Saturday, 7 May 2011

Fulham vs Liverpool - Tactical Preview

football formations


Fulham will probably line up in their usual narrow 4-4-2 formation, which can sometimes look like a 4-2-3-1 as Dempsey and Davies look to cut inside to support the striker and Gudjohnsen drops deep to receive the ball from midfield. The experienced Icelandic forward (who, at 32, is not as old as some people think) is a tidy link-man who can make intelligent use of possession, but it's possible that Mark Hughes will prefer the pace of Andy Johnson up front in an attempt to test Liverpool's relatively immobile centre-back pairing of Carragher and Skrtel.

Another option that Hughes might consider is Gael Kakuta who, if Dempsey hasn't regained full fitness, will probably retain his starting place from Fulham's 3-0 win at Sunderland, giving him the chance to use his pace and skill to try and beat Liverpool's young right-back John Flanagan as Jonas Gutierrez did well last weekend. If Kakuta does feature on Fulham's left, Dalglish might consider starting the more experienced Glen Johnson in his preferred right-back position, and either switching Flanagan to left-back or recalling Jack Robinson.

It's also possible that Dickson Etuhu will be recalled to the Fulham starting line-up, most likely in favour of Steve Sidwell, to add some extra steel to the midfield, and especially to drop deep and restrict Suarez's space. Hughes does tend to trust his team shape to restrict opponents' chances though, keeping a deep back-line and a narrow midfield. Ex-Liverpool favourite Danny Murphy is Fulham's influential midfield playmaker, but he is not the only one given licence to pick out a pass - the whole side is instructed to hit the centre forwards whenever they have time to get their head up, partly because Zamora in particular is so adept at playing the target-man role, bringing in others around him.

Fulham also take a good deal of their shots from long-range: against Chelsea, they hit 7 of 13 shots from outside the box, against United it was 10 of 12, and most recently against Bolton 12 of their 18 attempts were from long-range. Liverpool's midfield, with Spearing and Lucas as two tough-tackling holders, should be well placed to deal with this threat.

Fulham are on a good run of form, with two 3-0 wins in their last two games (against Bolton at home and Sunderland away), and they've only lost two (away against Man United and Everton) of their last eight in the league.


The return of Andy Carroll to the starting line-up should see a return to Dalglish's usual fluid 4-4-2. Meireles will probably return to his left-sided midfield role, but it is possible that Maxi will be rewarded for his four goals in the last two games with a starting place.

When Kuyt and Suarez have been paired together in the absence of Andy Carroll, they have formed an interesting partnership. Neither naturally suits the role of a traditional number nine/target man, so they have relied on their unpredictable (yet intelligent) movement and quick passing to terrorise the likes of Man United and, most recently, Newcastle. When Carroll has featured he has, on occasion, looked to be slowing down the attacking build-up play, as well as (through no fault of his own) encouraging lazy long-balls from the defence. He will be keen to prove that he can form a relationship with Kuyt and Suarez, especially one that is more based on "pass and move" than "hit and hope."

If Fulham afford Liverpool any space, it is likely to be between the defensive lines, which suits Suarez perfectly. He has been incredibly impressive since arriving at Anfield in January, and he could well be the most important player for Liverpool on Monday.

Liverpool have also been enjoying a good run of form - they have scored 12 and conceded one in their last four games. However, although their away form has picked up slightly under Dalglish, they have recorded losses at The Hawthorns, Upton Park, Bloomfield Road and Ewood Park since Christmas. They will be desperate not to add Craven Cottage to that list, especially if they want to beat Spurs to the final European qualification spot.

Thanks to Jack de Aguilar of @FulhamWeekly for his help with this preview.

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