The following piece was posted in the forum on Monday – following the United defeat. It received a good response and we feel it highlights the key areas Rafa needs to address this summer and in readiness to bring a strong title challenge to Anfield.
I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen a Liverpool side as poor as this one at corners / free-kicks and I honestly feel that this has cost us at times this season. Some of the corners we took on Saturday against United were simply dreadful and despite the fact I’m quite possibly the worst player ever to play the game, I honestly think I could have taken a better corner than some of the ones we took.
Short corners as well are a major source of irritation for me. Yes, sometimes they work as a surprise element when the opposition aren’t yet organised defensively and allows us to narrow the angle but really, they should be used sparingly to catch the opponent’s out.
Scoring scrappy goals from corners is never a pretty way to win a game but the fact is underlined that last season, 80% of Chelsea‘s goals came from set pieces and they can often prove to be the difference in a tight game.
Movement on set pieces is another major problem for me as we very rarely look to attack the ball on a set piece. Sometimes when our delivery is good, nobody eludes their man or even shows good movement in the box to take a chance.
The lack of a 20 goal a season man
Don’t get me wrong I’m fairly happy with our strikers at the minute. I’m a huge fan of Bellamy as he injects a great deal of pace into the side as let’s face it, we aren’t the quickest side around and his nasty streak is also a bonus given his never say die attitude.
Despite some critics coming out of the woodwork lately, I remain a fan of Kuyt. Nothing really needs to be said about his workrate because we are all aware of it but for me, he is an incredibly intelligent player in the Gudjohnsen mould- someone who can drop into midfield to support them when we’re being overran and basically, a great link-up man with the striker playing further forward. Although his first touch leaves a lot to be dersired, I see him as a player of great benefit to the team as he is excellent off the ball, drawing people out of position for others to exploit- one of the reasons why I am an advocate of his partnership with Bellamy.
However, despite this, I really do think we need a 20 goal a season man to take us to the next level. Too many times this season have we created an abundance of chances and ended up losing games we should have won by 2, 3 or even 4-0. As I said, I’m happy with our striking options and wouldn’t want either Bellamy, Kuyt or Crouch to leave in the summer but I feel we need someone to compliment the good work they do, a clinical 1 goal every other game type player.
A basic criticism of our strikers is that simply, they aren’t clinical enough. Bellamy missed at least three excellent chances in the game against Newcastle and it may sound harsh to say, but Crouch cost us three points against Blackburn on Boxing Day as a reuslt of three free headers missed and Kuyt, well even though I’m a fan of his, there are some chances that he misses and you have to say that any goalscorer worth his salt should finish them.
As I said, I wouldn’t get rid of any of the three I’ve mentioned but I just feel we need someone to compliment them for all the good work they do as at least 5 of our 8 defeats this season can be attributed to too many squandered chances.
Lack of genuine match winners
For me, the United side this season that will (almost certainly) win the league this season is one of the poorest I’ve seen as they definetly aren’t a patch on the ones from the mid/ late 90s that dominated English football while playing sublime football at the same time. However, one thing I will say about the current United side is that they have an incredible amount of genuine match winning talent. Ferguson himself acknowledged this the other week as if they aren’t playing well, you can bet that a single moment of genius from either Scholes, Rooney, Ronaldo or Giggs can turn the game on it’s head.
For me, the only genuine match winners who can create something out of nothing with a moment of brilliance are Gerrard and Garcia. Sometimes Alonso can find a pass from nowhere but at home, he is often reduced to playing sidewards passes due to a lack of space afforded to both himself and forward players so his impact is reduced somewhat.
I don’t know if it’s just me who thinks this but to me, when we go forward at times, we lack a degree of conviction. We don’t look to dismantle the opposition, we look for them to make a mistake and then expose it. Don’t get me wrong this is okay but we need to assert ourselves more in the final third as we only seem to actually force ourselves at defences is when we are allowed space and we often seem to struggle against teams whos sit deep against us as a result of a lack of cutting edge and panache.
I may get slated for this but one player who I believe could become a big player for us in these terms is Mark Gonzalez. Yes he has flattered to deceive at times this season but when I come away from a game he’s featured in, there has always been an incident (even if he hasn’t had a particularly good game on the whole) that has left me encouraged that he could come good. Take the Carling Cup game against Birmingham, he looked dreadful at times and then, in an instant, went on a run and beat three people and won a penalty. Against Sheff Utd last week, he had a fairly poor game but showed great intelligence to run beyond the strikers when a ball was played over the top and should have done better from it. It will take time to adjust but I remain confident that Gonzalez could become a match winning player for us.
Saying that, I really feel we need a Robben/ Ronaldo trype player. Someone who will run at people, take them on and just try the unexpected as at times this season, we haven’t really had an outlet going forward or a plan B as notable in the derby when it became evident that we weren’t going the break Everton down, we started lumping cross field balls to Crouch which predictably, Alan Stubbs lapped up all day.
Breaking from midfield
While I like our preferred central midfield partnership of Alonso and Sissoko, it frustrates me enormously how deep the two sit. To me, it seems that Gerrard is the only midfielder we have who is capable of getting into the box to take a chance on the second ball.
Two midfielders I can think of at the top of my head, Scholes and Cahill have made their careers on breaking into the box from midfield to look to score a goal when the second ball is to be contested. Very rarely do midfielders break from deep for us to look to score and again, it’s something we have to improve upon.
I know that as players, Alonso and Sissoko naturally play their respective games in front of the back four but I think that if given the chance, Alonso could have more of an impact further up the field. I used to be sceptical about Alonso’s influence in the final third until the derby last year at Anfield. After Gerrard was sent off, Alonso produced a very Gerrard-esque display, taking the game by the scruff of the neck and had as much influence in the game going forward as he normally does sitting in front of the back four.
I even think Sissoko could be able to break from deep in a “one up, one sit back” style partnership as earlier on this season, Momo showed encouraging signs, especially in the Champions League game against Haifa, that he could be influential further up the pitch as if I recall correctly that night, he had a couple of chances as a result of breaking from midfield.
I appreciate the benefits of Alonso and Sissoko as they do an excellent job of screening the back four but against lesser teams at home who’s only ambition is to get a point, surely one could be given more attacking impetus?
Anyway, I hope this doesn’t sound too negative or knee-jerk after the United game but it’s just that some of these things need addressing if we are to move forwards. Tell us what you think.