Liverpool have caught opponents offside 23 times in their first four matches this campaign. In their first four games in the 2018/19 campaign, that figure was just 11.
No matter what manager Jurgen Klopp and his players are saying about the offside trap, it is clear something has changed between now and last season.
There has been a concerted change in the team’s approach to defending and considering the club have conceded in every match so far this campaign, the jury is still very much out on whether it is an improvement.
The big question, why make the change? The Reds had the best defence in the Premier League last year so what prompted them to make the adjustment?
The main theory going around at the moment is VAR. With the technology able to determine whether a player is offside, even if it is just their shoulder, Klopp appears to be putting trust in the new tech to make the right call.
Even so, employing an offside trap consistently is a massive risk. When something is premeditated, it allows opponents to make plans for it beforehand and use it to their advantage.
Of course, a lot depends on the intelligence and physical attributes of the opponents who the Reds come up against, and it seems that the Merseyside club will be coming up against a team tomorrow who are perfectly suited to beating the offside flag.
In Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Arsenal have one of the best in Europe making runs in behind. His pace could catch the likes of Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip out tomorrow.
If Nicolas Pepe and Alexandre Lacazette also start, the offside trap could make for hair-raising viewing, especially as under the new VAR rules, linesman are not told to flag until the phase of play is over.
Much like in the European Super Cup final when Christian Pulisic and Mason Mount had goals ruled out, you will likely see a similar scenario at Anfield. With the pace that the Gunners have, supporters will be keeping their finger’s crossed that VAR is on their side.
To say it is a risky strategy is an understatement, and you have to question the utility of implementing it. We may see the benefits further down the line but as things stand, the offside trap looks to have placed needless pressure on the defence. Let’s hope it doesn’t cause the team problems tomorrow evening.