The game against Leicester showed that Captain Fantastic is still etched into Liverpool’s success story. Steven Gerrard is the adrenaline to Liverpool’s body, personifying the fight or flight instinct on the football field. His performance showed a grit in attack during Tuesday’s away fixture and will have given everyone a lift. Finally played in an attacking position, Gerrard was released and this brought out the very best of his qualities. Watching him was like watching a pin ball buzz around- he had the license to roam and it worked. However his counterpart must not be overlooked- Lucas Leiva’s role made this possible.
Gerrard Advanced and Enhanced
What we saw against Leicester was a team beginning to look like a threat. In the absence of a prolific striker Gerrard’s advanced role allowed an experienced team member to create and produce an attack minded style of play while the defence was covered by Henderson and Lucas. At times Gerrard was Liverpool’s most advanced player and this was a breath of fresh air compared to what we have seen so far this season. Gerrard has always been and always will be an attack minded player- his natural instinct is to go at teams and there is no use in trying to play him in a defensive role all the time. It was evident that this new freedom gave everyone else a boost.
Lucas Shows Prowess
Every team needs a balance and Liverpool’s team selection on Tuesday showed much more of that. Lucas and Henderson worked well to contain the home side, enabling their team mates to pick up the ball and launch an attack. Lucas earned his third straight start of the season and probably his next. Boasting a 100% tackle success rate on Tuesday, Lucas was vital to intercepting and getting the ball back for the team- an imperative part of any dominating side. We can thank Rafa for seeing this strength in Lucas and honing his skills to make him the defensive player he is now. Lucas’s mentality is about protecting his team and he does that brilliantly. While Gerrard thinks about getting forward, Lucas thinks about staying back; the perfect yin yang existence.
Unfortunately Liverpool’s defence was still shaky and Mignolet and Skrtel had particularly bad days. The absence of Sakho at the moment is really starting to tell. What is the remedy for the goal keeping weakness? Should Jones step in and be given a chance or is the manager right to stick to his number one? Mignolet is a great shot stopper but he does not fully command his space and decision making is not a strength. Perhaps a run on the bench, akin to what Hart went through at one point, is what Mignolet needs to gain his confidence back. Lapses in concentration have led to concessions in goal and an authoritative leader is needed badly. Lambert continues to get into great positions but needs to keep his eye on the defence around him. His tally of breaching the offside rule totalled five- this is unacceptable at his age and stage.
Although Liverpool dominated possession, only three shots on target were created and fortunately these were all converted. In total very little chances were created and this has been the deadweight dragging them down. Having only registered a further four shots off target it is evident the lack of a striker is still very much the problem but what we can take away is that we saw a starting point in the shape of the team.
Celebrating the Positives
Resilience and determination showed in Liverpool’s comeback after scoring an own goal. This was the first time they have managed to win a game after coming from behind this season. Winning beautifully was last season’s hype. Due to Liverpool’s mental fragility, winning in itself has been infrequent so the ability to win ugly should be celebrated. Henderson and Lallana getting on the score sheet will inject some much needed belief from which they can build. Sterling showed his proficiency in taking players on and made some masterful runs.
A consistent starting eleven is much needed at the moment and this spirited performance will hopefully give the manager renewed belief in himself and the players’ abilities. With Sunderland at home next it could be the perfect way to mark a winning streak. The balance of qualities within the team contributed to its success, now the mental hard work starts as Liverpool look to continue their climb up the table.