By trying to incorporate Jonjo Shelvey into the team after a while, Brendan Rodgers made it impossible for quite a few players to bring their best to the match. Beyond Steven Gerrard missing the penalty kick and Luis Suarez having one of those matches when he spends most of it arguing with the referee, the Liverpool manager didn’t give his players the best chance to win.
And that’s the whole job, isn’t it? Putting your players in a position where they can maximize their talents. Sure, Daniel Sturrdige was out and Rodgers had to put in someone for the English striker who has had quite an impressive start to his Anfield career. Covering corner kicks has been a problem all season, while Daniel Agger, completely fooled by a charging Romelu Lukaku in the second goal, hasn’t been at his finest form as well.
And it still comes back to Liverpool getting plenty of chances to put the match away and not doing it. Why? Lack of thinking during the moment when you need to the most, but also putting players in an uncomfortable position to make something happen.
Jordan Henderson has been moved all around the midfield since arriving at Anfield, and despite showing more than once that he is at his best and most useful when in the middle of the pitch, he keeps getting shifted to wider positions, where simply doesn’t have the same effect. It felt like Henderson and Shelvey kept running into each other, while Luis Suarez, kinda getting the hang of a striking partner, was frustrated by being left alone way too much.
For once, he enjoyed some terrible refereeing. Suarez dived and feigned a hit every chance he had, winning Liverpool a penalty and two more dangerous free kicks. Justice works in weird ways: Steven Gerrard, rarely missing from the spot, didn’t even mess it up. His penalty kick wasn’t the strongest in the world, but it was to the corner. Ben Foster just read it perfectly, and dived accordingly.
Gerrard himself, who has been heralded recently due to his fantastic performances and even more so, simply not getting a minute of rest so far this season, felt a little bit lost. When playing close to Suarez, Liverpool looked at its best, also getting Stewart Downing more involved. But most of the time he saw both Henderson and Shelvey ahead of him, forcing him to hang back, denying Liverpool of their most important midfield player to be in his best position.
Suso wasn’t an option, but Fabio Borini and Raheem Sterling were. Playing at home, Rodgers didn’t need so many midfielders against a team that was waiting till the 70th minute to start actually playing. Borini isn’t getting too many chances to impress since coming back from his injury, but he’s not showing much in the few minutes he is getting. Sterling, just like Downing, doesn’t look like the same kind of player when he’s on the left side. For some reason, Oussama Assaidi isn’t even considered for the left wing position.
Liverpool may be dreaming in their heads about challenging for the Champions League, but Europe just doesn’t seem to be waiting for them at the end of the season, unless they win the Europa League. To be frank, they simply don’t have the quality to be good enough on a consistent level.