While the problems Liverpool showcase each time they lose under Brendan Rodgers can’t be summed down by pointing a finger at one single player, there is a certain approach that is easy to pick out. Too much focus and reliance on Luis Suarez, while forgetting how much Steven Gerrard still means to this team.
It’s hard to say Gerrard isn’t at fault in this as well. The man who scored from the penalty spot and is enjoying a rather successful spell over the past few weeks since the permanent introduction of Jonjo Shelvey to the starting XI sometimes hides and shies away from the ball instead of forcing himself on the game. At the Brittania stadium, most of the good things happened to Liverpool when Gerrard was involved at some stage of the build up play.
Luis Suarez is the constant in this equation. He’ll be dangerous and get his chances no matter what. He might be more or less focused from match to match, sometimes more than busy in provocation and fighting with his own addiction to dive at every opportunity, but he gets his due even without the help of this teammates. Lets face it: Without Suarez, Liverpool would be facing a long relegation battle instead of somewhat still thinking about Europe.
But every time Liverpool made noises of a comeback against the physical and organized Stoke side, it was when the passing style Rodgers wants to make a permanent fixture among his players, not just in home matches, kicked in. There’s not too much intelligence shown in the Stoke game plan. Disciplined players who always return to their position, not to mention the immense physical advantage they have against every team, while using quick and small wingers to cross, cross and cross some more.
It was that physical advantage, in contrast to the Liverpool frailty, that was the big difference. A goal from a corner kick, a goal from a throw in and another long ball. Liverpool, under Benitez, were one of the toughest sides around. In the last couple of years the players around Steven Gerrard have grown softer and weaker, along with the entire attitude of the club. There’s no in between. Liverpool tried too often to get the ball to Suarez too quickly, forgetting that their strongest points include their passing and Stewart Downing on the right wing. They forgot about using Steven Gerrard as the facilitator and the creator too often.
There are more problems that just the balance of power in the squad – Raheem Sterling wasting the opportunities he’s getting by refusing to pass the ball when he needs to. Martin Skrtel, Daniel Agger and Pepe Reina each losing their focus and concentration at least once a match. This club is imperfect, although on somewhat of the right, bumpy road towards the upper half of the table. The problem is making the adjustments along the way.
It’s not a matter of talent, which should be enough for Rodgers to keep climbing towards at least 8th and maybe a tad higher. It’s getting his player to overcome natural tendencies and play the game the way it should be playing, like they did when they thrashed Fulham during the weekend. Playing like Stoke won’t get them the same results. This team was meant for something different, and until the players completely wrap their heads around it, the agonizing highs & lows kind of performances will continue.