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Sunday, 21 December 2014

Has Rodgers found his best 11?

In what has been a tough season to say the least so far for Brendan Rodgers’ side it looks like he may be finding his best starting eleven in the absence of main man Daniel Sturridge.

So far Rodgers has been switching systems, he has been using the 4-3-3 often while flirting with three at the back every so often but it now looks like he has settled for a 3-4-2-1 formation with three at the back, two wing backs alongside two holding midfield players and two men playing off the one frontman, that being Sterling on the last two outings.

The performance at Bournemouth and todays draw at Arsenal have probably backed up Rodgers’ idea of what is his best system and more importantly who are the best players to carry out this system. The most important ingredient for a winning team is a stable side and Rodgers looks like he is starting to get a good idea of what Liverpool’s best team is.

Summer signings Lazar Markovic and Adam Lallana seem to have worked finally worked their way into the boss’ plans and they are proving to be very good signings, Markovic’s pace and great dribbling talents make him a great threat at left wing back and his hard working nature sees him get back whenever necessary offering the shaky defence some much needed help. Same can be said for Jordan Henderson on the right, it may not be his natural position but his hard working mentality means he can put in a shift anywhere the manager wants to play him.

Lallana has also offered a lot to the team in the recent past, his great skill with the ball at his feet and his ability to pick to beat people with relative ease is exactly what this Liverpool team needs, he has also shown that he and Couthino can play together quashing peoples worries of having the two in the same starting eleven.

The defence continues to look extremely shaky, especially from set pieces, even after the big decision to replace off form keeper Mignolet with Brad Jones. It must be said despite the fact Jones is not as good a shot-stopper as the Belgian, his ability in the air is a lot more assured than Mignolet’s and the current defenders badly need someone they can trust behind them.

Sakho’s return to the side has been greeted with great optimism, him Skrtel and Kolo Toure appear to be the three men Rodgers has entrusted at the back, until January at least, while Liverpool’s most costly defender in the clubs history, Dejan Lovren, looks like he will have to contend with a place on the bench for the foreseeable future. Today’s defensive performance was poor but if Rodgers keeps the faith with these three, they could develop a strong partnership and solve Liverpool’s defensive woes.

Lucas Leiva’s return to the team should not be played down, he has offered some much needed cover for the men at the back, his well timed challenges break up the play well and his role is very important to the team. Alongside him, Gerrard is back to playing the anchor-man role we saw him in last season, he may not have the legs to play in the hole on his own but with Lucas covering the defensive side of things he is free to dictate the game from deep.

Moving up to the final third of the pitch, the aforementioned Adam Lallana has developed a nice partnership with arguably Liverpool’s best player today and scorer of the first goal Phil Couthino. In the side he is given almost a free role and proved today that he can cause the opposition plenty of problems, his finishing however may need a bit of work.

Without Sturridge Liverpool have struggled in the goal scoring department and it looks like for the next few weeks while Sturridge is out, Sterling will take on the burden of the lone striker role, he proved in the Capital One Cup he can play the role well and offers something different to the likes of Balotelli and Lambert with his lightning place.

After todays brilliant first half performance you would expect that Rodgers is going to continue with this team for the Christmas period, they are still far off where they were last season but the domination we saw today against Arsenal suggests this Liverpool side is on the up.

Liverpool's starting eleven vs Arsenal