Liverpool 1 – 1 Norwich City – Tactical Analysis
The late game on the Saturday docket for the Premier League saw Norwich City equalize and hold on, earning a point at Anfield against Liverpool.
Without Lucas Leiva, who was serving a mandatory match suspension for yellow card accumulation, Kenny Dalglish chose an attacking 4-4-2 setup. While effectively having three forwards on the pitch, Craig Bellamy set up in a left midfield role. Stewart Downing played on the right, giving Dalglish two wide players who could duck inside to shoot. Charlie Adam and Steven Gerrard played in the central midfield, both players playing deep but having more offensive intentions.
The Canaries played a 4-1-4-1 shape. Steve Morison was the lone striker, and early in the match was almost always isolated. Anthony Pilkington and Wes Hoolahan tried to move forward to help as much as they could, but with the Reds so offensive-minded it forced the Canaries to compress into the defensive half much of the time.
The early part of the match was all about Luis Suarez, who was very dominant up front. Norwich’s defense had trouble keeping Suarez marked down, and the Uruguayan striker had several opportunities to put the Reds ahead. Only one of those chances ended up on net.
The trouble for Norwich was not finding the way out of their own half, but instead maintaining possession long enough for the support midfielders to get involved upfield. Thus Canary manager Paul Lambert made a tactical change at the 15 minute mark. He intentionally moved Hoolahan into a pure striker’s role. This effectively made Liverpool pay attention for the counterattack, and it also gave Morison a partner with whom to work to keep control.
Immediately after Norwich moved to 4-4-2, they enjoyed a boon of opportunities, but were unable to break through. After a 10 minute release, the match became much more even. For Liverpool though, the half ended well, when a challenge between Suarez and Tierney yielded a loose ball for Bellamy. The Welshman struck a shot which deflected off a defender and the goalkeeper into the net for the lead.
Neither team adjusted much at halftime, but eventually Lambert decided he needed a stronger presence up front. He brought in Grant Holt for Barnett. Holt moved into the striker role being a traditional center forward. Hoolahan moved left and Pilkington right. It took less than 5 minutes for Holt to make his mark. At the 60th minute, Anthony Pilkington, who had moved to the right flank, hit an early cross. Pepe Reina came for the ball, but even with Jamie Carragher in decent position against Holt, the forward got to the cross first and headed into the open goal to tie the match. The goal was enabled by the narrowness of the Liverpool defense. Pilkington had time because Jose Enrique had squeezed in to help with the two forwards. Pilkington had just enough time before Enrique closed down to put in the cross.
Norwich never seemed content to settle for a draw. Liverpool had more possession and pressure throughout the latter stages, but the Canary counterattack was nearly as potent when it came to earning quality chances. The best chance to earn the victory came to Suarez in stoppage time. He had a shot from 8 yards that was destined for history, but goalkeeper John Ruddy brilliantly touched it over the net.
The match was a great end to a solid day of Premier League action, leading up to the Manchester Derby tomorrow.