If Brendan Rodgers needed any more proof that his Liverpool side still aren’t up for a title challenge in a match that showed too many disparities between them and their rivals, with only Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho up to the challenge of beating a team that’s one of the best in Europe.
Brendan Rodgers himself didn’t help his club too much. His 3-5-2 works against certain teams, and only with certain players. He waited too long to throw Coutinho into a match he needed plenty of creativity in, while his midfield looked too slow and too un-inventive with the ball during the first 45 minutes.
Coutinho came on for Aly Cissokho and Victor Moses came on for John Flanagan, giving Liverpool a less cautious approach, and finally some ability to do something from the wings. As much as Rodgers loves using true full backs to operate in his system, it makes it quite easy for certain teams to handle such one dimensional players, who know only of how to run in a straight line and cross, without cutting to the middle and providing something more creative.
It was a match that proved Steven Gerrard is getting old, and can’t handle certain paces, not with the players around him. Jordan Henderson was a bit too forward, and Lucas does provide defensive help but nothing on the offensive side. The end result was only four Liverpool players going forward at best before Coutinho and Moses were introduced to the match.
Daniel Sturridge had a frustrating day after scoring on almost every outing this season. Luis Suarez wasn’t himself, a bit too inaccurate and a bit too selfish in his decisions, which led to Sturridge repaying with the same behavior, fuming by the time the final whistle was blown. Strikers see the goal and nothing else most of the time, so it was weird to see Sturridge so upset Suarez took a shot from a comfortable opportunity late in the match instead of passing to him.
Above all, this match showed Liverpool need to switch back to a different system, or make some changes. Martin Skrtel is good against the weaker teams in the league, but Daniel Agger provides the same quality of defending and shooting and passing ability the Slovakian simply doesn’t have. Maybe returning to something of a 4-4-2 will benefit this team, even if the Henderson-Lucas-Gerrard triangle works well against most teams. Coutinho needs to find a place in the lineup again, and it’ll be interesting to see who pays the price.
Liverpool are still higher than they should be, but it’s not luck that’s brought them there; only a softer schedule than for others (playing against only Manchester United and Arsenal from the top sides). However, making some better choices for Brendan Rodgers would have meant Liverpool could have been closer than 5 points to Arsenal, as he once again (happens too many times these last few seasons) gave too much respect to a strong team and decided to go on the defensive for 45 minutes before realizing there’s no need to be afraid.