, it’s all about that kind of performances

becoming more and more his regular. His start of the season was

troublesome and resulted in him being sidelined with injury. Now he’s

back in training, and hopefully it’s not long before we see him build up

on last season’s positives. The re-emergence of a sharper

Henderson will help him as well, in my opinion.

When this partership gels, I think our midfield will be very strong.

This year is a very important one, and I think the results will be more

evident in the next couple of seasons.


Gini Wijnaldum: The potential Gini-us?

I think there are minor signs so far. He needs time, and hopefully he

can be a player for us. The talent is there, he just needs to fit into the

system, find his role in the team (both his and Klopp’s job), and get

playing time. It will be difficult for him with the competition presented,

but a lot will depend on how he’ll respond to the chances he’ll

definitely get.


Formations & starting XI players:


Best midfield and attack in a 4-2-3-1 formation (i.e. the 2-3-1):






Sub: Adam Lallana for any AM struggling on the day.

If Sturridge is under-performing on the day, Lallana for Sturridge, with

Firmino moving up top and Lallana in LW.


Best midfield and attack in a 4-3-3 formation (i.e. the 3-3, or, to

subdivide, the 1-2-3):


Case 1: With Sturridge fit A






Case 2: With Sturridge fit B






Sub: Adam Lallana, for any of the 2 shuttler slots or any of the 2 WF

slots that underperform on the day.


Case 3: With Sturridge unavailable A






Case 4: With Sturridge unavailable B







A note on young star Divock Origi:

Last but not least, Divock Origi having showed great potential as well

and producing some brilliant performances last season, and could

well be the name wherever Daniel Sturridge’s name appears in

formations above, for a series of possible reasons, such as

depending on the game, fitness, form, etc.


By TheSweetSilverSong