Once again Liverpool struggled creating chances and scoring goals, as Brendan Rodgers insists on playing with just one striker for most of the match, which means too much to do for Mario Balotelli, who looked a lot better in all of the instances when another forward was playing along side him.
It’s not just the matter of strikers. Rodgers insisting on using just one of them influences his choice of playing in the midfield, which means moving Raheem Sterling to the wing, where he’s less dangerous, while a clearly out of form Philippe Coutinho continues to do more harm than good.
Luis Suarez is gone, and isn’t coming back. Nor is a player of his caliber and his abilities going to come out of nowhere. Rodgers has Mario Balotelli, Daniel Sturridge, Rickie Lambert and Fabio Borini to choose from as his forwards. So far, except for the 3-0 win against Tottenham, the team’s best performance this season, he has refused to star the match with two forwards.
Sturridge is injured, and Rodgers doesn’t seem to trust in Rickie Lambert for more than 10 minutes at a time. He tried to get rid of Fabio Borini but couldn’t, and got some good minutes out of him in the final minutes of the slightly lucky win against Ludogorets. These are his tools and options until January, yet Rodgers is trying to do everything he can to keep just one striker on the pitch, which makes him misuse other players.
Raheem Sterling has quickly turned into one of the best players in the Premier League. Not a young rising star. Well, also. But simply one of the best. Yet when he’s wasted on the wing, it doesn’t show. When Balotelli has to play a target man, Liverpool’s attack gets stuck. He moves to the wings and clears space, but without another forward playing next to him, the penalty box remains empty.
Philippe Coutinho isn’t the answer. Not in a diamond formation with two forwards and Sterling playing behind them. Not right now at least. He’s had an awful start to the season, and unless Rodgers starts recognizing that at the moment, anything but the diamond will lead to long minutes of frustrating football, Coutinho will continue to play badly without it actually costing him a place in the lineup.
After nearly winning the league title last season, the expectations from the outsiders weren’t as great. Liverpool lost their best player and added a wealth of new ones who weren’t as good. Improving depth and setting a foundation for the future. Rodgers has the players to play the formation and tactic that worked best for Liverpool last season, Luis Suarez or not. Yet for some reason he is insisting on doing something else, which proves to be inferior time and time again.
As the loss at home against Aston Villa showed; and so did the 3-1 defeat against Manchester City; his current train of thought is wrong. Liverpool aren’t built to methodically move the ball in the middle of the pitch and play slowly, relying on one axle up front. That’s too much like his first season at the club, the one that started out horrendously. Liverpool are a better team than in that season, but Rodgers isn’t helping his club and players showcase that difference.