Aaron Cutler

Columnist

Reds must address striking dilemma before season slips away

Liverpool’s half-term report would frustratingly read: could do better.

After 21 league games the reds currently sit a somewhat disappointing seventh, punishment for a chronic lack of cutting edge. There has been undoubted progress since August but a consistent failure to convert chances has cost the team dear. The January transfer window provides the perfect opportunity to remedy those struggles and Kenny Dalglish must move heaven and earth to acquire a proven goal-scorer.

Saturday’s draw with Stoke was a dour affair. In-keeping with so many home games this season Liverpool toiled and struggled to break-down a resilient backline. Yet unlike previous stalemates at Anfield, where chances have been fashioned if not converted, this weekend saw a distinct lack of creativity. One shot on target tells a sorry story and Luis Suarez’s absence was glaring.

Opting to play Dirk Kuyt as a lone forward bemused many. Given the Dutchman has notched just a single goal all season the reasoning was hard to fathom. The decision also highlighted blatant indifference towards Andy Carroll, surely tailor-made to face such bruising opponents.

Kuyt has been a terrific player for Liverpool and will always be held in the highest esteem. Nonetheless his performances this term have bordered on the embarrassing. His work-rate is of course guaranteed but his touch and influence in the final third seem to have deserted him. A victim of rotation his confidence has suffered from no longer being guaranteed a first-team spot. He is by no means a lost cause but Dalglish must get more out of him between now and the end of the season. A drop in the Dutchman’s goal return has hurt the side, who rely on him reaching double figures most seasons. With the likes of Charie Adam (2), Jordan Henderson (1) and Stewart Downing (1) providing precious little in the goal-getting department the burden is on Kuyt to chip-in and help-out. His headed miss at the Kop End on Saturday captured his recent plight quite perfectly.

Carroll meanwhile resembles a train-wreck of a striker. One of his sternest supporters even I am coming to terms with the fact this marriage may never work. Cumbersome, immobile, wasteful … the Geordie seems out of his depth and cuts a lonely figure. Admittedly, at times teammates have left him isolated and feeding on speculative crosses but the £35 million man must address his own failings and fast. He is far too slow on the turn and seldom darts into the box with any conviction. His control often halts momentum which is detrimental to our fast, counter-attacking style. And then there is his perplexing tendency to drift out wide as oppose to occupying defenders centrally. His lowly return of just four goals (two in the league) have set the side back and hindered pre-season expectations.

In many ways you have to feel for Carroll. Only 23 he is out of his Newcastle comfort zone, playing for one of the biggest clubs in Europe and weighed-down by a startling price tag. He also remains fairly fresh to the Premier League, where he enjoyed merely a honeymoon period at the start of the last campaign. Despite admirable support from Dalglish his confidence is clearly in tatters and he appears to be at a crossroads. It would come as no surprise to see him offloaded in the summer coupled with a host of ‘what ifs’. But the reds cannot wait that long to rectify their shoddy goal difference.

Both Arsenal and Chelsea’s inconsistency mean the top four is by no means out of reach. With the exception of Tottenham away there has not been a game where we haven’t had a strangle-hold on possession. Our downfall is those harrowing statistics in front of goal. The return of Suarez will provide some light relief but he alone is not the answer. A fabulous footballer and the architect of some glorious playmaking he is not an out-and-out poacher, ala Robbie Fowler or Michael Owen. Indeed the Uruguayan needs that kind of foil to compliment his superb approach work.

Predictably a whole host of names have been bandied about, some with as much credence as a John Terry police defence. Everyone from Darren Bent to Wilfried Zaha have been linked though Dalglish dampened all rumours last week when announcing arrivals were unlikely. In fairness few could blame John Henry and his board for ignoring this window in-light of the vast sums shelled-out for average return thus far. Ironically of the summer acquisitions our two cheapest have fared best. Craig Bellamy and Jose Enrique have proven far more effective than Downing, Henderson or Adam. However the lure and prestige of Champions League football may persuade a punt of some kind before February. After all our problems are not widespread but defined and treatable with just one signing or even a loan.

The morning press pinpoint Jermain Defoe as the latest in a long line of targets. A definite long-shot he would fit the mould perfectly for the right fee. An eye for goal almost as sharp as his eye for the ladies the England hit-man would thrive on opportunities squandered by our impudent frontline. Convincing Harry Redknapp to sell to a rival and the player himself to move north are two stumbling blocks but ones surely worth tackling.

Further improvements are required down the line – issues such as a right-winger and a creative midfielder but adding a striker in January would set-up a real push for the Champions League in 2012. That was the target at the beginning of the season and one still within our grasp at the half-way point. With home games on the horizon against City, United, Spurs, Everton and Arsenal we are entering a defining period, one in which we cannot afford to falter as a result of our own profligacy.

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Aaron has been writing for us since 2006. His column focuses on the Reds fortunes both home and abroad with insightful, analytical and humorous comment. His flair for writing has led to work placements at LFC TV, Loaded and Zoo magazines, the Southern Daily Echo and Quay Radio. He is also a feature writer for Country Music People Magazine. Having graduated with a degree in Multi-Media Journalism Aaron is now looking for paid work in the writing industry.

  • Tommygun

    Kenny has stated that he’s happy with the squad & that he doesn’t anticipate any moves in this window.  But the fact is this squad is struggling in the final third & has been struggling all season.  Stoke apart, we have dominated our home games this season & created a number of chances in each game & yet we have suffered from frustrating draw after frustrating draw.  The lineup and formation for the stoke game was baffling, considering our excellent record against stoke at Anfield, that they clearly came here hoping to park the bus & grind out a draw, that they were operating with just Crouch up front, the lineup and formation was confusing & overly negative.  Having 3 center halves to shackle crouch while Kuyt, who is struggling for form was left to toil against stokes back line with little to no support was never going to exactly aid our lack of bite in the final third.

    I’ve looked at the goal and assist returns from the squad and compared them to last season & pretty much every one is down on these contributions this term.  Up to the Stoke game we had heard the same lines after each game, were not worried, were creating chances, we’ll start putting them away soon, were suffering from bad luck, and someone’s going to get a hiding soon.  Well we are now past the half way point of the season & trailing Chelsea by five points.  We have the joint lowest conversion rate in the premiership alongside wigan.  Unless that chances rapidly we have no chance of securing 4th spot, we will be looking at a third season outside of the lucrative & attractive surroundings of the Champions League.  I seem to recall John Henry saying it would be a major disappointment if we didn’t secure a top four finish this season, I don’t imagine that he’s changed his opinion on that, especially after Kenny spending so heavily.  Kenny needs to accept that while this team may well be a work in progress, in the here and now they are not performing to the level that’s required of them.  A return to the champions league is vital, not just because of the massive boost to revenue that it represents, but also to show our own star players that Liverpool can compete at the top & that their ambitions can be satisfied here.  And it’s also important to attract the very best new talent to the club.  Kenny may have strengthened the depth of the squad but in my opinion the starting 11 still needs an injection of top class players.  2-3 players who can lift the team to a whole other level, game changers who can make all the difference when it comes to transforming frustrating draws into wins, and losses into draws.

    Kenny needs look at what needs to be done to improve our league form.  Simply put, we need goals.  Luis’s all round game is excellent & he causes havoc among the opposition.  But he hasn’t been prolific as yet.  Carroll is still struggling 12 months after joining the club & it still remains to be seen whether he is actually capable of carving out a career at Liverpool, whether he can actually finally adapt to our style of play & reproduce the kind of form that prompted Kenny to show such a massive amount of faith in him & we cant escape the fact….Such a staggering and surprising amount of money on him.  Kuyt has struggled this season, although Kenny has rarely used him as a striker & has used him piecemeal, which could be a part of his dramatic drop in form.  Let’s not forget that last season he formed an instant understanding with Suarez & finished as our top scorer.  Bellamy has been playing very well & has proved to be an astute signing.  I think Kenny and Comolli need to get out there and sign a new striker, someone who is suited to our style of play & preferably the sort of player who is a natural poacher and finisher.  That could make all the difference to our season.  It could be the difference between a champions league place & this being considered a good season where much progress was made, or being considered a “Major disappointment” by John Henry as well as our supporters.

    This malaise in the final third has gone on for far too long, too many points have been dropped in games where we should have won at a canter.  It isn’t bad luck, it isn’t something which will sort itself out.  It needs action, because if it carries on much longer we can kiss 4th place good bye.

  • Anonymous

    Poor Andy–he looks dreadful–so, sympathy for him–ok, lets move on–almost anyone would do better–i’ve never been a defoe fan but he would rattle a bunch in for us–would suit the red’s style–and an easier bet than any foreigner because Defoe is a proven Premiership striker. & he’d really like Liverpool night clubs….

  • Saraceninc

    This is not a striking Dilemme only. We have a crowded midfield and no wingers. Looking at the rating of our players is easy to see why we are 7th, probably soon to be 8th. 
    Reina: 6
    Skirtel: 5
    Agger: 6
    Johnson: 5
    Enrique 7
    Adam: 5
    Henderson: -1( Best buy of the year !!)
    Downing: 4
    Gerrard: 6
    Carrol: 2 ( Next best buy of the year)
    Averege: 4

    Only when we can averege a 7 can we challange for fourth, simple as that

  • Fowless

    It have alredy slipped away! Match against Wanderers was absolutely embarrasing to watch!!!

  • DH1

    Saraceninc is absolutely correct. We are miles away from being a top four club, and are a 6th/7th placed side at the very best. With this group of players there is no chance, none whatsoever, of qualifying for the Champions League. The players we have are clearly below the standard required. Suarez is clearly a class act, but the other new signings have been abysmal. Henderson & Downing are consistantly worse than anonymous. Adams is at least playing like a Premier League star, unfortunately it’s the Scottish Premier League, and he should be sent back there ASAP. I actually feel sorry for Carrol – the best forwards in the world would struggle to score with the service our team is currently supplying. At present only Bellamy and Stevie G seem to show any attacking intent. Major rebuilding is required, in all areas.

  • Paul Harrogate

    Many Liverpool fans say that we improved since this time last year, but on the evidence of a few recent performances I’m less than convinced.  We’ve some good young players so it’s not all doom and gloom, but we need decide how we want to play.  

    To be successful in Europe (at the moment a pipe dream) and beat the Manchester Clubs I believe we need 5 in midfield so that means a ‘quality’ international striker – Mario Gomez would be my first choice (but I think we missed our chance on that one), but there are some good potential options e.g. Soldado of Valencia, Van Wolswinkel of Sporting, etc.   

    We need to spend sensibly though …

    A quality attacking midfielder would also be on my list (in summer if not available now), but we need to decide how we are going to play before spending heavily.  If we’re playing with 5 in midfield then someone creative like Christian Eriksen would be top of my list, however if it’s 4-4-2 then perhaps a wide right footed player like Adam Johnson (I know he’s English!) may be a sound investment.  

    We are though a lot closer than many fans think, but only because United have their worst team in 20+ years, Chelsea are misfiring with AVB in charge and Man City are not the team that they should be (mainly in midfield) given their level of investment.

      

  • Liverpooljack

    ‘playing for one of the biggest clubs in Europe’
    I would say this is sadly not the case anymore, as big clubs do not go off the rader as much as we have.

  • Mitzey100

    We need a striker fox in the box,we have improved a bit since last year,but not much,sell kuyt,ofload carroll,play henderson in middle give a go,we need a playmaker someone in the alonso mold,to get the best out of our strikers,even sign 2 strikers,plus 1 good passing midfielder,sorted.
    Over the years we have signed 1 or 2 good players,where other clubs sign 4 or 5,and always have the back bone of a good team,give kelly a go more often,jay spearing until injured better than adam,always looks up when in possesion,has come on leap and bounds until injured.I have followed liverpool all my life through good times and bad,it is going to take time,everybody wants success straight away,it doesent happen like that,,it drives me mad to c them drop silly points,but that is life,we will come good soon,so lift the roof off anfield tonight,Y.N.W.A.

  • stevieb

    So what are you sayin’ now,Mr.Cutter? Liverpool tv’s poll has Carrol as MOTM against United today.

    Andy Carrol, as the King says, is young and not the finished product.  While I do agree we need another striker – Giussepi Rossi was one mentioned which I thought would be a good idea – it wouldn’t be to replace Carrol who WILL come good.   He’s already shown what he’s capable of – he needs to learn(as King says, again) to fit his style into the Liverpool way.  I hope he stays for years to come.  And even if you don’t, you shouldn’t be rubbishing one of our players so unfairly, imo.

  • Cop on

    WOULD THE WEBSITE PLEASE TAKE SOME RESPONSIBILITY AND TAKE THIS OUTDATED BLOODY ARTICLE OFF THE FRONT PAGE!!!!!?

    • http://www.thisisanfield.com This Is Anfield

      Responsibility? Do one. And turn off your caps like while your at it.