Frankly the fact that they had their second string team out doesn’t really bother me; Oldham beat us, so did Villa and Mansfield nearly earned a replay. You can only beat what’s in front of you and to be honest, beating any team 5-0 is a great result.
A lot of people have tried to look for the positives this season after the departure of Kenny.
I’m not going to compare Rodgers to the King; the fact is you can’t and until Rodgers wins a few trophies including the league, Kenny will always have the better record. He’s done it both as a player and a manager albeit it in another era.
Yet in the modern era you can compare aspects given there is only a season between the two reigns. Something that was so solid under Kenny, or to be more accurate Steve Clarke, was Liverpool’s defence. Reina had another shocker of a season, his near post proved to be his nemesis for most of it – a goalkeeper’s bread and butter is his near post. Yet Agger and Skrtel were excellent, especially in the first half of the season.
Too many games lost 1-0 despite us hitting the post or the bar more than any other team in the league last year. We couldn’t finish, that was the simple problem. We also lacked that intelligence to close down the game – if you can’t win, then don’t lose. All too often the shoulders flopped after all the near misses and we lost a silly goal.
This year it’s a role reversal. We can score, and at times score plenty, yet we can’t defend. In three key games this year, (forget all about Villa and West Brom just for a moment) Everton (never mind the disallowed goal), Arsenal away and Man City away, we’ve given away a two goal lead.
If you want even more proof our defence is culpable for this season’s woes, then here are some interesting stats for you focused around the top 10 players in each category for the Premier League.
• Total goals – Suarez is second in the overall rank with 18 league goals, behind RVP
• Total shots – Suarez is top with 112 compared to RVP with 78. Suarez needs to be more clinical and at times unselfish, but still that’s impressive.
• Assists – Steven Gerrard is in a 3 way tie with Juan Mata, Lucas Podolski with 9 overall.
• Key Passes – Suarez & Gerrard are in the top 3 with 78 & 73 respectively (proof that Suarez does give you more than RVP who doesn’t make the list).
• Total Crosses – Gerrard is 5th with 174
• Saves – No LFC goalkeeper in the top 10
• Clean Sheets – Reina sitting in third with 8, behind a three-way tie for second (Cech, Begovic and Mignolet), with Joe Hart on top with 11,
• Goals Conceded – Reina tenth in the list with 30 (which is better than being first obviously).
• Total clearances – No LFC defender in the top 10.
*Source Opta Stats
So what is it we can learn from this? Do we need a new defence? Maybe a replacement for Skrtel you could argue, however Agger too has had his moments. You have to remember most of the team have been relatively overplayed this season. The fixture list hasn’t been too kind to Liverpool, but then if you want to compete, then you have to play more matches – that’s the rotten truth.
With Jamie Carragher going at the end of the season, Liverpool will have to splash the cash to replace someone like that. Interestingly a rumoured target Ashley Williams (who I think personally is underrated) who has a total of 278 clearances sitting second, compared with Ciaran Clark with 287. Williams won’t ever be the next Sammi Hyypia, or the next Carra, but I’m a closet admirer of the lad and if he does sign (so long as the fee isn’t too high) you won’t find me complaining.
He’d be a good squad player and you need more solidity at the back than Coates offers. He’s also one of the better ‘on the ball’ centre-backs in the league which suits our style of play. I wouldn’t stop there either; I’d maybe look at someone like Dejan Lovern, the Croatian centre-back, who’s also a rumoured replacement for David Luiz at Chelsea. He’s aggressive as well as good on the ball.
One thing that isn’t our defenders fault is the amount of work they need to do. The 4-3-3 has at times left too much space in behind the midfield when we fail to press high up as a unit rather than just one or two players. Those could be growing pains of a new kind of system; yet a system still to be faltering at this stage of the season is a worry.
The key for Liverpool now will be to push on, find the consistency and more importantly defend better. Fourth place now I think is out of reach, but based on the stats it’s been a bad few games that have cost us dear. Had those results gone our way (which they should have) then Liverpool would be back in contention and Rodgers the flavour of the year.