Sunday, 25 November 2012

Swansea vs Liverpool- Another Day, Another Draw

Today (Sunday 25th November), Liverpool faced Swansea in a Premier League clash at the Liberty Stadium. Liverpool created a lot of chances and the hosts had a few decent opportunities, but the game ended 0-0.

In the first 10 minutes of the game, Swansea were playing the better football. Pablo Hernandez looked very bright, and they were creating some decent chances. However, they never really tested Pepe Reina, and after about 15 minutes Liverpool had got into their stride. Jose Enrique was playing brilliantly, threading through some great passes and attacking with real intent, and Suarez and Sterling looked lively. The biggest chance of the first half fell to Sterling, after the ball came back to him from a corner. He took a touch, then smashed the ball ferociously goalwards. It was a wonderful, dipping shot, but somehow stayed out after smashing against the underside of the crossbar. Minutes later, Enrique had a goal disallowed for offside. It was tight, but probably the right decision.

Liverpool continued to dominate the match after the break. Although Swansea were creating some good chances from counter-attacks, LFC looked the most likely to get a goal. However, Steven Gerrard, most unusually for him, was being extremely wasteful in possession. Some of his passes were awful, and had he been more accurate I think Liverpool would have got a goal. After about 60 minutes, the game died down a little, and the teams reached a stalemate, with the two sides playing the passing game that Rodgers introduced to both the clubs. Then, at around the 80 minute mark, Swansea suddenly upped the pace of the game, worrying Liverpool with some penetrating attacks. However, this didn’t last long. After a clearance from a Swansea corner, the ball bounced over a Swansea player’s head, leaving Sterling and Suarez through on goal with only one defender to stop them. This really should have resulted in a goal, but Sterling’s return ball to Suarez was much too heavy, and the huge chance was gone. In the dying moments of the game, substitute Jonjo Shelvey nearly won the game with a great pile-driving shot, which was smartly saved by Tremmel.

It seems that once again I will have to end my article with the same conclusion I keep writing: Liverpool had the majority of the good chances, but weren’t clinical enough. I was impressed with our defending today, and a clean sheet is always a good thing, but I was disappointed not to get the three points. We need to get some wins on the board, and although our long unbeaten run is very respectable, the fact is we still lie 11th in the league. In all fairness to Swansea though, they did play quite well, and maybe a draw was the fairest result.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

The Rodgers Regime

Brendan Rodgers was appointed as Liverpool manager on the 1st June. This means he has been in charge of the club for over 5 months, but what has he achieved?

The key thing that Brendan Rodgers has changed at Liverpool is the style of play. We were never a team totally reliant on long balls, but under Dalglish’s management possession was never exactly a priority. Rodgers has changed that. He has shifted the team’s focus, implementing a tiki-taka style of play that worked so well for him at Swansea. This has taken a while to bring in to the team, as even for the most seasoned professionals changing to a new style is hard, but it seems we are getting there. LFC have now gone 7 Premier League games in a row undefeated, so it is clear that after a shaky start, the results are starting to come.

However, it isn’t just the style of play Brendan Rodgers has changed. He has also altered the formation. Whereas before Liverpool normally played 4 at the back, Rodgers has modified it so there are three main defenders, with two more defenders slightly further up the pitch, sort of like wing backs. Then there are three in midfield, who’s role it is to pull the strings and control the play. Finally, there are three strikers, two of them (usually Sterling and Suso) playing wider with the other (almost invariably Suarez) playing down the middle. This formation switch has worked well, particularly the introduction of the wing backs. Jose Enrique and Glen Johnson, who were both attack-minded full backs in the first place, can now play with a lot more freedom. This allows them to contribute a lot more to attacks, without constantly worrying about tracking back. The success of this was highlighted in the Wigan game on 17th November, where Liverpool were able to get three goals, with Enrique scoring one of them and assisting another.

Finally, Rodgers has also made some significant personnel changes. For me, Joe Allen has been the best summer signing. He passes brilliantly, and is the perfect candidate for controlling the play from the heart of the team. Nuri Sahin, who was brought in on loan from Real Madrid, has also been moderately successful, with a few solid games in midfield. However, where Rodgers has really disappointed me was the purchase of Fabio Borini. To be fair to Borini, he hasn’t had much chance to prove himself, as after only a few games for the club he broke his foot. However, in the small amount of games he did play, he looked really poor, and I can certainly think of better ways the 11 million pounds could have been spent. Hopefully Borini will come back from his injury refreshed and I will be proved wrong, but at the moment it does look like he was a waste of money.

Overall though, I think Rodgers has had a generally very positive effect on the club. He has retained the club’s brilliant work ethic, whilst also bringing in some new ideas of his own. Admittedly his first few results were very poor, but implementing new ideas always takes a while, and given enough funds and time I can see Brendan Rodgers guiding us back into the top 4, maybe not this season but certainly in the near future.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Luis Suarez- Indispensable?

Yesterday (17th November), Liverpool faced Wigan at Anfield in a Premier League match. They breezed to a convincing 3-0 victory, and at the heart of it all was once again Luis Suarez, who netted two goals. As great as it is to have such a skilled and prolific striker in our team, it does lead me to ask this question: What would we do without Luis Suarez?

First, some figures. Luis Suarez is the top goal scorer in the Premier League this season, with 10 goals to his name. He has started every Premier League match we have played. He also has 2 assists to his name. Liverpool have scored 17 goals in the Premier League in total, meaning Suarez has scored more than half of our goals.

It’s easy to see why. In all honesty, who else do we have? Raheem Sterling is very good, and chips in with goals from time to time, but he’s really a wide player rather than an out-and-out goal scorer. There is Borini, who is out injured until the new year, and was particularly inspiring before his injury anyway, and that’s about it in terms of experienced strikers. There are of course younger players who could step up if the need arose, such as Samed Yesil, but I cannot envisage them becoming long-term solutions to our lack of striker problem for at least a year.

You may be wondering why this is a problem. Who cares if one person is getting all our goals? As long as we score, what’s the big issue? In the short-term, I would agree. Whilst Suarez is available, it is fine that we utilise him so much, and being our one main striker it is understandable that he gets so many goals. However, what if he got suspended, or worse, injured? He is only one yellow card away from a suspension, and if he does pick up that one match ban, we will almost certainly lose that match. We cannot rely so heavily on one player, because unforeseen circumstances occur, and we have to be ready for them.

To be fair on the rest of the LFC team, other players make big contributions to the team. Sterling has provided a lot of assists, and Agger and Skrtel have been solid at the back. Joe Allen has also been very good at pulling the strings in midfield. But all of their play is geared around getting Suarez in to score, and if he was not there all their hard work would be fruitless.

Overall, although Suarez is a world class striker, we really need to find him a suitable strike partner in January, or at least a decent back-up in case Suarez is ever unavailable. Much as our big win against Wigan thrilled me, it also once again highlighted our utter dependence on Suarez, which cannot continue.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Chelsea vs Liverpool- A Well Earned Point, but it Could Have Been More

Today (Sunday 11th November 2012), Liverpool played Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. The game ended 1-1, with goals coming from John Terry and Luis Suarez. A minute’s silence was held before the game to remember all the soldiers who have given their lives in conflicts past and present.

The game started quite badly for Liverpool, with Chelsea dominating possession and making some incisive attacks. There were a few half chances, including a long shot from Daniel Agger which was blazed well over, but mostly Chelsea were on top. Sure enough, it was the home team who opened the scoring. The ball struck referee Howard Webb, which indirectly led to a Chelsea corner. The corner was whipped in well and defended poorly, and John Terry capitalised with a good header to put the home side in front. Shortly after this, Terry was stretchered off after a collision with Luis Suarez. From then on both sides sat back a little, with minimal action occurring for the rest of the half.

However, this all changed at the start of the second half. Both sides came out strongly, with Liverpool launching many attacks and coming close to scoring on a few occasions. In doing this though, Liverpool left themselves exposed to counter-attacks, and Fernando Torres came close to scoring against his former club on 2 or 3 occasions. On the 60 minute mark, Brendan Rodgers decided to make a change, Suso coming on for Sahin. This made a big impact, and Liverpool slowly began to take charge of the game. LFC kept piling on the pressure, and it finally paid off in the 73rd minute. Suso whipped a corner in, Carragher flicked it on brilliantly, and Luis Suarez was on hand to header it in from close range, his 8th goal of the season.

From here-on-in, Liverpool really dominated. They made a few decent opportunities, but didn’t create a big chance to win it until the 88th minute. Suarez raced on to a through ball, beating the offside trap, and found himself one on one with an advancing Petr Cech. He tried to take it round the oncoming keeper, but Cech just managed to get a leg to the ball, keeping the two sides level. It seemed that the action would be over at this point, but it was not so. Deep into the 4 minutes of added time, Suarez released Enrique with a great ball, who’s shot was saved very well indeed by Cech. This proved to be some of the last action of the game, with the full time whistle blowing less than a minute later.

Before the game I would certainly have taken a point against this in-form Chelsea side, but based on our performance today I was a little disappointed with the draw. We did well to only concede one under the first half pressure of Chelsea (thanks in part to Brad Jones, who had a pretty good game), and came out very strongly in the second. Our goal was very good, but Suarez should really have buried the winner when he got through against Cech. Overall though, I am very pleased with the point. Liverpool have now gone six premier league games undefeated, which is certainly a step in the right direction. A draw away to Chelsea is an achievement Brendan Rodgers and the team can be very proud of, and I hope we build on this solid performance in next week’s game against Wigan.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Liverpool vs Newcastle- Pre-Match Analysis


Today (4th November 2012), Liverpool will face Newcastle at Anfield. Newcastle have shown fairly good early season form, but Liverpool have looked sharper in recent matches. Even so, this will be a tough game to win.

In my opinion, the biggest threat that Liverpool will have to cope with is the Newcastle attack. Papiss Cisse and Demba Ba are a deadly strike partnership, and although Ba is recovering from an injury it seems likely that he will play. Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel are generally a solid pairing in centre defence, but are prone to making stupid errors occasionally. They cannot afford to do this today, as Ba and Cisse will punish them.

However, it is not like Liverpool themselves pose no threat going forward. Though we were left short on strikers after Borini broke his foot, Suarez, Sterling and Suso make a wonderful attacking trio. Suso and Sterling are both young, but have already proved they are up to handling the pressure of the big games. Saying this, Sterling was very poor in our last game (against Everton), and he will have to perform better today if we stand a chance of winning.

There is also the question of who we will play in goal. Reina is apparently still a doubt after picking up an injury on international duty a couple of weeks ago, which one would think meant that Brad Jones automatically steps up. Not necessarily. Doni, after taking almost a year out of football for personal reasons, has now returned. Personally I think it unlikely that he will feature, although he was second choice goalkeeper before he left. I would like to see Reina play if he is fit enough, because although Jones has impressed in his last few games, up against prestigious forwards such as Ba and Cisse I think we need someone more experienced in goal. However, if Reina is not fit (or not chosen by Brendan Rodgers), then I am sure Jones (or potentially Doni) will step up.

Overall, I think that it will be a tough game today. Newcastle are a good side, especially going forward, and our defence will have to be on top form to keep them out. Also, Suarez’s form is rather hit and miss, so I think he will have to have a good day for Liverpool to win.