There isn’t a shortage of players who can score for Liverpool, especially with Daniel Sturridge coming back from injury to partner Luis Suarez, carrying on with his incredible scoring streak. But while in some matches the two can handle the demands on their own, there comes a point when someone else, like Philippe Coutinho, needs to put in a hand as well.
Unlike the losses to Manchester City and Chelsea, Coutinho’s misses might have cost Liverpool points that would have put them on top of the table. Agasint Stoke, he had two excellent first half chances, the team still managed to turn things around – Raheem Sterling fell from the softest of tackles from Marc Wilson and Steven Gerrard converted the penalty kick. Liverpool still conceded, but they didn’t drop their lead.
Coutinho is on par with Hazard and Oscar in terms of his dribbling ability, vision, passing skills and speed. He hasn’t been phased out by the physicality of the Premier League that sometimes is a bit harsh on newcomers from foreign leagues. However, his inability to finish is something that will prevent him from both turning into a real superstar for Liverpool or even Brazil, which he hopes to be a part of in five months when the World Cup begins, but right now he can’t find himself a spot.
But there’s more to this Liverpool besides Coutinho struggling to score. There are the defensive issues, with Liverpool conceding almost every match, mostly from problems in handling crosses. Martin Skrtel keeps having different partners, as Mamadou Sakho and Daniel Agger keep picking up injuries. Skrtel himself is part of the problem, but he’s the only one who stays healthy, which makes Liverpool quite fragile at the back, especially with Simon Mignolet suddenly experiencing a streak of confidence drop which keeps him stuck to the goalline instead of challenging crosses.
Rodgers is making right decisions in terms of his tactics. Playing Steven Gerrard as the defensive midfielder while Lucas and Jordan Henderson played in front worked wonderfully. It allowed Liverpool to be a lot quicker on counter attack, and didn’t create any mobility problems or holes in the midfield when players turned the ball over.
One of the more impressive turnarounds this season has been for Raheem Sterling, who was worn out before the middle of last season and didn’t seem to be too much in the plans of Rodgers when this year began. However, the manager changed his tactics which allowed a right winger to find a place, and Sterling improving his upper body strength finally allows him to handle full backs with more than just speed.
Back to fourth with an away win that’s been too difficult for Liverpool the last five years, including losing on their last three visits. Having Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge alone should be enough for at least a sixth place finish, but the way this season is going means the expectations are higher. If Rodgers can also get his tactical touch to fix the defense, there’s even more to aspire to then just a Champions League spot.