New Era, Same Old Problems

Blackpool 2-1 Liverpool
Premier League
January 12th, 2010

Kenny DalglishThe feel good factor which has engulfed Liverpool Football club in recent days was well and truly extinguished on Wednesday evening, by a Blackpool side which showed great hunger, greater confidence and greater intent.

Hopes were high that the euphoria surrounding the return of Kenny Dalglish would inspire an instant upturn in the clubs on field fortunes. Yet, this 2-1 reversal to newly promoted Blackpool – the second of the season – condemned Dalglish to back-to-back defeats. And confirms, beyond any doubt, the scale of the task facing the new manager if he is to resurrect this despondent Liverpool team.

Things had begun perfectly in Dalglish’s first ever Premier League match in charge. Fernando Torres’s well taken strike into the roof Richard Kingson’s goal in the opening 3 minutes was the ideal start for a side which has struggled on its travels this term. And the Reds were the dominant team in the opening 10 minutes.

However, some poor defending, combined with a general lack of incisiveness, confidence and quality in the final third of the field, contrived to allow the home side a foothold in the game. Before ultimately going on to earn a deserved victory.

The two games against Premier Leagues encounters with Blackpool this season sum up the Reds campaign as a whole. A Liverpool team lacking in composure, quality and confidence out-fought and out-witted by a team who quite frankly should be by far inferior but in reality demonstrate more willing, more fight and generally exude more confidence in their play.

No player at a club of Liverpool’s stature should really have a place to hide. Yet, in reality, the situation with both the club’s ownership and management may have granted too many players the opportunity to mask their shortcomings for far too long.

Now is the time for the players to stand up and be counted in difficult. Too few of the starting eleven at Bloomfield Road met the standards in this respect. It is one thing for a player to lack the necessary quality, but many were second to too many balls and were simply undone by the greater desire of their Blackpool counterparts.

The evening had begun to script, however. A Liverpool team which had found the net just 7 times from 10 away fixtures going into this one and short of their inspirational captain found themselves in an unusual position after less than 3 minutes.

A well-worked move ended in Martin Kelly releasing Torres down the right. The striker beat the off-side trap, cut inside and sent a powerful and confident finish beyond a helpless Kingson’s from a tight angle.

The opening goal sent the travelling support – still buzzing from the return of the king – into raptures. Spurred on by the enthusiasm from the stands, the Reds briefly looked capable of capitalising on their advantage. But Liverpool were too often the victims of their own downfall.

Hesitancy and wastefulness in midfield was the biggest problem. And despite the early promise Torres rarely received similar supply.

There is little doubting Torres operates most effectively as a lone-striker – the pinnacle of the attack. But this will only ever be genuinely effective if he can benefit from support and quality behind him and out wide. An off-form Dirk Kuyt and a limited Milan Jovanovic could not provide this. Whilst Raul Meireles will always be better suited to a deeper midfield role.

The Reds were made to pay for their wastefulness in midfield through Blackpool’s 12th minute leveller. Jovanovic should have been released on the break, down the left. Instead the pass went to Meiereles; who was hustled off the ball by David Vaughan. Vaughan found Gary Taylor-Fletcher, who found an easy route through the centre of the visitors defence before taking his goal well.

The equaliser undid Liverpool’s good work and the Seasider’s confidence blossomed. DJ Campbell could have put them in front with a far post header. Whilst Taylor-Fletcher also came close to beating Reina again before the break.

Charlie Adam – potentially on his out of Bloomfield Road, if his post-match lap of honour was anything to go by – forced Reina into a save early in the second half. And, with the Reds now failing to impose themselves on a fast paced match, Vaughan also called the Spanish stopper into action.

Craig Cathcart had to be alert at the back for the hosts, with Torres sensing a second from a well-placed cross. And Kuyt forced Kingson into a save. But their was little surprise when Campbell grabbed the winner midway through the half.

There were suspicions of a push by Luke Varney on Martin Skrtel in the build up to the goal. But even still, the defending was atrocious. As a routine long ball into the box was nodded down by Ian Evatt into the path of the un-marked Campbell; who sent a diving header beyond Reina from 6-yards.

Liverpool’s cause was not assisted by another poor refereeing performance. This time from Michael Oliver. And the Reds should have been awarded a penalty with 10 minutes remaining. Cathcart clearly handling in the areas.

Yet, the game needed freshening up – a change of impetus, another body up front. Okay, the options on the substitutes bench are very limited as present. But perhaps the changes came too late. Jonjo Shelvey was introduced for Poulsen on 76 minutes but struggled to make an impact. Whilst David N’Gog’s arrival alongside Torres with 5 minutes to go, left the Frenchman with precious little time.

Kenny seems confident that he has indentified the root cause of Liverpool’s dire short comings. A lack of self-belief and confidence is the diagnosis. Dalglish can be the man to correct this and instil a new belief in the squad.

However the feeling amongst the fans is that the problems may well be deeper. And if there is no investment in a limited playing staff, then there may be more days like this to come between now and the end of the season.

Man of the Match
Looked as sharp and threatening as he has for a while. Despite the chronic lack of support and creativity behind him. Took his goal well.

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