Liverpool’s seventh home draw of the season, to Stoke City, was thoroughly frustrating for all – players and supporters alike.
Liverpool managed just one shot on target, a tame effort from outside the area, and failed to test the opposing keeper. Dirk Kuyt, without a goal this season, operated as a lone forward and we played the full game with three centre backs against Stoke’s lone forward.
So where did it go wrong?
Let’s begin with the opposition. They came with a game plan and it worked perfectly. It certainly wasn’t pretty and I’d hate to be a Stoke fan having to watch that anti-football rubbish. But that’s exactly why I wasn’t a fan of how we set out against City in the second half. Liverpool can have no complaints now when teams come to Anfield and park the bus because we did exactly that against City.
In his post-match interview Kenny Dalglish claimed that Daniel Agger’s injury meant “We never had too many options.”
“With the personnel we had, we didn’t really have much of a choice”.
Surely Agger was simply replaced in a straight swap for Coates?
Fair enough, with Spearing and Lucas out it meant we didn’t have that natural holding midfielder, but with three at the back, against Stoke, at home, did we really need a holding player anyway? Adam and Gerrard both sat relatively deep, often getting in each other’s way, and Gerrard was much deeper than usual and therefore struggled to influence the game in the final third with little or no link-up play with Kuyt.
I’m not sure the lack of options really adds-up. Does anyone know what’s happened to Maxi Rodriguez? Surely a perfect game for him to influence. Presumably Carroll and Bellamy weren’t used from the start for fitness reasons, having both played against City where we allowed them total possession in the second half and the tiring effect that has on players.
So instead it was Kuyt, without a goal this season, up front on his own, supported by Henderson and Downing, with one goal between them both this season. For the Stoke defence it was a comfortable performance with a lack of runs from midfield behind them – something that Gerrard could have provided if he was played further up the pitch.
“The boys at the back looked pretty comfortable, they were only playing against one person.”
So how come we ended the game with all five defenders still on the pitch? Surely we could have sacrificed one of the three centre-backs?
“We were lucky to get Jose (Enrique) to play because he had a bit of a stomach virus and it was touch and go whether he was going to play.”
Let’s be clear, this was Enrique’s worst performance since arriving and he clearly wasn’t fit. He couldn’t get his crosses in and particularly in the first half sat much deeper than he needed to be – you saw Carragher urging him forward several times.
So why on earth did he play? And play the whole 90? Especially given the fact their were THREE full backs on the bench, one of which is the best crosser of the ball at the football club, Fabio Aurelio.
The substitution of Downing for Carroll further added to the frustration. When Downing was signed, it made sense that he was the man to provide the crosses for Carroll. With Enririque off form and Gerrard deep, just who was going to provide the supply to him?
Under Rafa we finished second but only lost two games, it was too many draws that cost us the title. This year it looks like too many draws is going to cost us fourth place, because that’s where we could have been with a little more positive tactics. If you go for the win in three games, win one of them, draw one still and lose one, you still get more points than if you’d just drawn all three.
C’mon Kenny, let’s get back to the type of football we were playing in the latter stages of last season; being positive, attacking teams and worrying less about the opposition and more about ourselves.