The past couple of away games were impressive but there was that worrying lack of concentration toward the end in both which cost us what should’ve been solid wins.
For the most part, it makes little sense.
The only part of our squad that hasn’t been added to, or detracted from is the defence. It’s pretty much ‘as you were’ from last season, when Liverpool had one of the best defences in the league.
In all competitions so far this season, Liverpool have conceded 2 or more on 18 occasions, including Monday night. At present, we still have at least 14 games left, with the possibility for half a dozen (or so) more depending on the success of our Europa League campaign.
Throughout the entirety of last season – 51 games, in all – we conceded 2 or more on just 12 occasions. At the moment, we are only 6 short of the amount of league goals we conceded in the whole of last season.
So for me, as somebody that is impressed with sumptuous defending as I am with spectacular attacking, this season has been hard to take. Perhaps more so because we were actually very good at keeping teams out last season, or at the very least down to just the one goal.
Against West Bromwich Albion – again – what should’ve been a comfortable win after a dominant performance ends in defeat because a lack of concentration late on cost us (not to mention that penalty miss). I have noticed some pointing to a change in tactics this season, or a different style of play, but we’ve seen so many individual errors from previously consistent and experienced performers, that it raises questions about what’s happening on the training ground.
It may not necessarily be the managers fault, not in the immediate sense anyway, but it’s inevitable that he’ll be held culpable by fans (and possibly the board) in the long-term because, as manager, it’s his job to work those lapses out of the team, if it has become a recurring issue. If the issue remains and some players continue to cost the team, then action has to be taken.
Whether this is something that is being worked on in training, or whether it is something that certain individuals have been pulled to one side about on a personal level, I wouldn’t really know. However, it’s a worrying theme of the current season and you would think that, as much as anything, the manager would perhaps even see it as a lack of respect for the work he and his coaching staff have been doing to put their mark on this Liverpool side to only then see those same players he is putting his faith in go out there and let the club and fans down by not giving there all for the full 90+ minutes.
Some people may wish to absolve Rodgers of any fault for that and point the blame at individuals (with Shelvey being the latest whilst, funnily enough, the man responsible for both goals gets almost a free pass) but it is something that is easily under his remit. So while these errors may be down to each of these individuals, if it continues to be a chronic problem for the Reds, then you’ve got to look at why it isn’t being rectified.
In the past, I’ve used examples of a normal working environment to show how the man/woman at the top will always be responsible for what their staff do on the shop floor and it should be no different in football either.
If a member of staff/footballer isn’t performing consistently – where they were before – then generally that member of staff will be warned, warned again, given a disciplinary, suspended and then eventually end up being sacked. That all comes down to the individual not doing what is expected of them on a daily basis. We see footballers moved on for this on a regular basis as well.
It would also be a PR and HR nightmare. But usually in these circumstances, the men and woman above tend to look to the person responsible for those people under-performing (your line manager, in all likelihood) and start asking questions. This could soon be the case with Brendan Rodgers, as Liverpool are consistently having enormous lapses in concentration at crucial times and it’s costing us points.
Previously solid and consistent performers (Agger, Skrtel and Reina, amongst others) are lapsing at an alarming rate and it doesn’t seem to be something which the coaching staff are able to get a handle on.
Simply blaming the players isn’t good enough. Not when they don’t have a history in that respect. Last season, Agger and Skrtel were the second best defensive pairing in the country and Reina hasn’t had a season this bad since he first joined the club.
Look at what happened when we brought in Steve Clarke to work under Kenny on an interim basis initially – the defence almost immediately tightened up and the Reds were very hard to beat. Granted, we struggled at the other end, as we often have this season but we were always well drilled in defence.
You could also maybe look at what happened under Rafa Benitez – a team which had drastically under-performed under Gerard Houllier the season before was suddenly over-performing on a regular basis, particularly in Europe and in big games. Sure, they still struggled against weaker opposition but that was something that had plagued the club for years. What was the one main ingredient in most of these initial success though? A strong, disciplined and consistent defensive line.
However, despite the desires of many of those knee-jerkers out there, it would be ridiculous to just sack the manager after another disappointing result. It hasn’t been a great season again, this much is true; we always knew that this would be a season of (I’m beginning to hate this terminology) transition.
But given that Swansea also let in 2 or more on 18 occasions last season is certainly no coincidence; it suggests that this is an issue that the manager has brought with him, so transition season or not, this glaring issue does need to be rectified thoroughly and very, very quickly. Simply declaring the side ‘unlucky’ after a game such as the one we witnessed last night will only be tolerated for a short while, particularly if it causes the players to lose confidence and sees our season take a nosedive.
What we need is for both the players and the staff to work hard on the training ground to make sure that the importance of concentrating for 100% of a match is drilled into their psyche. 99% may be enough in other walks of life but at the top level of football, particularly in the EPL, there is too much quality waiting to take advantage of even the most minute of lapses.
The players at the clubs disposal are good enough, and have shown themselves capable enough in the past, to get those solid foundations back, and if it means sacrificing some of our attacking play to rediscover our defensive prowess, then so be it. I’d much rather a few boring 1-0 wins to get us back on track, than several more 2-2 or 3-3 draws.
As Jonathan Swift once said ‘There is nothing constant in this world but inconsistency’ and while he may well have a point, we really don’t want defensive inconsistency to become the only recognisably constant thing about this Liverpool team.