New Era, Same Old Problems

Mikel Arteta shots freekick over Liverpool's wall Everton 2010/11 Everton V Liverpool (2-0) 17/10/10 Photo: Robin Parker Fotosports International Photo via Newscom

Sunday, 17th October 2010

Liverpool got the reign of newly acquired owners, New England Sports Ventures (NESV), off to the worst possible start on Sunday afternoon, with an inept performance in a 2-0 derby defeat to Everton.

John W Henry and Tom Werner were present in the director’s box for the first time at Goodison Park. And they will have been left in no doubt as to the scale of the task facing them on the pitch in the immediate short-term at the final whistle. Roy Hodgson’s post-match assessment that this was “the best we have played all season” and should “consider ourselves unlucky” evoked shades of delusion. Although that judgement is in itself revealing, as it suggests just how badly this team has been playing all season long, thus far.

Liverpool were inferior to their Merseyside neighbours from start to finish. The Blues may have looked good and been dominant throughout, but, in truth, Hodgson’s team allowed them to be.

At present, Liverpool have problems in almost every department. Vulnerable defensively and ineffective, bordering on inept, as an attacking force. Confidence is an issue – no more so than in the case of Fernando Torres. Yet this was a sorry performance from a team that, despite its short-comings, still contains players of international quality, who can and should be producing football of a much higher standard.

Phil Jagielka Everton 2010/11 Steven Gerrard Liverpool Everton V Liverpool (2-0) 17/10/10 Photo: Robin Parker Fotosports International Photo via Newscom

Whilst the man in charge must, once again, accept his fair share of the blame in the post-match post-mortem. Liverpool lacked direction and ideas, particularly in the opening half. And, as has been the case this season, the Reds only seemed to show up as an attacking force once the majority of the damage had been done and they were behind in the game.

Virtually every opponent Liverpool have faced this season in the Premier League has been given too easy a ride. Pressurise the Reds high up the pitch, work hard and give the players little time on the ball. It is a recipe which has been utilised time and again this season, and one which has brought success for the opposition in almost every instance.

Liverpool look lost in possession; surrender the ball far too easily, or are overly wasteful under pressure. By surrendering so much possession in the midfield, Hodgson’s men are inviting pressure on a defence which has looked desperately vulnerable on a regular basis this season.

The defence in its present guise looks unrecognisable from the one which had such a miserly reputation for a number of years. This can be, at least partly, attributed to a lack of dominance and lack of possession in midfield and further up the pitch. A characteristic which was so indicative of previous Liverpool sides and the lack of which is now placing unnecessary pressure on a defence which is struggling for form.

What will be particularly concerning about the manner of this Liverpool performance is the fact that, not only were they left wanting in terms of football, but also in terms of desire and fighting spirit.

Steven Gerrard Liverpool 2010/11 Everton V Liverpool (2-0) 17/10/10 Photo: Robin Parker Fotosports International Photo via Newscom

Everton were the more determined and confident side and simply overran Liverpool in the opening half. They could perhaps have taken the lead earlier than Tim Cahill’s 34th minute opener from a Seamus Coleman cross, had there two best chances in the opening exchanges not fallen to centre-backs, Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin. Jagielka was particularly culpable, when smashing a good chance over having been granted too much space in the penalty area.

Liverpool, by contrast, struggled to gain any kind of footing in the game. True, Torres appeared a shadow of his former self, yet once again the service provided for him was inadequate. Torres did manage to test Tim Howard during Liverpool’s first genuine attack of the game, midway through the half. The striker got in front of his defender and Howard was forced to turn his glancing header over the bar from a cross by, the largely anonymous, Joe Cole. But that was a rare interlude.

Ultimately it was left to Coleman to fashion the opening goal of the contest. The young Irish winger gave Paul Konchesky a torrid time on occasions down the Everton right. And it was Konchesky who inadvertently diverted the ball into the path of Cahill having been out-paced by Coleman. Cahill wasted no time in driving a first time effort beyond Pepe Reina and into the roof of the net.

Even at that stage, the Reds didn’t seem likely to stage a comeback. And so, the Blues second goal soon after half-time virtually ended the contest. A Leighton Baines corner was partially cleared by the head of Sotirios Kyrgiakos but only fell to Mikel Arteta, who sent a sensational drive swerving past Reina and into the net.

True, Liverpool played their most encouraging football after going two goals behind. But that really is not saying much. The Reds dominated possession for the remainder of the second period but had little to show for it, aside from a late Torres chance. Whilst the introductions of David N’Gog and Ryan Babel offered little. The late arrival of Milan Jovanovic provided a more pacey, direct approach, but that was too little, too late.

John W Henry New Owner watches from the stands Liverpool 2010/11 Everton V Liverpool (2-0) 17/10/10 Photo: Robin Parker Fotosports International Photo via Newscom

So, Henry and Werner’s honeymoon period is over before it had really begun. They will have been left with plenty to contemplate as they made their way out of Goodison Park – jubilant Evertonian celebrations still ringing in their ears. But not more so than Roy Hodgson; who now faces an almighty task to salvage what he can from the ruins of this disastrous start to the campaign and try to resurrect this sorry, dejected Liverpool team for its remainder.

A number of words could be – and have been – used to sum up this Liverpool performance. But perhaps the most fitting is the one used in the opening paragraph of this article – inept.

Man of the Match
No single player stood out enough to deserve a mention here. Although Steven Gerrard attempt to take the fight to Everton in the second half and Pepe Reina could have done little more with the goals.

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