There are going to bumps in the road for this Liverpool team on their way to a better season than what we’ve seen from them in recent years. However, the flourishing partnership between Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge isn’t going to be enough to keep up the pace with the rest of the big names if the creativity and passing skills of Philippe Coutinho aren’t back from injury anytime soon.
Even against 10 Newcastle players, Liverpool couldn’t have gotten out of St. James’ Park with a point (2-2 draw in the end) without Luis Suarez doing what he does better than anyone in the Premier League, which is being in a few places at once, as his movement and trickery with the ball allowed him to set up both Liverpool goals: first as being the man that was fouled, winning the penalty kick, and later finding himself wide open to help Sturridge score his 7th league goal of the season.
Apart from that, slight disappointment. Brendan Rodgers has shifted into a three-centre back formation, using Glen Johsnon and Aly Cissokho as his wing backs, but it took Liverpool almost 70 minutes to start attacking from the wings despite their one-man advantage on the pitch, as Raheem Sterling was introduced to the match far too late. There was no longer any need for a third centre back after Newcastle had a player sent off, yet Rodgers reacted way too late to what happened on the pitch.
When Luis Alberto came on for Mamadou Sakho, it wasn’t clear what the intention was, but the young Spaniard was neither here nor there, as he and Victor Moses didn’t really switch positions, keeping Liverpool without an attacking midfielder that has the creativity and passing skills to do more for the fantastic striking duo, and yet there was no real threat coming down the wing, as Johnson limited himself to cutting towards the middle from 30 meters out instead of going further down the line.
Sterling only had 7 minutes to show his speed and dribbling, and that was nearly enough. However, Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson, the new midfield duo, aren’t enough to both hold down the centre and provide some through balls for the striking duo, especially with Henderson doing a Lucas imitation and hardly having any input on the attacking game.
As for Moses, the Nigerian international clearly isn’t comfortable playing behind and in between the two forwards, but in the current formation his natural position on the wing is taken up by one of the wing backs or a forward grazing out wide.
Aly Cissokho showed why he hasn’t made too much of himself over the years despite the potential: Too one-dimensional, without the ability to do anything but run along the line. He doesn’t have a right foot he can put to good use, and he can’t trick other defenders into thinking he’ll give up on the cross and actually try to break into the box. In a 3-5-2’ish Liverpool are using, not having that kind of threat from one of the flanks is impossible to live with.
Liverpool lose some height compared to Arsenal while Chelsea and Manchester City continue to rise as they claim their spot in the developing title race. For Liverpool to continue being the surprising team at the top of the league, they’re going to need more than just relying on Suarez to conjure things out of nothing.