The great optimism from their first match at Anfield turned into something completely different after the 0-2 home defeat against Arsenal. Brendan Rodgers looked at his bench and saw nothing that could turn the tide in the Liverpool losing effort, thinking about mistakes done on the transfer deadline and promises that were broken.
Rodgers was supposed to have someone come in and replace Andy Carroll. Instead, he loaned out the striker to West Ham, where he got to start a day after signing for the team and got no one in return. He did add Nuri Sahin to the collective effort, but Liverpool’s scoring problems weren’t resolved. On days when Luis Suarez is busy arguing with the referee, Fabio Borini hardly does anything at all and Raheem Sterling looks like a 17 year old brought up too quickly, you need options off the bench. Jonjo Shelvey and Stewart Downing are good players, but Rodgers needed more.
Once again Liverpool were the better side against a better team, at least at home. Joe Allen is fantastic in the middle of the park, but Liverpool were too exposed to counter attacks, while the usual coverage mistakes and a Pepe Reina less than adequate save proved too costly. Rodgers keeps talking about how pleased he is with the way the team is learning his system, but they’ve so far conceded 7 goals in three matches.
Solutions? The truth is there’s not that much to work with, but maybe, at the moment, leaving either Sterling or Borini on the bench so he’ll have an option of throwing in a game changer to help his team in need might be helpful. The next thing is finding the right kind of balance in the middle of the pitch. The Allen-Sahin-Gerrard trio could be very productive, but one of them needs to be a bit more responsible on the defensive side.
I think Gerrard, at this stage of his career, might be the man to do it. Another option is starting with Gerrard on the bench, giving Shelvey, who’s been influential in all of his appearances this season, the start. Gerrard can come in an add that extra something he gives for 20-30 minutes. The problem with Allen and Sahin is that they’re both the same kind of player, and it might cause some overlapping problems, but maybe Sahin just needs time to adjust to regular first team football, after missing an entire season, sitting on the Real Madrid bench.
Upfront? Borini doesn’t like the winger idea. It limits him, while Luis Suarez loses his focus too easily, although he did deserve a penalty that Howard Webb missed to call, although that doesn’t surprise anyone. Switching wings once or twice during the match isn’t such an innovative idea, but the Liverpool front 3 hardly use it, and the coordination between the trio needs some working on. Liverpool look very dangerous when all three are involved in an attack, but it doesn’t happen often enough, and once again, their final touches aren’t good enough at the moment.
So how depressed should Rodgers be? He has a good team, but he needs a first win, and fast. An away match at Sunderland and then a visit from Manchester United means that after the international break there are no easy games. In fact, with such a short squad and probably a confidence problem brewing, there are no easy matches at all.