In what might be his worst performance in a very long time, Steven Gerrard showed that for Liverpool to continue counting on him to hold their midfield on his own is asking for trouble, while manager Brendan Rodgers didn’t really help his team by insisting on Iago Aspas or playing with a weird, 4-centre back formation.
With Liverpool playing poorly since their season-opening win, a loss had to come at some point, but even the 1-0 defeat at home against Southampton could have been avoided. There are the developments within the match, as Daniel Sturridge didn’t get the call he deserved after being fouled in the penalty area; there were the Steven Gerrard free kicks, on in each half, that were saved quite well by Artur Boruc.
The rest? Simon Mignolet enjoying a splendid they between the posts, not for the first time. With the Belgian being the best player on the pitch for Liverpool, it’s easy to understand just how badly things went for them against the last team to beat them in a Premier League match, dating back to March of last season.
Things were wrong from the start. With Philippe Coutinho out and choosing to start a four-man backline consisting of Kolo Toure, Daniel Agger, Mamadou Sakho and Martin Skrtel, Rodgers was simply asking for trouble. Wing backs are very important to his system and style, but Liverpool haven’t been really playing that possession-style football this season, relying on strong first half performances while defending like their lives depend on it from the 45th minute and onward.
So instead of choosing two wide players to play alongside Daniel Sturridge, Rogers chose Iago Aspas instead of the injured Brazilian. What he got was the Spaniard in another non-existent performance, this time as a central forward, while Victor Moses and Daniel Sturridge came in from the wings, not managing to do much. There was no one to connect the dots.
Jordan Henderson is very important to Liverpool thanks to his incredible work rate, stamina and fitness, but he does almost nothing for the team on the offensive side due to his positioning, which is somewhat of a right midfielder with defensive duties coming before everything for him. That leaves only Steven Gerrard in this sort of lineup to bring creativity from the midfield, and Gerrard just happened to be on one of his most awful days in the last couple of seasons.
With so many things out of their place, having Gerrard play so terribly is simply something Liverpool can’t afford. Yes, even after all these years of finding someone who can take his place and share his responsibilities, it seems Liverpool are still finding it hard to find themselves no relying on their captain, who just doesn’t have it in him anymore to be consistently good, especially when he has so much on his plate in helping Lucas on the defensive side of the ball.
Liverpool won’t be chasing titles or even a top 4 spot unless Luis Suarez’ return makes a bigger impact than it seems right now. The attack will obviously be better, but Coutinho positioned himself as the creative spark on this team last season. Without him, while Rodgers keeps placing wrong players in wrong positions, even the Uruguayan striker might not be able to keep this team on pace to run with the big boys.