So, who’s to blame for the mess at Anfield, for Liverpool grabbing only six points after 8 matches in the 2010-2011 Premiership season? Popular choices: Previous owners, George Gillett and Tom Hicks. They don’t like Yanks taking control of their teams in England, although there are more and more of them in recent years (unpopular Glazers with United, Stan the man with Arsenal). Liverpool’s new owners, the NESV (New England Sports Ventures) are American.
This time it seems they won’t have the crowd against them. Hicks and Gillett seemed to move against former manager Rafa Benitez. That didn’t work well for all sides. The crowd backed Benitez, who eventually got more power, eventually leading Liverpool to a disastrous 2009-2010 season, leading to him leaving the club to Inter. New manager, Roy Hodgson, seemed like the right choice to bring the Reds back on track this year, but following recent results, a sacking (which I don’t think is warranted) won’t go very harshly with the Anfield fans.
Hodgson doesn’t have a side with enough quality for a Champions League place – too many holes in the lineup (we’ll get to that soon), but there’s no reason for Liverpool to be with only one win, against West Brom, after eight matches. Against the “quality” rivals, Liverpool caves – A tragic 1-1 draw with Arsenal on the opening day, with Reina’s terrible own goal gaffe, a 3-0 drubbing against Manchester City and a 3-2 loss, again in Manchester, against United, despite coming back from 2-0 down to 2-2. Lets not forget the loss at home to Blackpool, 2-1, and yesterday’s derby defeat, Liverpool’s first in four years, to Everton.
Hodgson has his hands full. Right now, no one seems to be in decent form. Reina, one of the best goalkeepers in the world less than a year ago seems low on confidence, which beams onto the rest of the fellas. Jamie Carragher, whether at centre back or on the right, isn’t what he used to be. A sharp decline in the last couple of seasons has left the most difficult person to understand in English soccer with fighting spirit and a good timing for tackles. Speed, strength, even his positioning, are all vastly deteriorating.
The biggest problem with Liverpool’s defense is Martin Skrtel. Never liked him, from day 1. Not fast enough, not strong enough, not clever enough. Often makes his partner cover for him, and makes that bloke look even worse. Agger is a better player, but hardly healthy. Kyrgiakos is a better option, but only slightly.
Midfield? Two players need to go. The obvious choice, for excellent reasons, is Lucas. The lad just doesn’t contribute anything to the game, not offensively nor on the defensive side. He just looks lost, and does more harm than good. The problem is, it’s been a known fact for two years now that Lucas can’t cope with the starting DM role, and he’s still playing. Maxi Rodriguez, despite his international claim, just doesn’t mash well in Red. Seriously. I can’t remember a single decent play he created during the last year. He’s a free transfer, so no big loss, but like Lucas, his contribution is zilch.
Now to Liverpool’s hope, and maybe the biggest problem currently. Gerrard and Torres. In 2008-2009, maybe the best tandem in the Premier League. Now? A sad imitation. Torres had a terrible World Cup and still hasn’t landed, at least in spirit or mind. Gerrard? He does try, but it seems the overall gloom and depression surrounding the club has sunken so deep in the captain’s soul and body, he seems to play like a 35 year old waiting for his pension. And he’s still the best player by far. Joe Cole looks like a shadow of his old self, but that’s fixable, and I don’t think he’s the problem.
What should Hodgson do? Get new players – a good DM and a good centre back in January. The new owners should provide cash for the much needed restoration work. Still, not all is lost. There is enough talent to get Liverpool out of this mess and steer the ship towards the earliest goal in sight – a mid table stronghold. Start playing with two strikers. No need for five midfielders, especially when two of them are completely useless (yes, Lucas and Maxi). Put Meireles and Gerrard in the middle. Yes, it limits them offensively, but Liverpool can play with both Jovanovic and Joe Cole on the wings, both ultra offensive.
Gerrard, even if he doesn’t like it, was an amazing holding midfielder, and he’s the best man for the job in the current squad. Meireles and him in the middle, playing responsibly but with a creative edge, should hold and stabilize the ship. N’Gog should front up with Torres. He does seem clumsy at times, but he can score, and demands attention, which might help Torres looses up and finally get his scoring groove back. A lot of If’s. Biggest If? I wonder if Roy Hodgson can keep his job and get Liverpool on a winning track before it’s too late.
One last thing – If you think Babel can help you, stop letting him play for only 10 minutes.