Pros and cons from our latest comeback
One thing I think we’ll all agree about from this game is that we have to sort out our defending from set-plays. Zonal-marking isn’t the issue, as illustrated by the number of goals conceded from man-marking week-in, week-out by other teams. But something is missing from our defence and I believe that the lack of an established back-pair is beginning to cost us. It is unfortunate that Agger appears fairly injury-prone and while we should be glad to have such an able ‘˜deputy’ in Skrtel, one or the other of them needs to be playing 75% of the season alongside Carra if we are to strengthen things up at the back.
Kyrgiakos had a decent first game considering he’s new to the club and seemed assured with some good distribution. Insua put in another solid performance despite showing his inexperience at times but Johnson is continuing to challenge those who argue that Â£17m is too much to pay for a full-back. He has been arguably our best player so far and with another goal, and a vital one at that, we can only hope that he keeps this up and stays injury-free for the rest of the season
I felt we generally played well against Bolton with the lion’s share of possession and shots on goal, some good build-up play and decent deliveries, though we suffered from a loss of concentration on both goals and the few chances they had seemed to be down to erratic decisions on our part.
It was disappointing not to see Benayoun start despite doing all and more that was asked of him in the last few games. I really do admire what Yossi brings to the side but fear that he may never become an established first-team regular. Not for his lack of skill and impact, but because he doesn’t fill an obvious role. Former superstars like Luis Garcia were utilised in the same way against teams when a bit of clever play and some nice touches can unlock a back line and I can see Rafa using Yossi in a similar fashion.
Riera has been strangely absent in recent times; fuelling speculation that the boss may want to offload him. I think this would be a mistake as though he has been a bit stop-start and can go missing has demonstrated enough quality in terms of taking the ball wide and stretching teams, not to mention his impact for Spain, to deserve a regular start in our current squad.
Rounding off our midfield I’ll comment on Lucas and what I saw as another typical performance. I won’t dwell on this for too long, after my last post, but he seemed to be trying to play a bit further forward and looked totally lost at times in the final third. As a measure of judgement the only times I heard his name on the official ‘˜highlights’, and please do judge for yourself, were after a nasty miss-kick in the box and after giving away a dangerous foul on the edge of the area. Oh ‘“ and for what I believe was a rather harsh second-yellow for Sean Davis.
A performance mostly comprised of sideward and backwards passes no doubt gives a player a good completion ratio but ultimately he contributed little to the result, aside from the red card of course. It was also a little strange to see him stay on in place of Riera and Mascherano and while the former had an average game at best he was arguably just as influential. Rafa has clearly got a soft spot for Lucas and I can only hope that he sees Aquilani as a straight replacement when he is fit.
But overall a good day for the Reds as we got the three points and hopefully learnt some important lessons. The general feeling I get at the moment is that we’re a little too nervous in our play at times and a little lacking in confidence. Obviously this set-piece situation needs to be sorted out as it has cost us dearly so far and whether the opposition team is getting a little lucky with ball placement or we’re suffering from not having a solid, established defence, miscommunication or misunderstanding nearly cost us again.
At times when we were on top we showed the sort of desire and confidence that can win us the title and if players like Johnson, Torres and Gerrard can keep us in the mix until we get that game-winning mentality back we could still be very dangerous this season.