5 talking points from Liverpool’s frustrating draw against Sunderland

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Following Saturday’s disappointing goalless stalemate against Gus Poyet’s Sunderland, Ben Twelves picks out some talking points from the fixture.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, December 6, 2014: Liverpool and Sunderland players stand together for Football Remembers during the Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool 0-0 Sunderland, Anfield, 6th December

Liverpool’s mini-revival grinded to a halt on Saturday afternoon at Anfield where The Reds were held to a goalless draw by Gus Poyet’s Sunderland.

It was certainly a match to forget on Merseyside with little in the way of goal mouth action at either end other than a save apiece from Simon Mignolet and Costel Pantillimon, and despite picking up their 7th point from 9 in the last week, Liverpool still languish in 9th place in the Premier League table.

A third straight win would have been the perfect preparation ahead of two huge clashes against Basel and Manchester United to come this week, but a disappointing draw once again threw up a number of talking points.

 

Raheem Reliance

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, December 6, 2014: Liverpool's Raheem Sterling is fouled in the area by Sunderland's Wes Brown but no penalty was given during the Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

After a dip in form following a superb start to the season, Sterling has found the level of performance that’s now come to be expected of him again, as he once more carried the fight for Liverpool on Saturday afternoon in keeping with recent games.

The soon to be 20-year-old produced an excellent performance and was by far Liverpool’s main attacking threat – and arguably man of the match – with anything good Rodgers’ side did going forwards emanating from the youngster.

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Constantly picking the ball up and looking to drive at the opposition, Sterling produced a breath-taking run before laying-off the ball to create a chance for Philippe Coutinho in the second half – a rare moment of magic in a flat afternoon.

But alongside his attempted invention going forwards, the teenagers’ defensive awareness and work rate was once again commendable in a strong all-round display.

It’s easy to forget when watching that Sterling is still so young and such is the level of his displays that he is now the go to man with the most minutes of an outfield player to his name – an impressive but concerning feat at the same time.

 

Colossal Kolo

A frustrating afternoon drew one positive in the form of a second clean sheet in three games, and that feat is in no small part to the experienced Ivorian who again provided a calm head in the Liverpool defence.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, November 29, 2014: Liverpool's Kolo Toure in action against Stoke City's Mame Diram Diouf during the Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Toure won an awful lot of the running battle with powerful Sunderland front man Connor Wickham, competing well for the duration of the game, nicking the ball back off the striker a number of times, as well as putting his body on the line by making crucial blocks and winning some important headers in the Liverpool box.

It’s no surprise that Rodgers’ side have become tighter at the back since the former Man City man has arrived in the back four, and on this form he is undoubtedly the first defender on the team sheet.

 

First Half Flatness

Once again Liverpool left themselves with another big task at Anfield in the second half following a disappointingly slow opening 45 minutes – a stark contrast to last season when Rodgers’ men often blew opposition away quickly.

Highlighting the Reds’ on-going first half failure best is stats man Andrew Beasley who illustrates in a nutshell the troubles Liverpool are having with the first period of games this season.

The first shot on target of the game came in the 63rd minute of the match – and it wasn’t until the final third of the game that Liverpool burst into action and created numerous opportunities as they looked to force a winner as the clock ticked on.

With giving yourself only half of the game to build up any attacking impetus, it’s no surprise the Anfield faithful have seen such a low amount of goals crashed in so far this season.

 

Blunt & Disjointed Attack

Goals win games but at Anfield Rodgers’ side have found them hard to come by – having scored only 8 all season so far in L4 – meaning only two Premier League clubs have less home goals to show than Liverpool.

A lack of forward movement and a disjointed attack since the beginning of the season has seen Rodgers’ men have great difficulty in creating clear-cut chances, and with that feat it’s not hard to see why Liverpool have struggled so badly with scoring goals this campaign.

The last ten Premier League games at Anfield have produced just four wins and seen the Reds score only eight goals – a huge contrast to last season’s ruthless attacking play – and in comparison to the 34 goals The Reds registered at this time last season, they only have 19 to show in total this time around.

Any aspirations to make Champions League qualification will have to see Liverpool’s attacking exploits improve massively before a top four surge can become a realistic proposition.

 

Missed Opportunity

 

With top four rivals dropping points everywhere, Saturday presented a fine chance for Rodgers and his team to continue their recent resurgence and close the gap on the Champions League places once more.

A win may only have lifted Liverpool up two places in the table into 7th position but the point’s gap from fourth place would only have sat at two points rather than the four it is currently – adding to the annoyance of today.

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The stalemate now moves Liverpool into three league matches unbeaten – an improved upturn in form – but three further points on the board would have placed The Reds right back in the mix and provided a timely confidence booster ahead of Tuesday’s mammoth encounter against Basel and the following trip to Old Trafford next Sunday.

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