Three lessons Liverpool have learnt so far
Dipak Patel takes a look at three lessons Liverpool have learnt so far
Liverpool have signed quantity rather than quality
There was no way back for Luis Suarez after his World Cup controversy and the Uruguayan was sold to Barcelona for £75m in July. It gave Brendan Rodgers quite a large sum of money to re-invest back into his squad. He could have gone two ways. The first option would be to limit the amount of signings and only purchase high-quality players at a premium rate. Alternatively, he could spread the money more evenly across the squad buying a few youngsters/unproven Premier League players. As we know, he chose the latter and so far most of his signings have failed to ignite. In defence, the same issues still remain. Rodgers still hasn’t worked out what his best central defensive unit is. Martin Skrtel has partnered new signing Dejan Lovren for most of the season, but the Croat has had a very indifferent start. He came to Anfield with a burgeoning reputation after some consistent performances for the Saints last season. We have witnessed exactly the opposite for Liverpool so far. Another two signings Rodgers made were in the full-back area. Javier Manquillo came in to compete against Glen Johnson, while Alberto Moreno was purchased to play at left-back. Both of them are classical modern day full-backs. They can attack but neither can really defend all that well. Moreno, in particular, has excited fans with his marauding runs and his searing pace. But he has also been guilty of costing his team quite a few goals due to his naivety and poor positioning. Adam Lallana, Lazar Markovic and Rickie Lambert have also come in but have spent the majority of the campaign on the bench. And then you come to the mercurial Mario Balotelli. He has had 25 shots this season and is yet to register a single premier league goal. It is fair to say, that Rodgers signings haven’t gone to plan but they will have to show their worth soon as the fixtures start to pile up around Christmas.
Champions League participation has proved a burden rather than a blessing
Liverpool are currently lying in 11th position having only secured 14 points from their first 11 games. Compare that to last season where they had already won seven games and were occupying second position. Much of this could be down to losing Suarez, but they have also been involved in more games than they were last season. They have already played four Champions League games and are still involved in the League Cup – in the last campaign they went out to Manchester United in the third round. Last term, Liverpool were able to field virtually the same XI every week. This season Daniel Sturridge has been sidelined with injuries, the midfield three has changed more frequently, and the central defensive partnership has also been tinkered with. The chemistry of the team has suffered as a result. The defensive players seem more uncertain and the midfield has lacked cohesion. It has probably affected Raheem Sterling more than any other player. Steven Gerrard has been man-marked out of games so that has stopped the supply. Furthermore, the loss of Sturridge has impacted upon Sterling’s game. Sturridge would often pull out wide creating space through the middle which Sterling would exploit. In his absence Balotelli has led the line, but has often been static forcing Sterling to try too much.
They cannot rely on Gerrard anymore
Gerrard will go down as one of the greatest players to ever play for Liverpool, but there is no doubt that he is now reaching the twilight of his career. The Gerrard that scored last-minute winners and single-handedly won games by himself is now a distant memory. Instead, he has become the dictator that controls proceedings from a deeper area. It works perfectly fine when teams afford Gerrard the space, but in recent matches he has been man-marked out of the game. It was evident against West Ham where Mark Noble completely nullified his threat forcing Gerrard to pass sideways rather than forward. It is no coincidence that Liverpool lost this game but it does suggest that they still rely on him. The onus should now be on one of the younger players to step forward and carry the burden. Jordan Henderson could potentially fill the void but his game still remains too pragmatic. Passing forward appears to be a simple thing, and yet quite a few players like Joe Allen and Henderson shirk the responsibility fearing they might lose the ball. It is something Rodgers will have to think about for the rest of the season. Either he keeps faith in the players that he has, or he decides to spend big in the transfer window.