Ben Twelves reflects on the final away game of the season and how Liverpool’s style has become more pragmatic as the season has gone on.
It was a good result and performance from Liverpool on Sunday, especially in the second half, as they recorded their first back to back away wins of the season thanks to a superb hat-trick from Daniel Sturridge. The striker took his tally to 11 goals in 12 starts since his arrival at the club and he continues to help soften the blow of losing Luis Suarez.
It was a stunning display from the England international, who has certainly hit the ground running since he joined from Chelsea, and the prospect of having him available for a full season next campaign is an exciting one. But what we also saw alongside the 3 goals and dominant display was the versatility and adaptability that our current forward players have, and this is something that we must make the most of.
[sws_pullquote_left]”Its not about the short ball or long ball, its about the right ball”.
– Bob Paisley [/sws_pullquote_left]All of the potential match winners available to manager Brendan Rodgers (Suarez, Sturridge, Borini Coutinho and even Downing) are comfortable with the ball at their feet as this is essential for the way that he wants his Liverpool team to play as we all know. But other attributes most of those players possess is pace, directness and the ability to go past their man in a 1v1 situation.
The first Liverpool goal yesterday came from a very rarely seen “route-one” method. The long pass from Andre Wisdom straight into space allowed Sturridge to race onto the ball and the frontman showed the attributes outlined above to smash the ball home to pull the Reds level. And time and time again in the second half, Liverpool continued to utilise the pace at their disposal by playing balls into space and getting the danger-men running at, and behind, the pedestrian Fulham back four.
However, although this season we haven’t seen many goals from a direct ball forward, partly down to not having the personnel at the start of the season that now allow us to do it, next season it could and perhaps should feature in our play seeing the effectiveness of it. Please don’t think for one moment that I’m saying we should play long ball football and abandon the short passing game, because that is certainly not the case.
I have enjoyed watching us dismantle teams 4, 5 and 6-0 through quick passing football as much as anyone but when it doesn’t happen, balls in behind with our options can cause problems as we saw yesterday. And some team’s like to press us high up the pitch to unsettle us with our known style of play, so a ball over the top for the strikers could work well countering that problem.
With the types of players that we do have, I think it would be foolish to just dismiss the more direct approach and believe it could be a very handy outlet for us going forward.. Suarez scored what should have been goal of the season from a direct pass forward by Jose Enrique at home to Newcastle, when he displayed a simply unbelievable piece of chest control to then round Tim Krul and score into the empty net and Sturridge’s first goal last time out as discussed, shows that when done it can be effective.
The opening home game of the season back in August against Manchester City saw us drop two points from our refusal to just clear our lines, when Carlos Tevez latched on to Martin Skrtel’s short back pass to slot past Pepe Reina. But by clearing the ball you give your strikers something to chase and the team the chance to move up the pitch when on the back foot. And the ‘safety first’ outlet is something that we have seen work before. Fernando Torres raced onto Skrtel’s long pass forward at Old Trafford and scored in our 4-1 demolition of United. Another is from last season under Kenny away at Blackburn, when Skrtel again spotted the opportunity and released Craig Bellamy, who squared for Maxi Rodrguez and left him the easy task of slotting home from 5 yards.
While these previous incidents can be viewed as one offs, it does illustrate that there is potential to have this pass as an outlet ball. Although it may not be pretty to watch, with our dynamic front players, it is certainly something that could be very effective and something that could see us win more points next season as we go in search of a top four place.