It is safe to say that everyone has tried gambling at least once in their lives. Some of you will go “nu-uh, i have never gambled a single dollar in my life.” Even if you have never stepped into a casino or placed a bet before, you probably would have gambled on something else – for example, you gambled on turning left at a junction when you had no idea how to get to your destination; for the gamers, you gambled on having one last game of FIFA even though you knew that you’d be late for work or school, and the list goes on. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. When you win, you will definitely feel like the king of world – and when you lose, doubts will tug at you like a rash from a new shirt you forgot to wash.
So, after going on and on about gambling, what does it have to do with Liverpool?
Today, Rodgers gambled on our lineup. He gambled big, and he lost big time. For the past few games, we adapted to a system without wingers – to employ the full strength of our midfield, that extra reinforcement in the middle which ensures our SAS strikeforce is able to link up with the rest of the team. However, before the game it was confirmed that Sturridge would be out for about roughly 6-8 weeks – a bitter blow considering he has been the carrying factor for Liverpool when Suarez was serving his suspension. Also, we have a pretty tough December month coming up (analyzed in http://www.empireofthekop.com/anfield/2013/11/28/looking-forward-2/) so adding Sturridge to the injury table is devastating. Coutinho as well was carrying a bit of a knock all week and could only start from the bench.
So, with Sturridge and Coutinho out of the starting 11, Rodgers had a choice – should he continue his diamond formation or opt for the more traditional 4-2-3-1 that Liverpool was using in the first few games of the season? Rodgers had to gamble here, and gamble he did. He opted to play Sterling and Moses down the flanks with Suarez up alone. Also, for some reason, he gambled to exclude Agger from the starting 11 and chose to play Toure. That decision was pretty weird to me, given the fact that Agger was tremendous in our last 2 games. Or, well, Rodgers could have played Sakho as well. Toure was an interesting decision.
He probably had to think this one through pretty hard, and in the end Rodgers chose to go back to the traditional 4-2-3-1 formation we had earlier in the season. And so, with the chips stacked and the cards dealt, the game kicked off at KC Stadium. What happens next, literally, went down in history.
Liverpool lost 3-1, deservingly. For those of you who didn’t know, Hull has never beaten Liverpool in the league, ever.
Sterling and Moses, for me, will be a tight affair when it comes down to picking the worst performance of the game. Rodgers picked the 2 pacey wingers and obviously hoped that both of them would add width to the squad. We have seen how both of them terrorize fullbacks, but however, the pair probably did close to nothing down each wing and overall they had an awful game. Victor Moses, especially, the man who complained over the week about not starting games, was given a chance to put his money where his mouth was and … well he certainly did that when he tried to flick the ball over Al-Muhammadi unsuccessfully, which led to the first goal. This is not a knee-jerk (if anyone was thinking that way). Certainly, both Moses and Sterling are great players i can tell you that – but put it simply, they had a bad game. Get this – Simon Mignolet attempted more passes than Sterling today. Yes, a goalkeeper attempted more passes than an outfield player. Jeez.
Toure didn’t have a great game as well, which would lead me back a few paragraphs ago about choosing him. Why was Toure chosen, and more importantly, why was Agger dropped? Even if Agger carried a knock or Rodgers wanted to rest him, he could have played Sakho over Toure. While he didn’t reach the “criminal” stature for the loss today, Toure, he … he had a really bad game today. I’d say Skrtel covered up for his partner BIG TIME today.
Of course, pinning the blame on just the 3 of them is stupid and unfair. Our whole team didn’t really show up for the game besides Hendo, Skrtel and Flanno (the boy played pretty well yet again, has to be said). Looking at our lineup pre-game, i was worried about the lack of creativity in the squad – and it showed. We played a solid 45 minutes of boring football and we hardly threatened the Hull defense. Suarez was left isolated up top and you could see his frustration building up as the minutes ticked on. At least when Coutinho came on our attacked flowed a bit better, but then again, we never looked like scoring aside from set pieces.
The three goals we conceded as well were, to an extent, pretty darn unlucky (besides the second goal, that was a mess). Skrtel put in a solid performance aside from the horror deflections.
Overall, this was probably the worst performance fielded by Liverpool this season. Hull looked like Manchester City playing Tottenham last week when they came forward. If this was a better side the margin would have been much much larger than a 3-1. It was clear after the first half that we were never going to win this game.
Rodgers gambled, and Rodgers lost. If the team had won today, Rodgers would look back with a sly grin on his face, as if to say “we can play any formation and still win”. Sadly, this is not the end-product he was hoping for and now he’s being made to chew on his mistakes in the lineup.
But, there is a bright side in gambling – if you lose, you will learn from it. Rodgers will probably never field the two wingers in such a formation again (or well, until they prove themselves worthy once more). I think we would have found more joy if Moses played up front with Suarez and Allen/Alberto was playing in the hole behind them. With all due respect to Hull, this was a game that we should have won. We have literally given Hull the 3 points and it’s a bad takeaway both for the players and the fans. Hopefully, we could get all the points from out next 2 games before we meet Spurs at White Hart Lane. The season is not over and we are still in the top four. It is a wasted opportunity to grab 3 points, but not one that we should be cutting our wrists over. We still have a good 3/4 of the season to play, so let’s reflect and learn from this game, and, hopefully, never play this sort of boring football. Ever.