Is the Back 5 Liverpools Weakness ?
Liverpools struggles when playing a back 5 (or back 3 with 2 wing backs if you prefer).
Liverpools struggles against the system became apparent last year against Sheffield United who really should had taken all 3 points if it wasn’t for a rare goalkeeping blunder from the Manchester United loane.
There are some telling statistics that back this up, with Liverpool averaging over 2 Goals per game against a back four, and slightly less at 1.6 goals per game with a back five. However xG also shows some differing numbers with Liverpool xG figure dropping by xg-0.58 per game against the five. It is important to understand why this is?
A lot of Liverpools success comes from the use of what is becoming a unique front five, with the three forwards playing inside, and the two full backs getting high and wide and producing some of the best crosses in Europe. This makes Liverpool very dangerous in the wide areas. The use of back five against Liverpool allows the nearest Centre Back and the Wing Back to double up on the Liverpool full-back and prevent them playing in the outside channel, stopping the cross at the source.
The use of a back five almost forces Liverpool to play a different way to usual, the dynamic and quick breaking side often see more possession in deeper areas when playing against a five, this means they struggle to break the block set in front of them (Possession v a 4 59% - Possession v a 5 67%)
Against Arsenal 75% of Liverpools attacks came from the wide area, compared to 19% of Arsenals. This just shows the importance of preventing Liverpool dominating the wide area, as some of the below images show, Arsenal effectively blocked the channels and tried to force Liverpool in to the compact central area.
Another Image has also shown how at time Atletico dropped in to a back five and force Liverpools full backs to play deeper, in areas where they couldn't hurt Atletico, the countered response to this was for Liverpool to stretch the front three to try and create gaps within the defensive unit, but again this just destroyed the fluidity of Liverpools attacking play