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Another injury blow for The Reds as the skipper, Steven Gerrard, injured his hamstring and asked to be substituted on ’56 minutes. Without the talisman, our central midfielder will be shorted to three, with Lucas, Allen, and Henderson left. Just when we think we’ll be okay, there’s another victim. Henderson is doubtfully to play on our visit to Tottenham Hotspurs. Not sure what injury he has got but that makes the matter worse, where our CM will be shorten to two. Lucas-Allen would likely to be the double pivot on our visit to Tottenham
Before those problem appeared, Sturridge and Enrique were forced to be absent until at least February. What makes me worried is that in our next 5 fixtures, we will have hard away games against Spurs, Chelsea and Man. City. However, the other top 6 teams also have to clash each other like Arsenal, Chelsea, City, Spurs, and Everton also have to clash each other
Versatility is the key here. When Sturridge is injured, Suarez has done very well being lone striker, scoring 5 goals in a row within two home games. Flanagan can pay the boss’ trust while replacing Enrique on the left back despite being right-footed and rarely played on the left (but he done that on LFC reserve games). Now move to CM position. When only Lucas and Allen left as natural CM / DM, what will the boss do to rotate the the squad while those two players being tired and still we have to visit Chelsea and Man. City?
Here are my solution, opinion based:
1. Back to 3 Center Back formation
Playing Toure/Agger with Skrtel and Sakho is my 1st choice. If you have 3 CB on the back, your pivot don’t have to duel that much and can minimize the ‘dirty tackle’ when lost possesion because within 3 CB, 1 CB will be wait inside the penalty box (like Srtel always does) and can do important clearance when needed. And the build up play from the back can be managed comfortably because 2 ball playing CB in Agger and Sakho
2. Agger or Sakho as CM with Lucas, Allen on AMF
I hope that Agger will be fit against Spurs, or if not, Sakho can be pushed a bit forward. Why Sakho? Because he is faster than Kolo and Skrtel and he can pas the ball well (92.1 % accuracy answered that), his 1.6 tackle per game and 2.6 interceptions per game can be very helpful. His physical duel can ease Lucas or Allen who has slender body.
3. Alberto to starts as AM
Now it’s time for our playmaker to play in his favorite position, Attacking MF. His through ball and game reading ability can help our forwards, he can switch position with Coutinho (2 playmaker is better than one, isn’t it?), so Allen and Lucas can be focused as pivot and contribute to defense in our 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 formation.
With Gerrard, Enrique, and Sturridge to comeback at least on February, while Henderson is expected to return on Chelsea and City games, I hope that we also can get maximum points against Cardiff and Hull. I also hope a good signing will come on early January. Up The Reds ! YNWA
As we close in on the halfway mark of the season, it is an indescribable joy to see our beloved club ranked second on the league table. To accumulate 30 points from the first fifteen games, or an average of two points per game, is clearly UEFA Champions League qualification form.
Of course, the season is still young. But if we can continue winning points at the same pace for the rest of the season, and finish the season with 76 points, it will be near insanity if that point total does not get us into next season’s UEFA Champions League.
Over the past 10 seasons, from 2003-04 to 2012-13, the lowest number of points to clinch fourth spot was 60. That was us in 2003-04, and as history would have it, we went on to win the big one in Istanbul the season after. Over the same period, the highest number of points to clinch fourth spot was 76. That was also us in 2007-08, or the season before our closest title fight in recent memory.
At this point, may I suggest another way to better analyse an entire season. Let’s start by breaking the season down into smaller blocks of five games each, and leave the last three games of the season as a mini-block.
If we look at last season’s respective records for the top seven teams, you will find Manchester United remarkably consistent, recording 12 points each from its first three blocks of five games, turning on the style over the 16th and 25th games, and completely demoralised the chasing pack by winning all its games in the 6th block. After that, Manchester United was basically on cruise control as it went on to claim Fergie’s final title before his (first!?) retirement.
Coming back to stuff closer to our hearts, we are all well aware of that worst start in 101 years we had last season. After the first block, we stumbled along subsequently on our way to seventh place. While our play undoubtedly improved during the second half of last season, we were still only good enough to average 1.6 to 1.8 points per game for the rest of last season.
On a much happier note, we have displayed remarkable consistency by recording 10 points each from the first three blocks of games this season, en route to our current second place. Our point tally at this stage is also better than that of any season since our recent peak in 2008-09, when we had 34 points after 15 games. Furthermore, we have scored more goals and have a better goal difference than that of any of the last five seasons, including the fabled 2008-09 season.
Apart from secretly rejoicing the predicament that Manchester United is currently in, it is perhaps also heartening to see Tottenham, a close rival for a coveted top-four spot, progressively recording fewer points over the first three blocks. And during the third block of games, our point tally also matched those of Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal.
Looking ahead, the next block of games must be our litmus test for the first half of this season. Within the fourth block will be away games to Tottenham, Manchester City and Chelsea, all within a fortnight. Make no mistake; games against these teams will be tough even if they are played at Anfield. Considering the recent injuries to Stevie G and Sturridge, this could easily be the beginning of the end of our promising season. Though I certainly hope it won’t be!
However, the block of five games analysis does not take into account of the quality of the opposition and is inherently flawed. Another way to look at our season so far is to compare the results of the corresponding fixtures last season to the games that we have played this season. However, promotion from and relegation to the second tier mean we cannot face the same 19 opponents twice this season. In order to address this issue, I will compare the results of last season’s games against Wigan (18th in the Premier League in 2012-13), Reading (19th) and Queens Park Rangers (20th), respectively to those of the games this season against Cardiff (1st in the Championship in 2012-13), Hull (2nd) and Crystal Palace (playoffs winner).
And after 15 games, against the same, or similar, opponents at home, or away, we have scored nine more goals but conceded eight more than this stage last season. As a result, we have improved our goal difference by one and increased our point tally by five. This way of comparing this season to the last is probably superior to the block of five games analysis. And it tells us that we are indeed better than last season, but perhaps not 11 points better after 15 games.
I will be the first to admit that this article is nothing more than an academic exercise. And I am definitely hoping for more positives to come out of our team during the rest of the season. Let’s hope for good showings from our next few games and that we are still in one of the Champions League spots after 20 games. What am I saying!? I mean after 38 games! Hahaha…
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This could be seen as job done, completing the bare minimum expectations of six points from nine after dropping the first three against Hull at the start of the week. It could also be seen as job just about done, since it arguably should have been at least seven if not the full nine.
Brendan Rodgers’ side played pretty well against Sam Allardyce’s West Ham United side, with old boys Stewart Downing and Joe Cole having some time on the pitch of their former club, while Andy Carroll continued to sit out with a long-term problem. For the 20 minute period before and after half-time, Liverpool looked immense, moving the ball around with aplomb and crispness, interchanging their positions and trying to get in behind the defence. The other periods saw the Hammers try to get back into the game, mostly with long punts or crosses into the box, which Mamadou Sakho and Martin Skrtel dealt pretty decently – albeit the latter’s own goal came from some aerial pressure.
Joe Allen did improve on his decent performance from midweek against Norwich. With Steven Gerrard and him constantly switching between who goes forward and who sits back, Allen – when going forward – managed to find his team-mates in tight situations and did take on and dribble at the opposing defenders. When Lucas came on to replace Gerrard around the 60 minute mark, this allowed Allen to press higher up and freed him to go forward more, knowing Lucas would sit back. When West Ham got back to 2-1 and had some control of the game, Allen and Lucas, along with Jordan Henderson, formed a robust shield in front of the defence that stopped the likes of Mohamed Diame and Kevin Nolan from supporting Madibo Maiga.
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Further, Raheem Sterling also improved on his goal and performance against Norwich. He constantly ran in behind the defence from Philipp Coutinho’s low as well as lofted through balls, and almost got an end to a few of them, most noticeably the shot that ended up just wide of Jussi Jaaskelainen’s far post. Sakho had an immense game at the back, dealing with most of the high balls and keeping Maiga in check – except for that one chance when Matt Jarvis found Maiga’s head, which drew a superb save from Simon Mignolet that even his opposite number Jaaskelainen applauded along with the Anfield faithful.
Luis Suarez, not as spectacular as midweek of course, still managed one headed goal from yesterday’s stand-in vice-captain Glen Johnson’s pinpoint cross, and also one deflected goal after feigning the West Ham defenders two, maybe three times.
Trip to White Hart Lane
As was the philosophy of looking at it one game at a time, this month has necessitated the need to look at the games in batches. Rodgers has navigated out of the first batch of December fixtures with some good performances but an above average points haul. How his side will fare in the next batch of fixtures before the new year will define Liverpool’s season. With away trips to Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester City, along with the last home game of 2013 against Cardiff (not an easy fixture either – just ask City and David Moyes), this batch of four games should hopefully yield around eight or nine points out of a possible twelve – a win at either away match and two draws at the other two away games along with a Cardiff win. This is the most ideal and realistic hope for Rodgers to end the year on the high and in the running for a top 4 place…
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Saturday saw Liverpool come out on top in another thrilling Anfield performance, beating West Ham 4-1 to go 2nd in the Premier League. In a cagey first half that saw Mignolet make one world class stop to keep them level, the Reds broke the deadlock with a Guy Demel sized slice of luck. Liverpool added a 2nd through Mamadou Sakho early In the 2nd half, before being pegged back by a Martin Skrtel own goal. A Suarez inspired sided pressed back again though as the Uruguayan had a sot deflected in, and then headed home at the back post to seal the victory.