After another embarrassing defeat to a relegation threatened side, and Liverpool’s fifth defeat in six League games, Kenny Dalglish blamed “tiredness” – having played three games in a week.
The Reds beat Stoke in the FA Cup quarter final last Sunday, lost at QPR on Wednesday then lost to Wigan at home on Saturday.
Dalglish said “I think the toll of three games in six days took the edge off them a little bit.”
There is no wonder players were tired, Dalglish used eight of them from the start in all three of those matches (Reina, Carragher, Skrtel, Enrique, Gerrard, Spearing, Downing, Suarez) and only made a total of FOUR changes across the three games, two of which were injury-enforced.
Those two were Jon Flanagan and Jordan Henderson replacing Martin Kelly and Charlie Adam for the Wigan game. The only other changes were for the QPR game where Andy Carroll was dropped for Dirk Kuyt and Maxi was swapped for Adam.
So the tired excuse is valid, but surely the reason for the tiredness is because the manager chose to play eight of the team in all three fixtures.
Dalglish had plenty options to prevent the tiredness, I’m not suggesting he should have done all of the following, but surely one or two of them would have helped prevent tiredness and prevent us flaking to two embarrassing defeats.
Fabio Aurelio was on the bench against Wigan – perhaps the out-of-form Jose Enrique could have been given what appears to be much needed rest. Enrique has been poor since he played the full game against Stoke in the League in early January despite being ill and Dalglish having other options available at the time.
Dirk Kuyt is now almost 32, perhaps his batteries aren’t quite as impressive as they used to be and Andy Carroll could have been brought back in for the Wigan game. Carroll’s exclusion from the last two games is baffling, to say the least. If he is ever going to work at Liverpool he needs to be playing, especially in games against lower sides where he could profit better. Dalglish’s use of him has been bizarre, I feel sorry for Carroll in all honesty as he has been playing much better and was one of our better players yesterday after coming on. If he’d been given the same amount of starts as Jordan Henderson things may well be looking different.
Getting to Henderson then, I’ve never known a player be subbed so often, so early and not due to injury. Maybe time to give Jonjo Shelvey a chance instead?
Talking of baffling decisions, I cannot think of one good reason why Kenny has started Jamie Carragher in three games in six days. We had a debate recently in the forums about who should be used in Daniel Agger’s absence – Carra or Sebastian Coates. The general consensus was that Coates should get some starts and aid his development for the future, rather than use a tiring Carragher at the end of his career, it makes little or no sense not to at least use Coates in one of the last two games.
There’s been much talk of ‘blooding the youngsters’ in our remaining games, and it was encouraging to see Raheem Sterling and Nathan Eccleston in the squad yesterday. For me though, what makes more sense is to give opportunities to those players we’ve signed and who haven’t quite bedded in yet; most notably Coates and Carroll.
We now have a week before our next game, at Newcastle next Sunday, so no excuses. A defeat there would mean seventh would look like our best finish we could get – lower than last season. Progress?
Ultimately, it won’t be about whether the supporters are happy with finishing seventh, or lower, but winning a cup or two, it will be whether John Henry and FSG are happy with finishing so far off the club’s priority for the season of fourth place and Champions League qualification.
As for the tiredness due to three games in a week, next season we’ll be in the Europa League so there’ll be plenty of that. If the manager can’t handle that then we best either pull out of Europe, or start utilising the squad better.