So Liverpool chalked up their first win of the Premiership season and Torres got off the mark for the campaign – but was 1-0 a good result for Roy’s Reds or were we lucky to send the Baggies packing without a single point for their efforts?
Since the game was not live in the UK yesterday I suspect many people won’t have had the chance to see anything bar the five minutes or so highlights on Match of the Day 2 last night, so from my highly privileged position of watching live I’ll endeavour to put across the highs and lows of the performance.
To be quite blunt: West Brom were the better side for at least the first thirty minutes. When Torres flashed a shot goalwards very early on it looked promising, but in truth we were very disjointed in attack and there were very few instances of linking up between full back and wide midfielder, forward and attacking midfielders and, especially, the two in the centre of midfield, Lucas and Poulsen.
No doubt this can partly be put down to the fact that they have only played together once so far, but I must be honest and say that had we been up against a better midfield – and I’m not talking about Essien, Mikel and Lampard here, but perhaps only something along the lines of Cattermole and Malbranque or Petrov and Ireland – we would never have been able to control the game yesterday. We were far too cheap in giving away possession, did not seem to have the strength to win the one-on-one battles and the two centre midfielders seemed to always be far too apart from each other.
Torres, while on his way back to fitness, is clearly not sharp enough yet, though as this will only come with playing games I wouldn’t for one minute suggest taking him back out. Several times in each half he had a chance to play someone else in or run at the defenders, but got the ball caught in his feet or ran straight into the challenge. Of course his goal was pure quality and that’s what Nando can do, and his link up play with Kuyt for the goal was one of the few times we actually managed to combine with a couple of nice passes like that.
Jovanovic was a willing runner and Agger did get forward a bit more than in previous games, but again there was not much understanding or link-up between the two. Probably not a problem in the long term as Agger should be shifted back to a more central role with Aurelio and Konchesky as the left backs, but still something which underlined the basic problems facing the squad at the moment.
I have seen a lot written recently about Liverpool needing a “winger who can beat a man and deliver a good cross”. I half agree here: certainly someone with the pace to get past opposition defence would be extremely welcome, though since we don’t fill the box with numbers at present unless the crosser was dead-on with his delivery, it would be a rather wasted tactic. For ten years we have aimed our build-ups at playing shorter passes into the box, running with the ball into the box, passing across the edge of the box or crosses from the edge of the box rather than the wing – that sort of thing doesn’t change overnight.
However, as mentioned, pace is an issue affecting the side at the moment and though Babel possesses it in abundance he is not in the team at the moment. Can’t play a long ball down the wing to a sub warming up I’m afraid.
In other areas of the team, Reina was strong in goal and Carragher and Skrtel did pretty well in defence, although Skrtel was approaching the line if not stepping over it when WBA had corners, grappling with forwards and pulling their shirts an awful lot.
Our play was slightly improved second half; still not with the pace and confidence we would like to be playing with but at least not at the pedestrian tempo of the first half, where we mostly sat back and looked to break with 2 or 3 players on the counter. We were worthy of the win, since we did give a bit of an onslaught in the final 20 minutes or so trying to get the second; Kuyt had a chance, Torres nearly got a second and we absolutely should’ve had a penalty when Torres’ effort was oh-so-clearly blocked by the arms of the Baggies defender, but 2-0 probably would have been a harsh scoreline on West Brom who hadn’t exactly been forced to defend with their lives for the much of the match.
Roy Hodgson has much work to do ahead at Anfield. New signings are all well and good, and while we hope Meireles has the sort of impact we clearly need and Konchesky should fill the void at left back, but each new signing is a new face that must be bedded in, taught to play the way we want to and learn the runs and preferences of all their new team mates.
A break now from league games will provide the coaching staff with a chance to assess what has gone on, though the international call-ups mean that most of the players won’t be able to do any extra shape work or the like.
We have Birmingham next in the league and then our first Europa league group game against Steaua, which thankfully is at Anfield meaning we won’t have an arduous journey to entertain ahead of our visit to Manchester United just three days later.
By then, the hope is that the team cohesiveness, so often missing in yesterday’s game, will be greatly improved and that more players such as Torres, Gerrard and perhaps even Joe Cole will be firing on all cylinders. At this point in time I doubt there would be too many Reds fans who wouldn’t take a point from the United match as a good result, but even that will be very hard work with the current level of the team.
Most importantly, we have our first 3 pointer on the board in the league and can look ahead to the next match with anticipation. Each game we play we will get just a little closer to getting things right, and Birmingham will be a stern test of our credentials. Last season we drew both matches against them, which gives an indication of how difficult the game will be.
Lets hope between now and then the lads’ confidence stays high, the new signings bed in well and Liverpool can go on to record our third consecutive victory.
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