With the shock announcement Jurgen Klopp is leaving Liverpool at the end of the season after 9 years as Head Coach, the search for his successor is already under way.
It seems that all the stars have aligned for former Liverpool favourite Xabi Alonso to return to Merseyside as the new man in charge. The Bayern Leverkusen Coach was hotly tipped to take over from Carlo Ancelotti at Real Madrid. The former Everton coach seemed all set to take over as Brazil’s national coach but the Italian has actually extended his contract at the Spanish giants.
Alonso has impressed taking Bayern Leverkusen to the top of the Bundesliga, and reacing the knockout stages of the Europa League with ease winning all six games.
— Bayer 04 Leverkusen (@bayer04_en) February 8, 2024
Alonso plays a 3-4-2-1 system, very different system to the 4-3-3 pressing style at Anfield.
Full backs are the major difference in tactics but that isn’t to say it would be incompatible. As we know, Trent Alexander-Arnold has come into his own by stepping into midfield when Liverpool have the ball but, on the left Alejandro Grimaldo for Leverkusen also likes to step inside and offer that third body for the midfield similar to Alexander-Arnold. However, Jeremie Frimpong’s job at Leverkusen is completely different and has him playing almost as a winger, often being the highest player on the pitch. Andy Robertson may struggle to play the same way if he was to switch the roles of full backs. This could lead to a new kind of full back (more likely left sided) being looked at if the Spaniard is appointed as head coach and sticks closely to his already successful tactics.
In midfield at the Leverkusen Granit Xhaka has been crucial acting in a double pivot alongside Argentine Exequiel Palacios offering slightly more defensive coverage to allow Palacios freedom to push higher up the pitch and join attacks. In terms of the personnel at Liverpool to carry this out, Alexis McAllister is showing more and more promise each week performing in that slightly deeper role just in front of the defence offering passing routes and support. There are a few in the ranks at Liverpool who may be able to do the role of Palacios but there isn’t necessarily a direct replacement, the closest are probably summer arrivals Ryan Gravenberch and Dominik Szoboszlai who with the right coaching and time could adopt this approach and be an asset to Alonso in slightly different ways.
Some players at the club may get lost in the system initially though. Luis Diaz is an out and out winger who likes to play from wide and drive into central areas with the ball and Alonso team’s generate most of their width from full backs and have more centrally focused attackers in the final third. This isn’t to say he would not succeed with this brand of football, but it seems that his best abilities may be difficult to access in this formation.
Alonso the clear front runner and his Liverpool links, and his success as a coach won’t be ignored.