At first glance, Yohan Cabaye's goal to put Newcastle 1-0 up against Liverpool in the Premier League clash at St James' Park earlier this month was simply down to a well-hit shot coupled with a slightly misplaced Simon Mignolet in the Liverpool goal.
Look closer and it reveals much of what is wrong with the 3-5-2 system that Brendan Rodgers' Liverpool have employed of late.
When Newcastle - after a good spell of possession - quickly switched play to Cabaye on
the right, the midfielder was allowed to run at Liverpool's defence.
Mathieu Debuchy's run forced Aly Chissoko - covering as left wing-back for the injured José Enrique - to drop back, and as the Reds' midfield was too slow to move from left to right, Newcastle's Frenchman had time to pick his spot and duly did.
Cabaye's belter was not Newcastle's first shot from distance that day. Minutes before the goal, Debuchy had stung Mignolet's hands after he found himself within shooting range.
Cabaye then fired narrowly wide before Mignolet saved well to his left when Moussa Sissoko cut in from the left.
While it is tempting to ascribe Newcastle's willingness to shoot from distance down to chance, Liverpool's recent games suggest Alan Pardew, the Newcastle manager, had merely done his homework.
The Reds first tried their 3-5-2 system when they beat Sunderland on their last trip to the North
East. Luis Suarez's return from his 10-match suspension for biting Branislav Ivanovic persuaded Rodgers to change his tactics to couple the Uruguayan with Daniel Sturridge in the Liverpool attack.
On that occasion, Rodgers was rewarded with a 3-1 win - with Suarez scoring two and Sturridge the othe - but the win was not as convincing as the scoreline suggests.
Granted, Sunderland failed to create many clear-cut chances but, similarly Newcastle, they were given the opportunity to shoot from distance almost at will.
Ki Sung-Yueng came close on a couple of occasions before Emanuele Giaccherini scored when Mignolet pushed Ki's shot into his path. Just minutes later, Mignolet did well to save from Craig Gardner when the latter shot from distance through a crowd of players.
While the 3-5-2 offers some advantages - namely the strength and aerial ability of a
back three as well as the superb SAS duo Sturridge and Suarez - it leaves Liverpool's midfield struggling.
The central duo of Steven Gerrard and Lucas - who featured against Sunderland - or Gerrard and Jordan Henderson - who started against Newcastle - are simply not able to provide effective protection for their back-line as most other teams play with a midfield three. This causes Liverpool to drop too deep and invite the opposition to test Mignolet from range.
Rodgers replaced Victor Moses with Lucas in Liverpool's convincing win against West Bromwich Albion at the weekend. The Brazilian played as the defensive midfielder behind Gerrard and Henderson.
The turning of the midfield triangle offered Liverpool more control but the top teams will punish
Rodgers, who should discard his new-found system for this weekend's top clash with Arsenal and play Suarez on the wing.
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