The game against Swansea on Monday night was a good measure of where we are and what we need to improve on and what is working well for the squad. The pressure from Swansea showed flaws in our defense, particularly without Agger and Johnson. While Agger’s injury was just for that game and should be back shortly, providing leadership and skill to anchor the back four as usual. Johnson’s is more serious and he will be out for 5 to 6 weeks according to multiple reports. Glenn Johnson can go in and out of form easily, but when he is in his form he can be one of the best right backs in Europe and while he is in good form, like he was before the injury, he can easily go unnoticed while he silently wins little battles that help win games with consistency and balance on the right hand side of the park. On the other hand when he is off form he can make dumb mistakes in crucial parts of the park, resulting in either defensive breakdowns, or counter attacks after a turnover further up the pitch. He isn’t a flashy player and you won’t miss him until he is gone and Andre Wisdom vividly proved that to us last night with young Wisdom not up to par with Johnson’s quality, especially Johnson’s recent form at the start of the season. Wisdom often got beat down the flanks and made stupid turnovers which will improve with experience. The young English lad has a lot of potential, he also has quite a lot to learn, which I have no doubt that with Kolo Toure, Johnson, Agger, and Steven Gerrard giving him advice everyday in training, he will learn as time goes on. But he also needs to learn not only on the training ground but in games. This is why a loan to a championship or lower Premier League side would really suit him in his development into a regular for Liverpool. Perhaps a January loan for half a season is in his future.
Staying on the topic of defense, I am wondering what Brendan Rodgers has planned . Martin Skrtel has shown in the past two games and on international break that his confidence and form is returning rapidly and I don’t have a clue as to how Brendan will fit in Toure and Mamadou Sakho whom of the two, Toure has proven he should play a role in the squad even though he is at the twilight of his career, and granted he is very fit and still a good defender he only has maybe two years left before he becomes ready to retire. While Sakho on the other hand hasn’t quite proven he deserves to start yet, but he has only been at the club for two weeks or so and it is quite clear he is looking like Liverpool’s number one guy for the future, and number two for now. After Agger comes to the end of his career and Sakho gets to the prime of his he should be leading a top Liverpool team with maybe Wisdom or newboy Tiago Ilori, who knows. But for now with both Toure and Sakho eager for playing time and they are both good enough to earn it, Brendan could have a few headaches over who stars alongside Agger. Keeping Skrtel out of games while he is in fine form would hinder that form, and maybe more importantly hinder his transfer value. The reason I mention Skrtel’s transfer value is not because I don’t value him as a good enough player, but because in the long term it may make sense for both parties for Skrtel to get a move away from Anfield. While the upsides of having Martin Skrtel are great and Skrtel is very good player, experienced at Liverpool, and has a good partnership with Agger he is 29 and if Sakho can prove to be as top class as he is cut out to be, Skrtel would be hindering his career by staying at Liverpool and he would be excess to the squad. A move could open the wage bill for maybe keeping Moses after this season or maybe buying a marquee signing in the case of Luis Suarez leaving. A lot can change from now to next summer or maybe January but it’s something to think about, especially if you’re Brendan Rodgers.
In the 54th minute or so of the Swansea game Liverpool got a huge blow to the squad in the injury of Philippe Coutinho after an atrocious Ashley Williams foul. Coutinho hasn’t had the best of starts to the new season although you could tell that his presence helped the squad in the absence of Suarez with that creative edge, making opportunities for teammates and adding flare to the Liverpool attack. You could see that without the presence of Coutinho for most of the second half Liverpool didn’t have a lot of creativity going forward. Hopefully it is a minor injury and he can be get back to fitness soon. With the arrival of Victor Moses on loan from Chelsea he seems to fit the system perfectly, although needs to get used to playing full games and get fitter in the coming weeks. It was great to have a strong, fast, skillful presence on the left side of attack and allowing Coutinho to go in his favored position, the number 10 role behind the striker where you could see that him being there helped Liverpool flow more fluently. Moses showed off great individual skill throughout the first half, splitting two defenders who had him trapped in a corner and then making a great left footed cross to Sturridge who directed his header right at Michelle Vorm. Moses’s ability to cut inside and his speed are both very impressive and he showed it off in his debut goal which was great for him to get off to the right start and hopefully have a good season with us. With only one more game to go until the return of Suarez, our attack will become even that more dangerous with his return and hopefully he can quickly create good chemistry between him, and the rest of the offense. His return also provides the question of who will come off? All that can be said for certain is that Someone will have to come off for the controversial Uruguayan. This leads me to my last issue. Liverpool seem to be missing an aggressive force without Suarez, and in the likely case Liverpool will play without him again this season, they need good pressure from someone other than Jordan Henderson who could have powered all of the lights in Liberty Stadium with all his energy. Aspas is aggressive but he isn’t very skillful and turns the ball over quickly even though he has shown signs of hopefully good things to come, but he seems to be a ghost at times during games, which we can’t have. Even with Henderson’s work rate and aggressiveness from Sakho and Aspas to an extent, we still struggled in the second half and we seemed to have all the pressure on us with little time in the Swansea half. This lead to an equaliser and more pressure from Swansea not allowing Henderson or Sturridge to really do what they do best. Liverpool need to have more offensive pressure in the second half of games and Luis Suarez will bring that because it is just engraved in him to try to get a goal no matter what the situation is and that will provide that push we don’t have right now to get up the pitch and score even if we are up by eight goals.
All in all the game against Swansea really showed that without Suarez and Coutinho Liverpool don’t have too much creativity and that their strategy has some flaws which I’m sure Brendan will work out. Liverpool have things to sort out, but not nearly as many things as they did this time last year and we are still top of the league, and we are still yet to be defeated. At Anfield against Southampton should not be taken lightly, but a win should be expected and hopefully we will be in high spirits going into a league cup match against our rivals Manchester United for the return of Luis Suarez in a showdown to remember.