There were two key questions about Liverpool’s midfield restructuring this summer. Which players will be included in it and which formation the club will get.
More specifically, will Jürgen Klopp return to the traditional 4-3-3 system, or will Liverpool continue with the 3-box-3 set-up that ended the season?
The arrival of Dominik Szoboschlai seems to have become more clear as the 22-year-old looks very well suited for the right-sided No. 10 role in box midfield.
With another player to watch this summer, Alexis Mack Allister, in front of him, you can already imagine how Liverpool could create such a system.
No wonder Jürgen Klopp is a fan of it. He has profiled the exact type of player Liverpool are targeting. Young (at 22 years old, at the peak of his career, with extensive experience both nationally and internationally, with the right attributes such as leadership and maturity).
Playing in the middle of the box is nothing new for Szoboshlai. That’s because he played on Marco Rose’s 4-2-2-2 right wing at Leipzig in the 2022-23 season.
One of the main reasons Liverpool are interested in the Hungarian international is his ability to fill different roles in different systems. He can play eighth, tenth and both flanks, but is primarily an attacking midfielder.
Liverpool’s scouting team have been watching him closely over the years and believe he can add pace and skill in the final third as a false nine, wide midfielder and best-positioned No. 10. .
“To be honest, it doesn’t matter to me. I want to be on the pitch,” he said in his first interview with the club media. “But of course everyone has their own place. Of course, as a number 10 I am an attacking midfielder. I can play both number 10s, left, right and flank. “
Mack Allister joined in the role of left-sided No. 10 last month, continuing the link between Nice’s Kephren Thuram and Southampton’s Romeo Lavia, who are more closely watched as No. 6, but on the right side. ‘s No. 10 position was still an area to work on. .
Jordan Henderson was pushed into that position to finish the season, a role that didn’t naturally fit his strengths.
The England international has been a key figure thanks to his leadership and tactical understanding. Given that Liverpool are learning the system as the game progresses, it helped.
However, his lack of creativity and goal contribution was more pronounced in the more advanced midfield role. According to FBref, seven of Henderson’s top eight touches in the attacking third were scored after the system switch.
Dominic Szoboschlai: The perfect versatile technician for Liverpool
Henderson scored no goals and provided just three assists in 43 appearances in all competitions, which pales in comparison to Szoboschlai’s 10 goals and 13 assists in 46 appearances. That’s not to criticize Henderson, who played a role of No. 10 or better for most of the season, but this is not an England game.
Henderson is a key cog in Liverpool’s right-sided triangle alongside Mohamed Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold. Liverpool’s right-sided No. 8 is always higher than their left-sided No. 8, but even higher in the middle of the box.
The new system changes the position rotation between the three players, with the central midfielder often occupying the widest position of the three and Alexander-Arnold being required to play in a tighter range. It became so.
The chart below shows Henderson’s touchmap from the last 10 games of last season, highlighting how often the 33-year-old Henderson ran wide to receive the ball.
Szoboschlei wouldn’t classify him as an all-around winger, despite playing frequently as a 4-2-2-2 and 4-2-3-1 right midfielder for Leipzig last season. Rather, he is a wide-spread, creative attacking midfielder who plays an important role in the role of the right-sided No. 10 in box midfield.
In this example against Ottensen, Szoboschrei picked up the ball on the right and passed the closest defender.
He drove into the box and gave his teammate a simple cutback after reaching the byline.
Likewise, Szoboschlei kept the team wide as Leipzig moved forward…
…and ran into a pass down the right channel, again providing a cutback for a simple tap-in.
Cross is not only a key part of his creativity, but also intelligent with the right delivery and ability to repeatedly pick teammates.
Over the past two seasons, Szoboschlei has created RB Leipzig’s team-best 161 chances, 99 of them from open play. Current Chelsea forward Christopher Nukunku is the only team-mate to have scored more chances (132) from open play.
Szoboshlai had the fifth-highest number of xG assists in the Bundesliga (7.72), 5.97 of which came from open play.
He averaged 5.5 shot-created actions per 90 minutes (two attacking actions that lead directly to a shot, such as a pass, take-on or drawing a foul), the most of any Leipzig side and Liverpool’s It greatly exceeded all the players of. Harvey Elliott (4.19), Mohamed Salah (3.83) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (3.82) made up the top three in the Premier League last season.
He’s good at finding pockets of space and shifting the ball quickly or carrying the ball forward. He excels in transition moments, which is ideal for Liverpool’s system, and his technical qualities allow him to show off his quick feet and heaviness in passing.
In this example, Shoboshlai received the ball, turned and drove towards the opposing defense.
He kept the defenders at bay and waited for the perfect moment to slip in Nukunku.
The French player nailed the trick with a delicate chip.
In another case, when striker Andre Silva got the ball in, he was patient and stayed in his space.
The Portuguese striker handed the ball over to Szoboszlai, who then pulled the full-back…
…and he slipped in right-back Mohammed Simakan.
You can imagine the same moves, but replacing Silva and Shimakan with Kodi Gakpo and Salah.
In addition to his creativity, he also has his famous long-range shooting, which is beneficial against teams in deep positions. If a guarded opponent has to let him in, he could be out of position and open up a passing lane around the box.
Shoboshlai’s high pressing and defensive metrics have improved with experience, and he’s a nod to Liverpool’s counter-pressing philosophy, even considering Klopp’s system, which is notoriously intense and demanding in the Premier League. should fit.
The absence of Henderson, a reliable defensive presence on the right flank, has raised questions about defending in the right channel in front of right centre-back Ibrahima Konate. Henderson is great at closing the gap. Shoboshlai will need to do the same and use his athleticism to give Salah and Alexander-Arnold a free performance.
That will undoubtedly be a key issue for Liverpool to tackle at their pre-season training camp in Germany next week. But for the time being, their midfield puzzle is nearing completion, complete with two exciting young footballers that Klopp will shape into the club’s vision for a new era.
(Top photo: Ronnie Hartman/AFP via Getty Images)
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