“Shambles” is one of the kindest words used to describe Liverpool’s display against Hull City as the Reds slipped up in their quest for a Champions League place.
Bearing in mind December is always a crucial month in the English football season, with lots of games in quick succession, the fixture list threw up some very difficult games, with trips to Tottenham, Manchester City and Chelsea on the immediate horizon. The last thing that Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool needed was the news that Daniel Sturridge had rolled his ankle and would miss this month, and a lot of January.
What else Liverpool didn’t need was a very poor performance as Liverpool left Kingston upon Hull with everything their performance merited: nothing.
It wasn’t ever going to be an easy game, with Hull City being a newly promoted side and having made a steady start to the season. Their fans would also have been up for it, with the controversy over their proposed, and utterly insane, name change (I do hope that they stay as Hull City AFC), and the fact that one of the Premier League’s big guns were coming to town.
Liverpool however really didn’t help themselves, giving the ball away cheaply on too many occasions.
With such a tough schedule coming up, rotation and harnessing all the members of his squad is important. Raheem Sterling and Victor Moses were brought in after spells in the cold, but neither covered themselves in glory. Sterling hasn’t been the first name on the teamsheet like he was this time last year, and it showed at times today. Moses put in a performance that perfectly encapsulated why Chelsea were so keen to let him go out on loan in the summer.
Moses must take responsibility for the first goal Hull scored, from Jake Livermore. After Liverpool cleared a corner, Moses then lost the ball in a dangerous area, and before one could say “Hot Cheese on Toast,” Livermore had exchanged passes with David Meyler, and had released a 25-yard shot which went into the net via a deflection off Martin Skrtel, who would later score an own goal to seal a deserved three points for Hull.
Liverpool really struggled to get going, playing too many long balls from the back. The best ball playing defenders at the club, Daniel Agger and Mamadou Sakho were on the bench, and if Liverpool want to build their play from the back, one of these two must play, but there is no stability in that defence, but I’ll come onto that later.
In fact, when Liverpool equalised, it was their first shot, which is testament to this and Hull City’s very good organisation.
Jordan Henderson showed great tenacity to maraud forward and win a free-kick in a dangerous area. I thought Luis Suarez was going to take it, given that he scored a very good free-kick last week in the Derby, but Steven Gerrard took it and found the bottom corner.
It was a very good free kick, but it doesn’t mask the fact that Gerrard has been highly inconsistent this season. Yet he managed to dig Liverpool out of a very difficult situation, and at that point I was expecting Liverpool to seize the initiative and try and push on. Yet a goal before half time didn’t materialise.
At half-time, I was expecting Rodgers to change it up. Philippe Coutinho was on the bench, as was Iago Aspas, both of whom have been injured, and I was expecting Moses and Sterling to come off. When this didn’t happen, I began to think that Hull City would have had a chance if they wanted it.
Liverpool had a chance through Suarez, whose shot from an angle was saved by Hull City keeper Allan McGregor. Suarez was anonymous, but that was through no fault of his own: the tactics Rodgers was playing meant that he had absolutely no support and he had to try and do everything on his own. I thought even bringing on Aspas would have been a positive and necessary move.
Chances came and went for both sides. Hull City’s Curtis Davies headed just wide, while Moses’ close range block was bravely blocked by McGregor. By then, Rodgers had brought Coutinho on, which tried to spark Liverpool’s spluttering attack into life, but there was nothing there, and Hull retook the lead after Liverpool couldn’t clear in their own box, Meyler arrowed a shot into the bottom corner.
Liverpool’s centre back pairing didn’t have the best of games, and Rodgers must surely be tempted to change it for the upcoming games. Kolo Toure, back in the team after a spell out, was particularly poor today. Skrtel was OK I think, but Flanagan was probably the pick of Liverpool’s defenders – but that unfortunately says little. Glen Johnson had an afternoon to forget once again, with the right back giving the ball away too cheaply on numerous occasions.
Liverpool fell behind again, and were expected to go for it, but a Suarez free kick was closest they came, going wide with McGregor going close. But Hull found themselves one-on-one and eventually finished the game off, with a Skrtel own goal.
Rodgers has to take a lot of the blame for today’s result. I could see at half time that things needed to change because it was too pedestrian and Suarez was so isolated. Yet he didn’t and it cost Liverpool. I also wish he would keep the centre back pairing consistent because that is an area of the team that needs to be as stable as possible. Unfortunately, now Rodgers might have to change it again. He needs to find a stable starting defensive partnership, because Liverpool’s defensive statistics make for unpleasant reading: one clean sheet in the last 10 games, which isn’t good enough for a team with aspirations of playing in the Champions League next season.
Sadly, when I saw the news that Sturridge left Melwood on crutches, I had kind of expected this to happen. It’s great that Liverpool have the “SaS” but it’s a double-edged sword. It’s great that they are scoring goals, but there could have been an over-reliance on Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez, who have both scored nine goals this season. And so it proved, as Liverpool looked hopeless without Sturridge. Suarez was isolated and needed support, but apart from Aspas, Liverpool do not have anyone else to support Suarez. That may be why I disagreed with the decision to let Andy Carroll leave for West Ham United, even though he’s injured at the minute. He would have offered a Plan B to Liverpool, which is something that is needed desperately. Liverpool have drawn twice and lost three times in the 5 league matches in which they conceded the first goal. Liverpool don’t have a Plan B, and that may also be detrimental to their top four hopes.
Liverpool’s midfield also looked off the pace. Liverpool desperately needed additions to provide solidity and competition for Lucas. They didn’t add to their midfield options, and this becomes critical in January’s transfer window – along with a winger, a left back, and a centre forward. Henderson shows athleticism, but was played in the No.10 position today, which is not his natural position.
This result is a massive blow. It doesn’t fill anyone with confidence going into the latter stages of December, with trips to Tottenham, Manchester City and Chelsea coming up. This is also a crucial month, and Liverpool need to pick up as many points as possible to keep themselves in touching distance of the top four.
One positive, and there are few, is that Liverpool are yet to lose back-to-back league games under Brendan Rodgers in the 17 months he’s been manager. Liverpool’s next game is at home to Norwich City on Wednesday, which is an absolute must-win game now, if it wasn’t already. Anfield also plays host to West Ham United and Cardiff City this month.
The reason it becomes must win is as Liverpool’s place in the top four is not as solid as it was at the start of the weekend. Every dropped point is vital, and if Liverpool drop too many points, at the end of the season the ramifications for the futures of Suarez, Coutinho and especially Rodgers could be huge.
There’s been talk of Rodgers getting a new 5-year contract extension to replace the one that expires at the end of next season. I find this astounding, as although he is trying to implement a philosophy which looks good on the eye, I’d much rather these discussions were happening at the end of the season, when we’ve found out if Liverpool will be playing in Europe next season.
This month will tell us a lot more about whether Liverpool will be playing in the Champions League next season. However, this month has gone off to an absolutely dreadful start, and there is no getting away from that.
Liverpool suffered a frustrating and disheartening defeat, losing 3-1 to Hull City, last season’s Championship runners up. A brilliant Gerrard free kick initially cancelled out Jake Livermore’s earlier deflected goal, but Meyler’s second half strike put Hull ahead, before Skrtel’s unfortunate own goal secured the three points for Hull. Liverpool made three changes from the team who drew 3-3 in last week’s Merseyside derby, bringing in Toure, Sterling and Moses in for Agger, Coutinho and the injured Sturridge. Hull also made changes from the team that lost at home to Crystal Palace, replacing McShane and Boyd with Meyler and Bruce.
The first fifteen minutes saw little action, with both teams struggling to find any passing momentum. Liverpool won several corners, but failed to create any shots on goal, while Hull had various chances to cross the ball into the box, the majority of them being cleared by the head of Skrtel.Given the Slovak’s early dominance at the back, it was unfortunate that he was involved in Hull’s first goal. Moses gave the ball away when attempting to counter, leading to Livermore’s first Premier League goal, a shot from 25 yards cruelly deflected into Mignolet’s goal by Skrtel, who perhaps could have done more to close the Spurs loanee down earlier.
Moses and Sterling both struggled in the first half, as their lack of first team action in recent weeks showed. Moses struggled with his balance and composure down the left hand side, while Sterling simply wasn’t strong enough to deal with Hull’s defenders. As a result, Suarez was isolated up front, missing his usual strike partner, as well as the creativity of Coutinho. Liverpool did finally manage to string some passes together, and this improvement led to Liverpool’s goal. Henderson was brought down by Curtis Davies, winning a free kick in a dangerous position. Gerrard took the free kick, a surprising decision given Suarez’s recent free kick record, but it was a great strike from the captain, scoring his first from outside the box of the season. Even after the goal, Liverpool struggled to impose themselves on proceeding, having a large amount of possession without really creating any decent chances. A weak shot from Suarez and a few dangerous passes were all Liverpool managed during the rest of the half, with Hull happy to soak up the pressure, and come back stronger for the second half.
The first effort of the second half came from Suarez, latching on to Toure’s through ball to attempt to score from a tight angle. The shot was comfortably saved however, and perhaps he would have been better off pulling it back for Moses or Sterling to have an effort. Liverpool continued to dominate possession, but produced no clear cut chances. Hull made a lot more of the possession they did manage, with Curtis Davies’s header drifting just wide from a dangerous Hull free kick. You could almost hear a collective sound of relief from the Liverpool fanbase when Coutinho was brought in place of the ineffective Sterling, and his impact to the team was obvious, hitting two great passes to open up Hull’s defence. It was the away team who should have taken the lead after 70 minutes, when Suarez played a ball across the box to Moses, whose close range shot was saved by McGregor. While it was a great save from the Scot, Moses really should have hit the back of the next from that range. As is so often the case in football, one golden opportunity to score immediately led to the opposing side creating one of their own. Hull got the ball forward, causing havoc in the defence. Toure made two poor clearances, and his third clearance was eventually pounced on by Meyler, whose left footed effort reached the back of the net.
The reaction to Meyler’s goal was disappointing from the Liverpool players, as it never really felt like Rodgers’ side would get back into it. Luis Alberto was brought on in place of Victor Moses, who has yet to show the manager why he deserves to make the starting eleven. Liverpool’s only notable chance was a Luis Suarez free kick from 25 yards, a well struck effort that just missed the target. It was a Martin Skrtel own goal which secured a famous win for Hull City. Huddlestone attempted a chip inside the box, and in Skrtel’s efforts to clear it for a corner, he headed it straight into his own net. Elmohamady almost made it 4-1 in the dying minutes, but his shot was poor and drifted wide of the post.
It was a terrible result for Liverpool, who go to Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester City this month, and saw this as a must-win game to keep with the Champions League chasing pack. The poor second half performance was also disappointing, as it continues a worrying trend. Only twice have Liverpool outscored their opponents after the break, in the 4-1 and 4-0 wins over West Brom and Fulham respectively. Now Rodgers can’t afford any more slip ups, and the matches with Norwich and West Ham are vitally important now. It was easily their worst performance of the season, but they must put it behind and learn from the mistakes that cost them an important three points today.
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.
Dear oh dear, Brendan Rodgers. How wrong could your team selection be? First off, it was evident that Jon Flanagan had to be included after his fine display against Everton last weekend, but here’s the thing, he’s a predominantly right footed full-back playing on the left. This results in two things: one, he’s never going to foray down the left flank and provide width as he’ll always be looking to come in; two, the back line is thus imbalanced, with Glen Johnson hugging the touchline on one side and Flanagan narrow on the left.
This comes to the second point, why no left-legged centre back then? You have two left-footed defenders in club vice-captain Daniel Agger – who admittedly had a poor game last weekend – and the club’s record fee paid for a defender in Mamadou Sakho. Rodgers instead chose right-footed Kolo Toure to partner right-footed Martin Skrtel in defence, meaning one of them had to play uncomfortably on the left-side of central defence.
Thirdly, this game at Hull is the typical tough away game that Liverpool have struggled for the past few seasons, yet Rodgers decided to play inexperienced players. Granted the form of the aforementioned Flanagan, regardless of how inexperienced he is, meant he merited a start, but Raheem Sterling’s first start in two months certainly did not. This was not a game to experiment, especially when you bring in the less inexperienced Victor Moses into the side as well. Too many changes against a tough Hull side…
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Hull took the lead however Stevie G. responded with a quality free kick. Thank you to @MostarLFC for the goal video.
Steven Gerrard Super Free Kick Goal vs Hull City by lfmostar
In the 71st minute Meyler made it 2-1 and then a Skrtel own goal added to the misery and the game ended 3-1.
There was an irritating sense of familiarity this week as news broke of the injury Daniel Sturridge suffered in training this week. Reports have suggested that the in-form striker could be out for anywhere between a month and six weeks, leaving Liverpool in the not so unfamiliar position of being robbed of an important player through injury. Sturridge has been in fine form this season and the England international sits joint-top scorer in the league alongside teammate Luis Suarez, meaning his absence is likely to be sorely felt.
Now, I have had my fair share of complaints about Sturridge in the past (most of which have been horribly unfounded) but not even I can deny his importance to the team, however, with the fixtures we have lined up it may not actually be the end of the world. In fact, as one door closes (albeit temporarily) another door opens, and I believe the circumstances provide the perfect opportunity for that to happen.
With the form of Suarez and Sturridge, and Fernando Torres before them, the strikers from our youth academy have had very little (if any) exposure to the first team and have as a result never been able to fulfill their potential. Adam Morgan is the prime example. The young striker was labeled by Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler as being “one of the best finishers I’ve seen in a long time” but never made the step up to the big league. The young Englishman had many suitors when he burst onto the scene but faded into the shadows of the academy and recently had his young career at the club come to an end. Sadly, he is not the only one to fall short after promising so much and he probably won’t be the last either.
The good news is that there is another star in the academy who has shown all the qualities to be the exception to the norm. In fact, the striker has all the attributes to be a regular first-teamer and shows the potential that could see him become a world class superstar. The man in question – Samed Yesil.
Samed Yesil, who is of Turkish-German descent, joined Liverpool’s academy in 2012 from Bayer Leverkusen and brought with him a reputation of being one of the hottest young strikers around – a reputation well-earned after the starlet scored 57 goals in 71 appearances for the German outfits youth academy. To add to this, Yesil has scored 31 goals in 33 international youth appearances for Germany.
His Liverpool career is yet to take off though but the 19 year old does have two senior appearances for the club – both at cup level. He would surely have featured on a more regular basis but was cruelly shot down by serious injury last season while on international duty. The wonder kid is back to full fitness now though and with Sturridge missing it could be the time to give him his shot.
Yesil is a natural-born striker with a conversion rate well beyond his years and his undeniable talent has seen him being touted as the next Gerd Müller. With incredible awareness and confidence, his head is in the right place too and this, coupled with his sheer ability, means he could become one of the most prolific strikers around.
However, with Victor Moses, Raheem Sterling, Iago Aspas and Luis Alberto all fighting it out for a spot in Liverpool’s attack, the chances of Yesil making into the squad are very slim indeed. But, despite it being highly unlikely, I feel that with the ‘easy’ fixtures we having coming up it would be the perfect timing for Brendan Rodgers to throw the young hitman in and watch how announces himself on the big stage.
By making a straight swap between him and Sturridge, Rodgers would be able to keep a winning formation and at the same time introduce Yesil into an otherwise full strength team against lesser opposition. This would both lower the pressure on him and allow him to play with confidence in his natural position. If ever there was a time for Rodgers to say yes to Yesil, it would be now.
Liam Bekker – @BekkersBlog – www.bekkersblog.webs.com
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