All the excellent work Liverpool did on Tuesday to beat Everton on Tuesday was thrown away in today’s match at West Brom.
Liverpool took the lead in the first half through Daniel Sturridge’s 50th league goal and it looked as though they’d grind out a win that would increase the gap between Liverpool and Everton back to 4 points, until an absolutely amateurish mistake from Kolo Toure. Toure, with time on the ball, just put the ball on a plate for Victor Anichebe, who will never score an easier goal in his career.
It beggared belief because Toure has become a multi-millionaire from football, and you learn as a child not to mess around with the ball near your own penalty box. It was poor from Toure, but he was signed in the summer on a free to provide experience to Liverpool’s young team, so is valuable for the squad, if not starting every game.
Anyway, it wasn’t like Toure was the only one who was poor. Liverpool didn’t play well at all and didn’t do enough to win that one: Liverpool scored with their first shot on target and West Brom keeper Ben Foster didn’t have his busiest game and Liverpool never took control against a side that’s scrapping for points at the wrong end of the table.
West Bromwich Albion, in fairness, played well and got their tactics spot on. They packed the midfield, thereby not allowing the Reds midfield time to pick their passes and load the “SaS” with ammunition. The ‘SaS’ were quiet all day, apart from the goal where Luis Suarez played the ball for Sturridge who had an easy tap-in. But then, West Brom cut the supply lines to the strikers. Pepe Mel, in his 3rd game as West Brom coach, set his team up perfectly.
The Baggies could argue they even deserved to win that. They might feel that Sturridge’s opener was offside – the decision was very tight. And they had a few chances themselves, with Simon Mignolet making some decent stops. Mignolet made some decent stops like he has done since he joined, but when Toure gave it away from Mignolet’s throw for West Brom’s goal, Mignolet was in no man’s land.
Jon Flanagan played OK today and has a chance over the next few weeks with Glen Johnson injured. I was gobsmacked when Brendan Rodgers brought the Liverpool born full-back off for Martin Kelly, a player who hasn’t featured much this season (even though he missed a lot of last season through a serious knee injury) and it showed at times today. Kelly will benefit from getting regular football at right back or centre back (his favoured position), be it at Anfield or on loan somewhere.
Toure didn’t have the best game, even without the error that led to West Brom’s equaliser. Martin Skrtel looked Liverpool’s best defender today, and is probably now one of the first names on the teamsheet. Aly Cissokho actually looked half decent during the first 45 minutes, attacking down the left-hand side well but went anonymous for the second half.
Anonymous was the buzzword for the majority for Liverpool; you could use that to describe Jordan Henderson and Philippe Coutinho, who was subbed for Joe Allen on 74 minutes. West Brom’s tactics meant that Henderson and Coutinho weren’t given time on the ball. I was disappointed Liverpool didn’t sign anyone during the January transfer window, and the most frustrating thing was that Liverpool didn’t even go for any midfielders. That was the ONE position that needed strengthening, and Liverpool and their “transfer committee” ignored it. I’m sure they looked at central midfielders, but they didn’t pursue them as seriously as the likes of Yevhen Konoplyanka, a highly-rated winger.
Nevertheless, Steven Gerrard was the pick of Liverpool’s midfield today. He is playing deeper in the midfield, which I wasn’t sure about, but he is doing very well there, providing an outlet for Liverpool’s defenders and then using his fantastic passing ability to open up defences. However, the Liverpool skipper was very lucky to last the 90 minutes, with a cynical foul at the start of the second half which to me was a clear yellow card, followed by a challenge on Gareth MacAuley that he did get booked for.
The SaS as I mentioned was pretty much anonymous. Suarez had a poor game, wanting too many touches of the ball while in my head, I was screaming “Just hit it, or make the defender/keeper do something.” Sturridge gave Liverpool the lead, but did not have too great an impact otherwise.
The man of the match for Liverpool was Raheem Sterling, who has flourished since returning to Liverpool’s starting eleven at the start of December. He looks a lot stronger and has pace too and did try, which you can’t say for a lot of the players in the Liverpool shirt: which is one of the irritating things about today.
Liverpool simply had no answer to West Brom’s equaliser. Rodgers has done a very good job at Anfield so far, but one criticism is that there’s not a Plan B for when things do not go right. I’ve yet to see Rodgers, in the year & a half he’s been Liverpool manager, make a game-winning change. Of course, the attacking options Liverpool had on the bench today weren’t that promising: Liverpool had the likes of Luis Alberto, Iago Aspas and Victor Moses on the bench, players Liverpool brought last summer and who haven’t set the world alight, and young Jordon Ibe.
Shoot me down for saying this, but Rodgers made a big mistake in letting Andy Carroll go to West Ham United at the start of last season on loan, without giving the big striker a chance to prove himself under new management. He certainly could have been useful today for Liverpool as they never looked like conjuring a response to West Brom’s equaliser. Carroll signed a permanent deal at Upton Park, and given the chance (he’s suspended at the moment after his red card yesterday and has missed a lot of this season through injury) he will prove to be a major asset for them for West Ham: the Hammers struggled when he was injured, and their fortunes have had an upturn since he returned.
This draw capped off a week which turned sour as Liverpool ended January with nobody signed: FSG must take some responsibility for that. That was the opportunity for FSG to back their manager to strengthen the team ahead of the run-in, but they blew it, signing commercial deals with Vauxhall as an “automotive partner,” Indonesian airline Garuda Indonesia to supply the training kit and Dunkin’ Donuts instead of signing players who might have come in and aided Liverpool’s efforts.
Liverpool can realistically challenge to get into that fourth spot and win the FA Cup. They are only just in the driving seat for the former at the minute, and could be running into Arsenal at a good time. Liverpool will also hope to see key first team players return soon. They will also be hoping that the lack of January transfer activity doesn’t come back to bite them at the end of the season.