SINCE the end of last season, there have been calls from fans and pundits for Liverpool to bring in more firepower to an attacking side that failed to muster 50 goals in the Premier League last season.
verage our goal tally so far across the season and the result will be the same.
This is not good reading for a side with ambitions of Champions League football.
But almost as important as the goals for column is the goals conceded column and the titanic defence that used to regularly boast the most clean sheets every season has hit an iceberg – and the leaks are there for all to see. While goals will win matches, clean sheets will prevent losses and when the attack isn’t firing, a run without defeat can build confidence.
While it is clear our attack is no stronger than last year, so far it has not been any weaker, statistically at any rate. This is because we relied on Suarez to do the damage last year and we rely on Suarez to do the same again this year.
Theoretically, our goal tally should be higher this season as we shouldn’t have to contend with the latino lightning bolt having himself removed for 8 games of the season – though Mr Pulis would be happy to see him suffer the same fate for different reasons.
However, notwithstanding our profligacy at the business end of the pitch, perhaps the biggest problem is that the cause for concern at the back has come from an unfamiliar face. Jose Reina was a revelation when he arrived at Anfield. His shot-stopping was excellent, his penalty saving expertise was unrivalled and his distribution was better than any goalkeeper seen in the Premier League.
He proceeded to solidify his position in the top 3 goalkeepers with only Petr Cech and Van der Sar offering competition for the mantle of most reliable custodian. Reina was doled out clean sheet awards so regularly that it became a season parade and his ability to save certain goals made Liverpool’s already impressive backline even more impenetrable.
These lofty standards set by the Spaniard were tough to emulate, let alone improve on, but the problem for Reina now is that he has been so far from that peak for such a long period of time, it is worth considering if he’ll ever be a mountain for Liverpool again.
While the handling errors have been all too frequent this season, this is not the only area of his game that has suffered. Where once he was certain and pro-active, he now looks dithering and reactionary. While he made some excellent saves against Stoke, he also allowed them a very good chance due to his own mistake. His distribution has fallen off the cliff, he has given the ball away from goal kicks far too often this season, and while some of the blame for this can be directed at Rodgers’ tactics, it should primarily be directed at Reina’s feet. This is hugely significant as distribution has always been one of his strongest attributes. To see him struggling in this department is quite baffling.
The problem for Reina is that there is no genuine competition for his position. He can rest on his laurels and still know he will play every week and while I don’t want the goalkeeper to be rotated every game, the fact he is un-droppable even when his form has deserted him is a worry.
Jones is no real rival, he is at best an adequate substitute, and that Gulacsi has not managed to dislodge him as no.2 sums up that the Hungarian is not good enough to challenge Reina either.
Pepe needs a threat – and the best way to do that is to provide genuine competition for his place. A young talented keeper may well prompt Reina into recapturing his form, and if he doesn’t, then we can at least drop him for a hungry player who will want to make the no.1 spot their own.
The problems have been there too long to be considered a dip in form, there is a fundamental failing and when the rock starts to crumble, support has to be brought in.
So in this current wave of football austerity in Liverpool, perhaps a new goalkeeper might prove a much sounder investment for the team than an expensive forward.