The perfect start wasn’t going to last forever, but the sharp decline in quality of attacking football after Philippe Coutinho left the match with an injury caused some serious doubts about Liverpool and their ability to keep on their undefeated streak, as the debuts of Victor Moses and Mamadou Sakho weren’t enough to pull this team back up from the moment they stopped trying to win the match.
There’s no doubt the central figure of the 2-2 draw at Swansea is Jonjo Shelvey, who was sold by Liverpool this summer after not really finding his way into Brendan Rodgers’ plans. He scored the opening goal within 90 seconds of the opening whistle, signaling a wild first half that saw Liverpool as the dominant side, enjoying a reckless tactical game by both sides, allowing Victor Moses to show that he might have been another thing this Liverpool side was missing.
It was Shelvey that put Liverpool back in the match, and eventually giving them the lead. His first mistake was a back-pass into the box where Daniel Sturridge was still lurking, giving Liverpool their first goal and Sturridge his fourth of the season. A few minutes later, and it was Shelvey against with a terrible pass to Victor Moses in the middle of the park, taking the ball all the way for his debut goal on his loan assignment.
But Liverpool have changed from last season. From a team that played reckless and fun-to-watch football during the second half of last season, especially against the “smaller” clubs, they’ve become into something a lot more tactical and cautious. In all of their matches this season, they were the better side in the first half, before giving up control in the second half and were forced to defend their goal. With Skrtel (in a decent performance), Wisdom (right back isn’t for him), Sakho (too rusty, made mistakes) and later Kolo Toure in a position that isn’t his, this defense wasn’t going to hold on forever.
But the problem, as always, is in the midfield. Brendan Rodgers simply tells his players to stop pushing, and all attempt to make some sort of build up disappears. Sturridge, Victor Moses and later Raheem Sterling have no connection with the ball supply, and are left roaming the pitch aimlessly during second halves, and especially after Iago Aspas, so far one big disappointing, went in for Coutinho, who hasn’t really found himself this season, and yet makes Liverpool look better when he’s on the pitch even on a bad day for him.
Maybe it’s about Steven Gerrard and Lucas, after all. It seems that Gerrard might be exhausted from some frantic football in the first half, barely having anything left for the next 45 minutes. Lucas is nothing more than a defensive stopper at best, but even that wasn’t really noticeable as Swansea swept the pitch in the final 20 minutes. Jordan Henderson might be the hardest working man in the Premier League, but he’s playing out of his position, and Rodgers can’t wait for the return of Luis Suarez so he can have his formation and lineup back.
Liverpool are still first, which is an oddity by itself, but their second half breakdowns in terms of their ambition to attack have to be worrying, because all of the forward talent in the world, and they have plenty of it, won’t be enough if the midfield simply stops trying to help the attacking game and saves on keeping things as they are.