Monday, 3 September 2012

Lamenting Liverpool

Liverpool FC are supposedly in crisis, they have one point from there first 3 games. They have failed to score in two of those games, they gifted the one point to their opponent in the other.  They have just offloaded a certain striker.  Yet this is Liverpool, they play to full houses, they still have quality in the squad yet this is a crisis.

You may detect a whiff of sarcasm in that opening paragraph, mainly because this is not a crisis.  This is a team in transition.  Over the summer, the decision was made to inject fresh blood into brand Liverpool by the Fenway Sports Group (FSG) led by John Henry, who owns the Boston Red Sox.

They sacked legend Kenny Dalglish and hired Brendan Rodgers from Swansea City, who elevated the southern Wales team from the Championship to the Premier League; leapfrogging Cardiff and playing football that was both beautiful and profitable.  Rodgers employed the tactic of tika-taka football like Barcelona, using a lot of possession to frustrate opponents yet being clinical with finishing; in their first season in the Premier League, they were safe with something to spare winning many friends and respect from fans.

Rodgers needed to get some talent in, yet for some reason the funds that were available to King Kenny - who bought Carroll, Downing, Henderson, Adam - were seemingly this time unavailable to Rodgers.  Rodgers did manage to bring one stalwart of his Swansea side, Joe Allen with him; and they were able to swat away admirers of Martin Skrtel, Daniel Agger and Luis Suarez to remain at the club.

Now Rodgers has a side with general quality, but no impact players apart from Andy Carroll on the bench, then Liverpool made the costly decision of letting him go to West Ham on loan for the season.  Carroll's debut for the Hammers on Saturday for an hour before an untimely hamstring injury, showed him at his best. A fearsome aerial target who brought fear to the Fulham defence, his mere presence led to two goals coming from set pieces as West Ham maintained a 100% home record.

Liverpool on the same weekend at home to Arsenal looked toothless and lifeless in attack.  Rodgers system of 4-2-3-1 is all well and good for keeping possession and soaking up pressure but if you do not have the right people doing the right jobs it will come with no end result.

The problem for Rodgers and most importantly Liverpool is that they have a personnel issue.  The players there are not the right ones for the job.  At Swansea, he had men like Neil Taylor, Leon Britton, Gylfi Sigurdsson who could do a job in linking up with Nathan Dyer and Wayne Routledge whose pace was second to none, whilst Danny Graham would be that goal poacher up front.

Liverpool unfortunately have a midfield general in Steven Gerrard who has always been more combative than  creative; he is good in a fight but he has never had a good touch and his wayward pass led to Arsenal's first breakaway goal.  That goal was also helped by a wayward defensive display by Glen Johnson at right back. Whilst Rodgers must like the idea of having Johnson bombing forward, he must not neglect his defensive duties that left Messrs Skrtel and Agger exposed as Lukas Podolski scored his and Arsenal's first goal of the season.

Also, Pepe Reina is having a bad time or crisis in confidence.  In midweek he dropped a shot from a Hearts player into the net, adding to the number of goalkeeper errors occurring so far this season; but he was to blame for allowing Santi Carzola to seal the game on 68 minutes as he was down too slowly and it ricocheted into his net.

Rodgers would be better served, using Martin Kelly when available at right back and morph Johnson into a right winger like Gareth Bale did for Tottenham in those nights against Inter Milan. With Johnson and Stirling down two wings you have the pace of Dyer and Routledge replicated.  It does bear a question as to why they did not pursue Scott Sinclair who has been sold to Manchester City, when he clearly wanted away.  Whilst Allen is a good player, he will not win you matches like Sinclair possibly can.

So is Rodgers to blame for raiding his former club for the wrong players?  Liverpool are not in crisis, they just maybe put themselves in that position.

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