Even just looking at the fixture list, seeing “Crystal Palace vs Liverpool” now gives you shudders. But can we take the negatives from last year and turn them around in a time when we desperately need to?
There were so many “ifs” and “buts” being spoken about at the end of last year. In coming so agonisingly close to winning the title for the first time in years, it’s hard not to dwell on what could (and should) have been.
And you can speak about the Palace nightmare in losing a 3-0 lead, but you realise that we more than likely wouldn’t have been leaving ourselves open at the back too much, if we didn’t want to even attempt the remote possibility of improving goal difference dramatically.
Whether or not the Chelsea loss or the Palace draw was the bigger blow, the way in which we defended in those last few moments at Selhurst Park, will never want to be repeated again.
Defensive woes continue
Unfortunately for us, the defence is still a talking point and concern, and the performances of late have even exposed our issues up front. Coming up to some of the busiest weeks in the footballing calendar, results need to be turned around fast – important fixtures over the Christmas period have a big say in determining who keeps up with the pack, and who falls away.
Luckily for us, “the pack” have let us off the hook recently. Aside from Chelsea, you find it hard to identify one side which has put a winning run together. A few wins and you would be considered as a side in form.
Whether or not things will click back into place straight away with Sturridge’s imminent return, we will have to wait and see. However, I am expecting the side to look a lot more balanced in terms of allocated roles. Recently, there has been a lot of drifting from positions because of the forced nature of trying to break the deadlock in games.
One of the warning signs, however, that we can take from last season’s encounter with Palace, is that we can’t try and force the play too much. Confidence was high in terms of scoring goals last year, but now in completely different circumstances, we are relying on getting the goals again. Leaving ourselves open at the back in such a desperate plea to get the ball in the back of the net.
With yet another international break now being deemed a welcome one, you’d hope that defensive organisation will have been worked on in training. The frustrating thing that has been picked up on is the fact that it’s the simple and self-inflicted mistakes that are costing us, not necessarily clever play from an opposition’s point of view.
I’d be happy to see a solid (in theory) set-up against Crystal Palace at the weekend, instead of a full-frontal attack. We don’t want to be attempting to run before we can walk. We haven’t necessarily reaped the rewards for having an isolated striker up front in recent weeks, but now with Sturridge back, we know he has the qualities to convert the few chances that we create.
The sole performance which has been impressive this season so far, has been against Spurs at White Hart Lane. Here, we played two strikers up front, and is definately the approach I’d take going forward. Although I think Sturridge would be able to handle being up front on his own compared to Balotelli, the extra support is worth a shot in attempting to get the best out of the Italian as well as Sturridge.
It is worrying in the sense that we may not like to admit it but we have been counting down the days until Sturridge returns. And with each passing game it looks less and less likely that Balotelli will be able to make an impact. However, it has been said that we aren’t a million miles away from where we need to be, and we proved this last year. A couple of missing pieces to the puzzle, like Sturridge, I believe will prove to be a big difference.
In the grand scheme of football, Liverpool are expected to beat Crystal Palace away. And even though we dread international breaks, it could be a good time to turn a corner, and throw the form book out of the window.
As we look to turn over yet another new leaf by getting on the right track, as fate would have it, maybe Selhurst Park is the place to do it.