By Adam Jones @adamjones_28
Mario Balotelli has his much publicized problems right now, going six Premier League games without a goal since returning to England and producing some questionable performances in recent weeks. Aside from a spirited display in the Merseyside derby, his performances have lacked the necessary commitment and temperament that Liverpool fans are used to and demand from their team. The first goal on Sunday epitomised Balotelli at the moment; turning his back on proceedings and throwing his arms down by his side – only to turn around to see Richard Dunne had turned Glen Johnson’s cross into his own net.
Balotelli’s attitude is hardly likely to fill his teammates with confidence – something that has been clearly noticeable all season so far in Phillipe Coutinho. The young Brazilian’s ability is founded on belief and with Balotelli flailing his arms around and failing to make the type of breathless running that a certain Uruguayan did last season, Coutinho has struggled to make his mark at all.
Balotelli’s style; direct and into feet, looking to find a yard on a defender before unleashing a shot, also fails to accommodate the plethora of creative talent behind him – specifically Coutinho.
Coutinho’s brilliance can only be exercised when he has options to slide through passes for players making runs behind the defence. We saw that on Sunday with the Reds’ decisive goal – Sterling’s run was clever and Coutinho’s pass with the outside of his foot was breath-taking. If you look at his best assists from last season, namely Sturridge’s goal in the first half demolition of Arsenal at Anfield – Coutinho perfectly found Sturridge who had peeled off Per Mertesacker before finishing with aplomb.
Compare that with this season, however, and Coutinho’s performances have been well below par considering his pre-season form. At home to Aston Villa, in particular, the Brazilian struggled to dictate play the way he would like to with very little happening in front of him. With only the sluggish figure of Balotelli ahead of him, Coutinho’s willingness to play the killer pass was flawed given the options weren’t there to do so in the first place. He either reluctantly looked to go wide or force uncharacteristic one-twos more synonymous with players like Jack Wilshere. That performance epitomises Coutinho’s problems this season and it all stems from Balotelli’s style and attitude.
Bear in mind that on the eve of the season’s curtain raiser following an inspired display against Borussia Dortmund at Anfield, many were demanding Rodgers to build his side around the little Brazilian. A cameo performance on Sundayshould reinforce the manager’s faith in the number 10 – but only if he changes his tactics upfront.
Real Madrid is an exception – any result would be a huge bonus, but with Sturridge out for another fortnight or so, Rodgers could tinker with his side in the league by giving Sterling an even more advanced role in Sturridge’s absence. With Balotelli not even scoring he offers nothing to the side, but with Sterling making his dynamic movement off the last defender, Rodgers knows he has an alternative at his disposal to the current problems.
Last season’s explosive attacking displays, which took the team so close to the title, were based on the unpredictability of the forward players. Balotelli is the antithesis to this dynamism – static, predictable and lazy. For Coutinho to thrive and re-establish the side’s attacking fervour, Rodgers has to address this issue.
On the eve of the Champion’s League match against Real Madrid Chris goes through Jamie Carragher’s MNF prediction and throws his own out there as well!
The 3-2 win over QPR papered over the cracks of what was another poor performance. Yes we have our reasons for not being quite at our best, but team cohesion and injuries are something you have to plan for well in advance, and we knew these would be issues we’d have to deal with.
We made some big changes in the summer, but not big enough that it should be taking this long to adapt, and having this much of an effect on our performance in the meantime. We haven’t significantly changed the way we play, and we brought in players who were supposed to slot right into our way of working. In the first few games, you could accept the odd moment of misunderstanding or miscommunication. But by now, it shouldn’t be a problem. Look at the way Southampton had similar, if not even more, changes to their team, yet have knuckled down and become even better. We can’t keep claiming that we’re in transition or still gelling, as it’s becoming a bit of a cop out.
We’ve also been unlucky with injuries. But we had an entire summer and a very substantial transfer budget to address the issue of our squad depth. Daniel Sturridge is an injury-prone player, so we knew we’d have to account for his absence at some point in the season. We signed Mario Balotelli and Rickie Lambert, neither of whom have scored a league goal for us this season. We seem very hesitant to give Lambert a run of games, which confuses me. I can’t say I was all for signing the England international in the summer, but Brendan Rodgers clearly was. But now the opportunity is coming up to use him, and we’ve decided he isn’t even good enough to displace a very out of form Balotelli. He just appears to be a signing to make up the numbers, when perhaps we would have been better off spending more on an established player, who we would trust 100% to use if needed. Considering the gamble that signing Balotelli was, one that is not paying off at the moment, we really needed to reinforce our strike force a bit more than we did.
We also started the season with Steven Gerrard seemingly set as our defensive midfielder/deep-lying playmaker, but now we’re back to trying him further forward because he hasn’t been offering enough protection to our defence. That leaves us short a defensive midfielder though, with either Lucas Leiva, who hasn’t been his best for well over a year, or the inexperienced Emre Can the only real candidates. Again, this is an issue we should have foreseen in the summer and dealt with when we had the chance.
Defensively we have simply been a shambles this season. Every ball into the box seems to cause chaos, and opponents are probably just as confident of scoring against us from a corner as from a penalty. The ‘lack of leadership’ line has become a bit of a cliché, and it’s more the lack of quality that worries me at the moment. The defenders shouldn’t need someone shouting at them telling them to go and clear a standard high ball. Or stick to their man on a set piece instead of ball watching.
What’s really worrying is that mentally we are beginning to doubt ourselves, and you can see this nervousness and lack of belief in our play. Making mistakes is one thing, but they happen to everyone. What I don’t like to see is players buckling under pressure, and showing a negative attitude when things don’t go their way.
For all our failings, nothing is yet a disaster. Considering our performance levels, things could be a lot worse for us. But we can’t keep using the same excuses, and should just accept the fact that we need to get better, and quick. We have Real Madrid up next, and at the rate we are making mistakes, you could forgive the neutrals for thinking we’re going to get battered. So we need to look at it as an opportunity to put on a proper performance, and get back to the level we were at last season. When we were convincingly beating Arsenal, Everton, Man U, Tottenham, Man City etc at Anfield last year, we were desperate for these big Champions League games to come along to test ourselves against Europe’s best. Now the moment has come, and we can’t throw it away and cave in just because we’ve got a couple of injuries and the squad haven’t gelled yet. Come on Liverpool, time to man up.
By James Nelson (@_James_Nelson_)
Liverpool came away with 3 hard fought points after injury time mayhem at Loftus Road. The Reds twice led through a Richard Dunne own goal, and a great Phil Coutinho run and strike, and were twice pegged back by Vargas. With time running out, Liverpool snatched the winner as Steven Caulker converted Raheem Sterling’s cross.
Liverpool grabbed three vital points against Queens Park Rangers this afternoon in a thrilling encounter where it seemed both sides were intent on throwing away the chance to finish a game that was time and again, there for the taking.
Own goals from Richard Dunne and Steven Caulker, a brace from Eduardo Vargas, and a Philippe Coutinho drive summed up a memorable afternoon in the capital. Laurel and Hardy made a film once called County Hospital and for the faint hearted, that’s exactly where they’d end up if they watched this one! Even those two masters of comedy would have struggled to conjure up something to even rival this.
Brendan Rodgers is clearly reading The LFC File match preview because he started with Emre Can in front of the back four, Steven Gerrard just ahead of Jordan Henderson and a front three of Raheem Sterling, Adam Lallana and Mario Balotelli. Glen Johnson kept his place at right back and Jose Enrique was preferred at left back in place of Alberto Moreno. Martin Skrtel and Dejan Lovren in the centre. This in my view was an ideal set up to give some assistance to Balotelli and play more to his strengths. What Rodgers didn’t do though, is instil some fight in the side.
QPR set about Liverpool in the same way that all of their opponents have this season. Physical, pressing hard and crowding Balotelli out of the game. The hosts almost went ahead on a couple of occasions with Charlie Austin and Bobby Zamora in combative mood and constantly first to every forward ball. Colin Pascoe told the official LFC website “We always say ‘start quickly and move the ball quickly’…”. I’m not altogether sure who exactly they “say” that to because on this evidence, it isn’t the team. Having said that, there were some positives to take from the first half.
Emre Can slotted in seamlessly into the midfield and was one of a handful of players to make a difference. Most of the team seemed quite subdued as they huffed and puffed throughout the first period and were lucky to go into half time without conceding after Leroy Fer twice hit the bar.
The second half began in less frantic fashion and Liverpool were looking more dangerous. Steven Gerrard was more withdrawn and Emre Can pushed forward to good effect putting through two or three passes between the home side defence. For me, it looked as if Liverpool would go on to win such had the tide turned. However, QPR still looked dangerous and on 66 minutes, Rodgers made a double substitution. Joe Allen and Coutinho on for Can and Lallana. A minute later, the visitors took the lead. An own goal from Dunne after a quick free-kick caught the defence napping. His half-hearted clearance beating the helpless Alex McCarthy.
Just when it seemed as if Liverpool would stagger across the line and claim the spoils, the ghosts of defences past and present came to haunt us in spectacular style. on 87 minutes, Vargas beats Mignolet with a looping header. 1-1, squeaky bum time. A minute later, the first of four minutes injury time signalled by the fourth official, Coutinho cut in from the left of the QPR defence to unleash a right-footed drive past McCarthy following a flowing move reminiscent of the real Liverpool. 2-1 and back in the driving seat. Less than a minute later, Vargas heads in at the near post from a corner. 2-2 and Christmas had arrived for the hosts.
With 92 minutes on the clock, Coutinho ran toward the home defence before pushing a slide-rule through ball into the stride of Sterling. Looking up, the youngster squared to Balotelli for what would have been a fairytale end for him in a match where he’d missed two golden chances to put the game to bed. It wasn’t to be. Steven Caulker was on hand to convert it for him. Own goal and 2-3. Despair coursed through the home crowd, instantly replacing the jubilation that engulfed them just moments earlier. The hosts were ahead on points, only to allow drop their arms and take a haymaker to the jaw. Lights out. Good night.
Liverpool didn’t deserve to win this on the face of it. However, I have a saying, the best team always wins on the day. For all the word deserve get’s pushed around, the best team scores more than the other. However it comes. Point.
Brendan Rodgers has some serious thinking to do. Personally I felt Can and Lallana, the whole Liverpool side for that matter were beginning to make inroads into QPR. I would contend that the substitutions done more harm to the side than good. Notwithstanding Coutinho scoring. They looked as if they were going to do that anyway by the time the changes were made. Apparently there was a scout in the crowd from Real Madrid. His notes must have been wet from tears of laughter after seeing this.
Liverpool are now fifth. Don’t ask me how but they are. Simply due to determination and a bit of luck. Truth is, if they want to stay there, they’re going to have to improve. Monumentally.
Follow me on Twitter: @Mrbengreen
Page 1 of 1,19812345...102030...»Last »