When even your centre back is contributing more in attack than defence, you know that you’ve thrown caution to the wind and are just going all out for goals. But goals are what win you games, and while no doubt Brendan Rodgers and his coaching staff are working hard every day to shore up our leaky defence, the fact is that we are winning games right now and winning them convincingly. And if it ain’t broke, why fix it?
Shipping three goals away to Cardiff City isn’t ideal, but scoring six against any Premier League opposition is an impressive feat. We proved against Southampton and Man Utd that we are capable of keeping things solid at the back, so there really is no need for any drastic changes that might hamper our attack, just to keep an extra clean sheet or two.
The manager has stated numerous times that he wants us to set up to work entirely as a team, so every one of the eleven has a role to play on and off the ball at all times. We can’t argue that the balance of our strengths is tilted more towards attacking play, as our defenders at the weekend demonstrated with Martin Skrtel getting himself a brace, and Glen Johnson claiming an assist to contribute to the half a dozen goals we managed. But with a dominant centre back like Skrtel and a technically gifted right back in Johnson, we are simply playing to our strengths in encouraging them to get forward and support the attack.
We always set ourselves up to score the maximum amount of goals possible. Look at how Steven Gerrard has effectively taken over from Lucas Leiva’s place in the team. The Brazilian certainly adds that extra protection to our defence, but he doesn’t provide the passing range that our skipper does which allow us to start counter attacks so quickly. So on paper it may seem like a solution to our defensive problems would be to get Lucas back in the team, but it’s not as simple as that and there would also be consequences on our attacking game.
Another solution may be to ask Jordan Henderson and Joe Allen to sit deeper and aid the back four, but it is their work further up the pitch, hassling and harrying the opponents and making selfless runs and movements, which opens up the space for Suarez, Sturridge, Sterling or Coutinho to exploit. With those two further back, we would be inviting pressure and leaving our forwards isolated. Our quality up top doesn’t necessarily mean that the goals would completely dry up, but we certainly wouldn’t be scoring as many as we are.
There is no sure-fire way to guarantee clean sheets, but we do seem to have found a system that enables us to score in near enough every game. It may just be case of improving on the personnel we have at the back and watching as our defence naturally improves with time. Daniel Agger hasn’t seemed himself since returning from injury, Kolo Toure has dropped the occasional clanger, and Jose Enrique has missed a huge chunk of the season.
But until that can be rectified in the summer, I see no need for any major changes to how we play. So we probably do let in more than our fair share of goals, but at the rate we’re scoring it may just be a sacrifice worth taking. We might be perched on the edge of our seats as we watch our games go end to end with goals flying in all over the place, especially in the midst of our best title challenge in years, but come the final whistle we can usually let out a sigh of relief that we have come out on top. To ask for more than that would just be picky.
By James Nelson (@_James_Nelson_)