With the international break in full swing, I think it’s time to reflect on Liverpool’s season so far and where I see them going from hereon in this season.
It’s obvious the team hasn’t had the best of starts this season and now have an uphill struggle to rejoin the title race proper. The three losses to Manchester City, Aston Villa and West Ham have raised concerns among the Liverpool faithful. The focus of which has mainly been directed at Brendan Rodgers. Having taken time to reflect, without the immediate post-match emotion, I have to come to the conclusion that things aren’t actually that bad.
The Reds’ aren’t the only side struggling. Look at the table. Chelsea remain the only side with a 100% record which includes one draw. Man City have lost once. Beyond that, all the teams from third to sixth have already lost twice each. This time last year, all the top four sides had only lost one game each. Liverpool included who were in second. Thus it’s fair to assume that if things continue as they are, this may become a low-scoring season in terms of points. Historically the lowest points qualification for the Champions League was 60. Achieved by the Reds in the 2003/4 season. We all know what happened after that. With a fully fit squad, this represents an opportunity for Rodgers and his charges.
Injuries have affected Liverpool badly so far this season. Three of their bast players in Joe Allen, the promising Emre Can and of course, Daniel Sturridge have not played since August and this has been a big factor in the team’s apparent decline. Statistically and practically, the loss of Sturridge has probably been the most telling. Goals win games. Using the striker’s stats of last season, he scored 21 times in 29 games. That’s 1.4 goals a game by my dusty calculator. And say, six goals by my dusty brain, missed during the four games that he’s not played. With a goal difference of minus-one in the sequence, it’s not inconceivable that Liverpool could have won perhaps one and drawn another of the three games lost. Another four points would have put Liverpool in joint second place.
Now, you may say that’s all ‘if’s ‘but’s and ‘maybe’s. But without those little gems can’t be ignored. Otherwise, let’s send Sturridge on holiday for the rest of the season. If it doesn’t matter that much. The fact is, Liverpool are below strength. Joe Allen also has been missed. Probably as much as Sturridge. The midfield has missed his ability to find space and press opposition players out of possession. This has been key. If we look at last season, Allen won 55% of his duels compared to Philippe Coutinho who has played instead of the Welshman this season winning 51%. The former also had a higher passing accuracy at 87% compared to the Brazilian’s 81%.
These two elements have been missing without Allen. Granted, Coutinho created more chances last season. 64 – about 2 per game, compared to just 18 from Allen. However, it’s clear that this season the opposition has sussed this and his lacking of physical ability has been telling. His chances created this term has been less than one per game. Against Villa and West Ham, both his lack of physicality and inability to create chances when closely marshalled has been evident and both games were lost. For this reason, I for one will be happy to have Joe Allen back. Rodgers often describes Allen in terms of “Energy” and when one looks closely at what he brings to the team, a bit of physicality, an ability to retain possession, then it’s easy to see why.
Against West Brom Rodgers pushed Steven Gerrard into a forward position and put Lucas Leiva in the holding midfield position. Lucas, for some reason is a shadow of the player we saw a couple of seasons ago. The benefit of Lucas was that his passing was accurate. over the last couple of seasons he’s managed around 90% pass completion on average. However, his duels statistics are low and I think this is the reason he’s fallen out of favour at Liverpool. So far this season, he’s won only 27% of his duels whereas Emre Can has won 44%. Not a great stat from the latter either but when you consider playing time, it’s more impressive.
The German’s pass completion rate is also 96% so when he’s been called into action, he’s delivered. Lucas on the other hand has completed 86% of his passes. In times when opposition players are pressing hard, passes need to be completed. Can will provide a better alternative to Gerrard and allow the captain to advance upfield where he can do more damage.
Chances are these three will be back for the trip down to Loftus Road to face Queens Park Rangers next Sunday and, for me, it won’t be a moment too soon. Whatever’s passed, we are where we are and as things stand, there’s a chance to improve and get amongst it. It’s still all to play for. Bring it on.
Follow me on Twitter: @Mrbengreen
Thursday Oct 9Posted by: Guest Writer Comments Off
The international break is now fully upon us and with the break from Premier League football, this will give Brendan Rogers the time to review the season so far and hopefully plan how he will attempt to fix the erratic problems that have effected the Reds performances since August.
The defence has once again been poor. It has been under the spotlight more so then last season, because the goals have not flowed in at the other end. This is of course down to the loss of Luis and the fact that Daniel has been out.
With several new players to settle in and ones returning from long term injuries, it is going to take time. The problem is, the side can’t really afford many more slips ups if they hope to keep pace and fight for a top 4 finish come May. The loss of Champions League football next season would be a disaster!
One area Rogers will surely be looking to improve is the number 1 spot. Simon Mignolet is a great shot shooter, but is weak with crosses, poor on set pieces and fails to always dominate his penalty box. He seems to lack the voice that defines top keepers.
The other concern that Rogers will have, what if Mignolet picked up a injury or was sent off? It would leave him short of cover.
He is now in his second season at Anfield and really became number 1 by default. Pepe Reina left the Club on loan and Brad Jones is never really going to push him out of the side. Maybe the best thing for Simon would be some healthy competition. He would then have the required motivation to improve his game. It would also give him somebody else to train with.
By adding a top goalkeeper, it would allow Rogers the opportunity to rest or even drop Mignolet if he feels like he requires a rest or break from the side. England No:1 Joe Hart was dropped last season and he seems stronger then ever because of it!
With goalkeepers in mind, the Club have been heavily linked with Victor Vlades. (32). The ex Barca man enjoyed 12 years at the Nou Camp and is available to join the squad straight away, as he is a free agent.
First, he would need to prove his fitness. Vlades suffered a career threatening injury with his knee and because of the injury, he has not played first team football for months. If he comes to Anfield for a trial and passes a fitness test then, Rogers looks keen to add him to the squad.
The Clubs transfer policy is normally to buy younger players, who can be coached and improved and will always retain a future sell on value. This is a good overall policy, but given the issue with the goalkeeping area and the fact a ready made replacement is available and will cost the Owners no transfer fee, it would be worth signing Vlades to offer competition. The Club will then have brought themselves some time to seek out a long term replacement. The owners could then return to policy, by signing a younger player and potentially loaning him back out to add experience and game time.
If any deal happens to be done, there is a good chance that it will be over the next couple of weeks.
It will be once to keep a eye on!
Thursday Oct 9Posted by: Guest Writer Comments Off
Great news this week is that Daniel Sturridge has signed a new five year contract with the Club. That’s a good signal to sent out, that the top young English players see their future’s at Anfield. Hopefully it will help to encourage the next transfer market targets to sign up when Rogers chooses them!
With Daniel absent from the side for the last few weeks, a great deal has been talked and written about his value and how the side has missed him. All that is of course true. He is a vital member of the starting 11. His work rate, movement and goals are linked to the success of the Reds!
Somebody who is also a key player in the squad, but does not get the same level of press interest, is the “Welsh Xavi” Joe Allen.
Signed by Brendan Rogers for £15 million back in 2012, he has grown into a vital player for the Club. Somebody said to me, they never really understood what Allen did, until he was out of the side injured!
After undergoing a reported double hernia operation, he should be back ready for the QPR game.
Allen had a tough first season, but has become the cog that makes the midfield work. His key features are his intensity in pressuring the opposition. He is a intelligent player, has great composure and bags of tactical discipline. His movement helps the midfield to keep their shape!
With Gerrard getting a little bit slower, Allen is able to take on the role of defensive midfielder. He can play what sometimes appear to be only safe paces, but that is sometimes the best option. His link up play with Gerrard and Henderson is a positive feature of the Reds side.
The target for improvement this season is goals. It will be an area Allen is desperate to improve upon. If Lucas returns to the starting 11, this will allow Joe the chance to show his attacking side more. His intelligent and his clever passing will help the team create the chances that are so far lacking this season.
Hopefully all the Reds players will return with no injuries from international duty. The side can then continue to build upon the positive areas of the West Brom game.
Wednesday Oct 8Posted by: Tom Noon Comments Off
63 minutes into Liverpool’s season. Sterling’s early goal has been cancelled out by a stunning strike from Nathaniel Clyne. Southampton outplaying the club who shelled out almost £50 million for three of their key players. Brendan Rodgers replaces Lucas with Joe Allen, the Welsh midfielder who’s performances have divided the opinion of fans since his £15 million arrival in 2012. His arrival sparks energy into a Liverpool midfield that had become slow and laboured under the control of Gerrard and Lucas. Allen’s more advanced position gives the Reds a greater attacking threat, and his passing puts Liverpool in the driving seat for the first time that afternoon. Sturridge goes on to score the winner, and Allen goes on to start the next two games.
Fast forward to the end of September, Allen has missed the entire month with a knee injury, and Liverpool have suffered, failing to win a Premier League game, requiring a last minute winner to scrape past Bulgarian minnows FC Ludogorets, and a penalty shootout to see off Middlesbrough in the League Cup. While Sturridge was obviously missed during this period, the midfield struggled without Allen’s movement, failing to replicate the fluidity evident in the near flawless 3-0 victory over Tottenham, where the Welshman’s pressing and creativity was crucial to the result. Against Aston Villa and West Ham, Gerrard was soundly immobilised by Gabby Agbonlahor and Stewart Downing, players who were once honoured to merely walk on the same pitch as the Anfield legend. With Allen and Henderson ahead of him, Gerrard not only has more options ahead of him, but the opposing midfield cannot get away with targeting one player, especially when you consider the vibrancy both Allen and Henderson create. Lucas simply doesn’t have the passing ability to replace Allen in the same role, and Henderson on his own found himself isolated on several occasions against Aston Villa.
Allen has never typically been viewed as a vital member of the team, branded as ‘light-weight’ and ‘ineffective’ by certain sections of the fanbase after his first season. Neat sideways passing appeared to many to be the extent of his game, with precious few goals and assists to boast. Yet the midfielder has always embodied the style of play Rodgers had envisioned for the club, and as the players have grown to understand the manager’s way of playing the game, Allen’s game has become more effective. When Gerrard was injured during Christmas last season, Allen stepped up remarkably, started 6 of the 7 games in December. While he played in narrow losses at the Etihad and Stamford Bridge, he was instrumental in the 5-0 thrashing of Tottenham, and controlled comphrensive victories over Norwich, West Ham and Cardiff.
The diamond formation adopted for much of last season often used Coutinho rather than Allen. However with the Brazilian making an indifferent start to the season, Allen had excelled in his opportunities until his injury. This formation appears to suit the former Swansea man down to the ground, encouraging quick, concise interplay between the midfield, and a high level of fluidity, making it easier to build up attacking moves. While some have yet to forgive Allen for his shocking miss in last season’s Merseyside Derby, the fact remains that the best football Liverpool have played this season has been while he’s been on the pitch. While Allen may never score as many goals as Gerrard, or show the passion of Henderson, there’s no reason why he can’t become a fan favourite if he keeps up his early form.
Having had a chance to play FIFA 15 in depth, the lads wonder whether Liverpool are rated highly enough on the game. Chris takes a closer look at the in-game and real life stats of Daniel Sturridge, Jordan Henderson and Adam Lallana compared to Wayne Rooney, Jack Wilshere and… Tomas Rosicky?
As Steven Gerrard finished the West Brom match in the number 10 position Chris and Paul look into his effect on the game and ask whether or not he should continue to play there.
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