Liverpool face a tough challenge away to Manchester United on Sunday, and Jack Lusby believes the side should go all-out attack at Old Trafford.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers faces a tough outing on Sunday, as Liverpool visit top-four rivals Manchester United in a hugely important Premier League clash.
Rodgers is under increasingly heavy pressure on Merseyside, with Liverpool currently sat just above the bottom half of the table in ninth.
Meanwhile, in an unfortunate switch from last season, United are flying under new manager Louis van Gaal, and sat third in the Premier League table before this weekend’s fixtures.
This is a game with great history, and holds great weight with both fans and players alike, and could be hugely important as Rodgers looks to regain a foothold in a rocky managerial terrain with the league heading into a busy festive period.
For various tactical reasons, Rodgers must opt for the primarily attacking approach that hallmarked last season’s success, and show no respect to their United rivals on Sunday.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) August 21, 2014
While Van Gaal strengthened his attack emphatically in the summer, with the signings of Angel di Maria and Radamel Falcao joining the likes of Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney, the manager surprisingly ignored a weak defence.
Daley Blind was brought in to serve as a defensive midfielder, while the inconsistent Marcos Rojo joined to operate at left- and centre-back.
However, this wasn’t enough for a side losing the iconic trio of Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra.
This has shown even more starkly given United’s innumerable injury issues this season: The side have suffered an incredible 47 different injuries, despite the Premier League being just 15 games old.
— MailOnline Sport (@MailSport) December 11, 2014
This has seen youngsters Tyler Blackett and Paddy McNair make their United debuts at the back, and the pair boast 13 league appearances between them in 2014/15.
Jonny Evans had to replace Chris Smalling at centre-back in United’s 2-1 victory away to Southampton last time out in the league, with one newly returned player taking the place of a newly injured one.
#MUFC defender Phil Jones is targeting a return to action over the Festive period having stepped up his rehab following a shin injury
— Ben Dinnery (@BenDinnery) December 11, 2014
On Sunday, Phil Jones and Rafael have a chance of featuring at centre-back and right-back respectively, but each have just returned after long lay-offs.
But this lack of match fitness will hamper United’s defence, and this can be targeted—even fully fit, United’s potential back four is full of holes.
This season, United have conceded 17 goals, just two less than Rodgers’ side.
As this shows, Liverpool’s defence has been in miserable form this season.
Adding Dejan Lovren to the positional calamity that is Martin Skrtel at centre-back has seen the Reds’ back line look increasingly uncomfortable and error-prone.
The pair have invited opposing attacks onto Simon Mignolet’s goal with a long string of desperate performances in defence.
Most errors leading to shots in the Premier League this season:
1 Dejan Lovren (5)
2 Martin Skrtel (4)
3= Simon Mignolet (3)
— Adam Bate (@ghostgoal) December 6, 2014
Lovren even had the gall to criticise the Liverpool midfield after “not receiving enough protection,” according to the Daily Mirror, prior to this encounter.
The form that saw Lovren (debatably) earn his £20 million move to Merseyside in the summer was aided by the diligent protection of Southampton midfielders Victor Wanyama and Morgan Schneiderlin, and at Liverpool it is true that Steven Gerrard doesn’t offer the same support.
However, while even the best centre-backs need protection (see: Thiago Silva protected by Blaise Matuidi at PSG), not every error Lovren has made has been forced.
Mignolet barely Westerveld level. Enrique barely a Vignal. Lovren barely Rigobert Song. Skrtel is Frode Kippe-like and no words for Johnson.
— Nik Postinger (@nikpostinger) December 9, 2014
Furthermore, as Rodgers looked secure qualification to the Champions League group stages against FC Basel on Tuesday night, the manager opted for an experienced, defence-heavy line-up including four central midfielders in Gerrard, Lucas Leiva, Jordan Henderson and Joe Allen.
This failed, as an abject display allowed Basel to amble through on goal time and again, with Fabian Frei’s excellent opener evidence of this.
At this point Liverpool don’t have it in their locker to remain consistently solid in defence.
Although this is nothing new, Rodgers should revert to the ideals that made his side so successful last season.
In the build-up to Sunday’s game, Rodgers declared: “My players will be lifted by the challenge of going there.”
“This game is perfect for us. We’ve won our last two games against them and this is always a massive game in the fixture list…We had a great result at Old Trafford last season and a very good performance. We will go there with confidence.”
While the manager would be wise to recognise United’s progress in the Premier League this season, Rodgers is right to show the side little respect, as this rivalry is fierce and long-running.
— Neil Jones (@neiljonesgoal) March 17, 2014
Last season’s 3-0 victory at Old Trafford is the perfect example of this.
A rampant Luis Suarez inspired a dominant, all-round team performance, with United outclassed in all areas of the pitch.
This served as a scything blow to then-manager David Moyes’ fortunes in Manchester, as this fixture remains the most important on their side’s fixture list in the Premier League.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) December 13, 2014
While that victory was aided by a continually majestic Suarez, Liverpool remain overloaded with effective attacking options as they approach this encounter.
Raheem Sterling looked near to his best against Basel, while a 15-minute cameo by Lazar Markovic showed a glimpse of why Liverpool plumped so ostentatiously for the 20-year-old in the summer; furthermore, Mario Balotelli is in with a chance of featuring after a return from injury.
Liverpool clearly don’t have the defensive stability that could see them aim for a draw away to a top-four rival on Sunday, but luckily neither do United.
Van Gaal’s side are vulnerable at the back, and Liverpool must exploit this to gain a result.
Take this opportunity to record a fearless victory, and repopulate the Kop with smiling faces; after the loss to Basel, this fixture could define Brendan Rodgers’ tenure at Liverpool.
Should Liverpool focus on attack against Manchester United on Sunday? Let us know in the comments below.