It was an ugly win for Brendan Rodgers’ side, embedded in a thrilling encounter in the pouring rain of Staffordshire.
As Liverpool’s attacking play continues to improve and draw admirers, and the ‘SaS’ of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge took off where they left off, defensive frailties remain at the back for the Reds.
For the first time since Liverpool’s dreary day in Hull at the start of December, Martin Skrtel and Kolo Toure lined up in central defence for Liverpool.
Neither player looks focused when playing alongside each other, constantly covering for the other and switching sides of central defence.
Skrtel has built up a good defensive partnership with £17million summer signing Mamadou Sakho, and will be the first to welcome him back to the team for next Saturday’s league game at home to Aston Villa.
Both Aly Cissokho and Glen Johnson under-performed, too.
Cissokho looked both clumsy and very short of confidence both defensively and in attack. His first touch often broke up what could have been swift Liverpool counter-attacks.
Furthermore, the Frenchman gave away a string of fouls , which only encouraged Stoke’s midfield forward, causing problems in the centre for Liverpool.
Whilst Cissokho will no doubt be replaced by the currently injured Jose Enrique or Jon Flanagan upon their returns, Johnson’s drop in form is becoming a concern.
Johnson was often left exposed where he would usually comfortably deal with attacks down the opposition left wings.
For Stoke’s first goal, a Peter Crouch header from Marko Arnautovic’s cross, Johnson was lacking in keeping up with the game.
Questions must also be asked of Steven Gerrard in the holding role in midfield.
With a defensive making tackles in the right places, and playing the ball successfully and intelligently, Stoke’s attacks could have been broken up before threatening the goal.
Stevie G lost the ball 18 times today – more than any other non-forward.
He also won the ball back 16 times – more than anyone in the team.
— AnfieldIndex (@AnfieldIndex) January 12, 2014
Liverpool’s attack covered for the shambles happening at the back, and the rise of Raheem Sterling continued, now playing a major part of Liverpool’s attacks.
The combination of Suarez and Sturridge for the Reds’ fourth and fifth of the afternoon was a sight for sore eyes. Their partnership, and the goals they accumulate between themselves, could be the difference between a top four finish for Liverpool, or not.
Stoke conceded 7 goals in
10 home matches. LFC 5 today. What a match. Stoke terrific intensity matched by LFC speed, quality and desire. 3!
— John W. Henry (@John_W_Henry) January 12, 2014
As it is, Rodgers’ Liverpool are looking good for keeping up with the teams at the top of the table, now just five points off the top of the Premier League.
Use the January transfer window wisely to fix the patches in defence, and defensive midfield, then there is no reason why Liverpool’s attack can’t guide the Reds to great things come May.