Three things Liverpool must do to get their season back on track
Sam Rogers looks at three areas where Liverpool need improvement
Sort themselves out defensively
What made Liverpool one of the most exciting teams to watch last season was not just the goals they scored, but the fact they were always prone to conceding at the back. Think the 3-3 draw with Crystal Palace as just one example. Brendan Rodgers has signed a couple of decent defenders who are trying settle in, including Dejan Lovren and Alberto Moreno. But if anything, they’re getting worse at the back, and when you are not scoring, it puts more pressure on the defence not to concede. Against Real Madrid, Martin Skrtel had one of his worst matches in a Liverpool shirt, and he is one of the bedrocks of Rodgers’ team. If they are to get their campaign both in the Champions League and domestically in the Premier League back on track, they must start conceding fewer goals. They have pacey full-backs but neither enjoy tracking back. For the first 20 minutes against Madrid, they were well-disciplined and organised. They went a goal down and it was like ‘Casey’s Court’ at the back, no-one knowing who was doing what job. If that continues, the Europa League beckons, or even worse no European football at all.
Get the best out of Balotelli
When Mario Balotelli arrived on Merseyside in a £16m deal, he divided opinion immediately. His performances in the meantime have done nothing to silence his doubters and he regularly cuts a frustrated figure when things aren’t going to plan. With Luis Suarez departed, Daniel Sturridge injured and Rickie Lambert seemingly out of favour, it is up to Rodgers to try and get the best out of Balotelli. Whether it means playing him alongside another player, perhaps Lambert as the focal point, to allow the Italian the freedom to roam. Maybe they just need to get the ball to him in better positions or with more regularity. It isn’t clear what will work for Balotelli and whether anything can be done, but if they are to turn the season around, one would think the Italian holds the key.
Experienced players need to start pulling their weight
Rodgers has spent freely over the summer in an effort to replace the enigmatic Luis Suarez, but they perhaps haven’t been afforded the time to settle into their roles for one reason or another. The biggest problem has been the poor showings from some of Liverpool’s more experienced players. Steven Gerrard, in particular, has failed to shake the demons of last season’s nightmare end. He looked completely out of his depth against Madrid, essentially chasing shadows for 90 minutes. Leaders, such as the talismanic Gerrard and the usual rock in defence Skrtel, are key to taking the pressure off younger players like Adam Lallana, who performed admirably in the 45 minutes he got. Without those experienced players performing, there ends up with too much pressure on the newer players, which causes bad results. These players must stand up be counted if Liverpool are to go any way to emulating their performances last season.