Liverpool routed Bournemouth 4-0 at the Vitality Stadium on Sunday evening as they moved back into the Premier League top four. Goals from Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino, Dejan Lovren and Mohamed Salah were enough to seal a comfortable three points.
Jürgen Klopp’s men wasted little time in imposing themselves on their hosts and took the lead on 20 minutes. Andrew Robertson overlapped down the left while Coutinho slalomed inside and placed a subtle yet accurate finish past Asmir Begovic.
The lead was doubled by a Lovren header, before Salah made it 3-0 after displaying his searing his pace to run around Charlie Daniels and finish. Liverpool ended the game as a contest on 66 minutes, with Firmino heading home from close range.
Here, Football Whispers takes a look at the five main tactical talking points from the match.
BOLD BOURNEMOUTH OPENED UP
Bournemouth set their stall out early on in the game. Lining up in a 4-4-2, they had both Joshua King and Jermain Defoe up front, while Jordon Ibe and Marc Pugh were tasked with providing support down the flanks.
They defended in a deep block with man-oriented pressing. So, every time a Liverpool player entered their specific zone with the ball, a Cherries player would move to close down. While this was organised, it didn’t threaten, never mind overwhelm, an intelligent away side.
Coutinho was particularly attuned to what was necessary to open Bournemouth up. Nominally a left winger, he came inside and dropped deep with the intention of dragging his marker, Adam Smith, with him and creating space in behind.
LIVERPOOL PLAY THROUGH PRESSURE
Coutinho’s movements were facilitated by an intriguing build-up structure that often saw Jordan Henderson joined by Georginio Wijnaldum in front of the Liverpool centre-backs, while the two full-backs – Joe Gomez and Andrew Robertson – pushed up onto the same horizontal line.
This essentially meant Klopp’s side matched up Bournemouth – two centre-backs versus two strikers and then a four versus four in midfield. While risky, this enabled the Reds’ attackers to find space between the lines.
With the home side attracted to their opposite men, Coutinho was freed up to drift infield into the area between their midfield and defence. He was joined there by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who often pushed up from his central midfield role. The pair then gave their deeper team-mates options for penetrative forward passes through pressure.
LIVERPOOL BUILD UP IN DIFFERENT WAYS
Quite often Liverpool’s structure during build-up resembled a rough 2-4-4. Up against a man-oriented 4-4-2, the danger here was that they would be forced into a series of high-risk man-to-man battles all over the field.
To reduce the danger of this in the initial build-up phase, Klopp’s side would often form a back three. One of the full-backs, most often Gomez, would drop back to form a three-man defensive line with Lovren and Ragnar Klavan; alternately, Henderson would drop between the two centre-backs.
These movements created a three v two situation up against Bournemouth’s two strikers, achieving numerical superiority and establishing the foundations for Liverpool that allowed them to progress possession safely into the middle third.
BOURNEMOUTH STRUGGLE TO ATTACK
Just as their visitors did, Bournemouth wanted to play out from the back. However, they found themselves unable to do so effectively due to exceptional Liverpool pressing.
Klopp’s reputation is based around intensity and aggression, but on this occasion his side were slightly more passive in their approach. Rather than apply constant pressure, they instead formed a 4-2-3-1 shape and focused on screening and blocking passes into midfield.
Salah and Coutinho took up positions in the inside channels between Bournemouth’s centre-backs and full-backs, while Oxlade-Chamberlain moved up to mark Andrew Surman, who was the home side’s deep-lying midfield orchestrator.
This setup led Eddie Howe’s side to give the ball away consistently while trying to progress into the middle third and beyond, something that can be highlighted statistically.
Incredibly, Liverpool made their seasonal average is 9.9 per game, while the best average in the Premier League is Everton’s 14.7 per game.
By cutting off all of the nearby passing lanes for Bournemouth’s centre-backs, the Reds stultified their hosts’ possession, intercepted frequently and subsequently created the possibility for dangerous counter-attacks.
ROBERTSON THRIVES AT LEFT-BACK
Alberto Moreno has returned to his best form this season, but the Spaniard had to watch on as his status as first-choice Liverpool left-back was challenged by Robertson on Sunday. The stand-in put in an outstanding individual display, laying on one assist while also contributing his fair share defensively.
While his right-sided team-mate, Gomez, often stayed deeper in a bid to isolate Salah up against his opposite man Daniels – a ploy that worked well throughout – Robertson was often tasked with overlapping down the left-hand side.
Not only did this enable Coutinho to come inside and exert more influence in dangerous central areas with his dribbling and ingenuity, but it allowed the Scotsman to showcase his energy, pace and improved intelligence.