New season, same story.
That’s apparently the feeling following Saturday’s 3-0 reverse at West Bromwich Albion.
A first half in which numerous chances were created, possession was dominated and a goal was scored against the run of play meaning Liverpool went into the break a goal down. A second half in which the response initially looked good but ultimately mistakes and, depending on how you look at it, decisions condemned the Reds to an opening day defeat.
Sound familiar anyone?
It’s certainly a blow, after all you can’t help but feel sick after looking forward to the new season full of hope, only to be the country’s laughing stock again after just one game.
Thank God for Norwich and QPR.
However it’s not all doom and gloom. The season is barely underway and Brendan Rodgers certainly has time to respond.
He’s talked the talk, now he really has to walk the walk.
His tactics are very positive, but some things certainly set the alarm bells ringing on Saturday. Pressing the ball from the front is all well and good, but pressing the ball after going down to ten men? Suicide.
Yet it’s what Liverpool seemed to insist on trying to do, leaving West Brom with all the space in the world to run in behind.
Maybe you can put it down to the players being a little over eager to impress, if that’s the case Rodgers will have to work on his tactics a little longer on the training ground.
However the sight of the centre backs in a mad dash to press the man in possession sent shivers down the spine. Especially when West Brom seemed to be so much sharper, and just passed the ball on and exploited the space those players were leaving. Meaning many times they found teammates onside when they really had no right to be.
After all, this is West Brom. What will happen if Liverpool show the same naivety next week against City?
It looked as though the pressing system took it’s toll on Liverpool during the game. This isn’t really a surprise, surely the team will improve as they get fitter over the course of the season, and we will see less fouls and a sharper Liverpool later in the game, the sending off had a part to play in that too.
It will also improve as Joe Allen settles into the team and Lucas improves his fitness after his cruciate injury. The Brazilian looked a little off the pace here, but you can’t really blame him after his incredible recovery from injury. His role in the side will be crucial, Swansea relied heavily on the accurate passing of Leon Britton as he anchored the midfield, and one expects Lucas to replicate that role once he is totally back to match fitness.
For his part, Allen looked good, he’s tenacious and his passing is positive and crisp. His place in the side looks to have spelt the end to the Liverpool careers of both Charlie Adam and Jay Spearing. Jordan Henderson meanwhile hasn’t featured anywhere near as much as expected under Rodgers.
Henderson is a type of player that looked to fit into the system Rodgers likes to employ. He likes to keep the ball short and try to play intelligent one touch passes with teammates, yet Rodgers doesn’t seem keen on the 22 year-old.
Surely a manager should be able to work with the players that he is given and it seems a shame if this is the beginning of the end of Henderson’s Liverpool career.
The former Sunderland man wasn’t everyone’s favourite player last season, but at just 22 and after a solitary season it’s madness to write him off just yet. After all, Lucas wasn’t exactly a fan’s favourite earlier in his Liverpool career.
The crowd has a huge part to play in any player’s career and Henderson clearly had confidence issues last season which transferred onto the pitch. Given time and under the right manager – and playing centrally rather than on the right – Henderson can blossom in Rodgers’s system.
This is a lad who put’s emphasis on keeping the ball short and keeping possession, all the hallmarks of this system. It’s a mystery why he hasn’t been involved at all recently.
Which brings us on to Andy Carroll.
Carroll isn’t favoured under Rodgers, that much is obvious. But, as stated earlier, new managers should have to work with what they have sometimes, and it seems bizarre to allow Carroll to leave Anfield in a cut price or loan deal.
It was equally as bizarre to leave him kicking his heels on the bench for so long on Saturday, and only bring him on when his fellow substitute, Joe Cole, found himself injured.
Carroll might have his detractors, but he certainly offers the team something different. He’s a better play on the deck than people give him credit for and don’t forget that one of his better games last season came against West Brom.
Also on Saturday a number of aerial chances fell to Luis Suarez, had they fallen to Carroll things may have been a little different. Maybe.
One of the worst decisions Liverpool ever made wasn’t buying Robbie Keane in 2009, it was seemingly listening to the opinions of the masses and rushing to sell him off in a cut price deal just months later.
Had he scored just seven more goals (the same amount he scored in the first half on the season) then Liverpool might have been champions.
The same goes for Carroll. If the man from Newcastle gets just ten goals this year, it could be the difference between sixth and fourth.
Unless there is a good replacement lined up, Carroll should be made to stay at Anfield and learn to play in Rodgers’s style.
Another issue from Saturday was the bad behaviour of Suarez, or more fittingly, lack of it.
The Uruguayan was booked for the wicked act of waving his arm when he was given offside. Apparently he’s not allowed to be frustrated now, either.
It’s getting old seeing Liverpool’s number seven suffering from such refereeing bias. One can’t help but think that if it had been he, not Shane Long, tumbling to the ground on two such occasions we would be looking at a Monday morning witch hunt.
After all, when Suarez won a penalty last season on the same ground supporters clamoured to condemn the player. Yet that penalty was much more nailed on than either given by Phil Dowd on Saturday afternoon.
His situation now is similar to that of Craig Bellamy’s. Referees tend to judge the man, not the incident, and his booking on Saturday could have been given to anyone else on the pitch on a number of different occasions, but clearly referees like to see the name Suarez written in their little book.
It is something he must try to change, or else learn to live with.
So it’s not the start we all wanted, or expected, but a positive result against the champions next Sunday and it’ll be as if this result didn’t happen.
After all, Southampton put two past them, so can Liverpool. Surely?