After the 1-1 draw away at the Stadium of light, Liverpool have gone four matches without a win and with just 3 goals to their name showed, there’s a plethora of problems at Anfield right now.
This fixture was important in Liverpool’s brutal stretch of games to open the season. The Reds were soundly defeated 3-0 by West Bromwich Albion in the opener, then drew 2-2 against Manchester City and lost 2-0 to Arsenal.
The latest result, is not particularly bad for the Merseysiders, but in all the winless streak is now a major cause of concern. They face Manchester United on the 23rd of this month at Anfield and, given Liverpool’s recent form, a win would be tough against a team which has won the last three of their fixtures, which means the Reds might probably have to wait for their first win till the 29th when they take on Norwich City.
Rodgers and his staff will have a lot to work on over the next few weeks as they seek to turn the sinking Liverpool ship around and get the club back into contention for a UEFA Champions League place. Also, the Reds will have to look ahead for their Europa clash against BSC Old Boys on the 20th.
There certainly are causes for optimism at Anfield, however. In three out of four matches Liverpool were the better side for long stretches of play. The club is slowly and gradually adapting to Rodgers’ style of play and it was evident in their dominance in possession for long periods during these matches. They were composed, they passed well and they pressed.
However at the end of the day’s play, everything comes down to the scoreline, which hasn’t been very favorable for the Reds so far. Clearly showing they are not all the way there yet.
And here are some causes of concerns for the Reds at this moment.
Four matches so far have shown that Liverpool’s most senior stars have fallen. Pepe Reina seems a shadow of the goalkeeper he once was. His current form is a far cry from that of a player who won the Premier League Golden Glove three seasons in a row.
Steven Gerrard is also losing the ability that has seen him named thrice in the FIFA World XI. He has been making way too many mistakes in the center of the park, a few leading to goals for the opposition. His set pieces aren’t as threatening as they used to be, while overall his passing lacked a cutting edge and his control of the ball was half of what it once was and his movement has not provided a great attacking threat so far this season.
Glen Johnson has had a mixed season so far too, after three mediocre games. He had a pretty decent game against Sunderland, and his passing has been good so far, but defensively he has been consistently caught out and didn’t make adequate contributions.
Liverpool’s main stars aren’t living up to their usual standards, and it’s hurting the side.
Absence Of Lucas Leiva
Allen has been the player holding the Liverpool midfield together at the moment, but he is no Lucas Leiva. Without Lucas in the midfield Liverpool just doesn’t have cover for the defense when the fullbacks are in an advanced position.
Rodgers has deployed Joe Allen, Steven Gerrard and Nuri Sahin, as holding midfielders in the past two matches, however they are all playmakers with the tendency to move forward with the play and dictate attacks up to the final third. In the last match though, Gerrard had a more disciplined performance as the holding midfielder along with Allen, however, with both players busy sorting out the defense the attack lacked the creativity in the final third.
Long periods of possession alone doesn’t guarantee goals, the midfield needs to be creative. Gerrard can provide the creativity, just like he always does, however for that Sahin or Allen will have to do what Lucas did. The styles of Sahin and Allen are too similar for a stable midfield, and one will need to compromise and stay defensively disciplined if the Reds are to win the midfield battle and stop conceding so frequently.
Lack Of Goals
Liverpool’s woes in front of the goal have continued this season as well, first, the forwards haven’t scored enough goals and second the “Crossbar syndrome” is plaguing the players once again.
Fabio Borini and Luis Suarez are the only senior strikers that the Reds have right now – all thanks to Andy Carroll’s departure to West Ham on loan and no replacement being signed. Suarez has already scored two goals, but Borini is yet to get off the mark and it looks like the Reds will have to wait for a while to see Borini’s first Premiership goal.
Both players are not singularly prolific, they play better when they have a good understanding with their partners and so far Rodgers has opted to play either Suarez or Borini as a lone striker, which hasn’t worked so far for the Reds. Of course Carroll wasn’t going to solve the scoring crisis, but he would’ve provided penalty-area penetration.
As it stands, the Reds have no established goal-getter and no player willing to burst past centre-backs. At some point, the Reds have to find a way to score from the run of play.
Absence Of Plan B
When Andy Carroll was a Liverpool player, he gave the Reds another option. If the team were getting dominated in midfield, they could hit balls over the top to Carroll the target man and attack with pace. Of course it didn’t deliver much in the Premier League, but that ability to switch to an alternate plan won Liverpool the League Cup and almost the FA Cup. In the absence of Carroll it’s evident that Liverpool do not have a player to bring on who could offer an alternative.
As much I like Rodgers’ style, when it fails to bring in the desired results, Liverpool should always be ready with a plan B, which hasn’t been the case so far. So far the Reds have failed to build up play from the midfield to the attack, which has been one main reason for the lack of goals and the Reds need to score to win. Unless they can assert their authority in midfield, Liverpool are pretty much stuck and toothless in their attack.
Brendan Rodgers likes his teams to play the tiki-taka style of FC Barcelona, which worked well for him at Swansea City. He looks to repeat the same success story at Anfield, but make no mistakes Liverpool is not Barca, nor do they have the same level of technical ability.
Liverpool’s attacks are often at a faster pace, with the forward players not showing a lot of confidence to retain possession in the final third, while link-up play is at a premium. The lack of close control and the amount of times the Reds were dispossessed, also hampered Liverpool’s ability to build play and work clear-cut openings.
Brendan Rodgers will be hoping he gets money to bring in a quality player in January who can link up play with intelligent passes and split defences.
Lack Of Depth In The Squad
The Fenway Sports Group (FSG) did a great job of unloading excess players from the payroll. Players like Charlie Adam and Andy Carroll were never going to fit the system and it was a wise decision to move them. However, what FSG failed to do was find a replacement for the departing players and the comparative dearth in incoming talent has now left the club with a disturbing lack of depth.
Few could envy Brendan Rodgers’ choice of options when making substitutions in a match. The only attacking players Rodgers has is Joe Cole, Oussama Assaidi, Stewart Downing and Samid Yesil (If he’s given a chance). A team with this few weapons cannot hope to sustain a top four challenge.
Rodgers has a pretty good first team which plays world class football, however, just a few injuries in the line-up and he could very well end up fielding a youth setup.
Thanks a lot for reading. Comments and suggestions are always welcomed. You can also find me on Twitter @LEONGUI7E.