Coutinho deserves special mention for his own contribution to a frustrating game of 24 shots on goal for Liverpool, where the need for a striker has not been more obvious. There was no denying that the Reds played well against an inspired defence, however referee decisions and an exceptional performance from Bogdan forced Liverpool into a replay to be played on 2nd February. So what stopped Liverpool from scoring, was it the stubborn opposition or a lack of an out and out centre forward?
Sterling has taken on the responsibility of playing the striker role for Liverpool with aplomb, however this is not his natural position and it showed. Too many touches of the ball were often taken and some wrong decisions made. Sterling’s pace is always a problem for the opposition but it is evident that asking him to provide Liverpool’s goals consistently is perhaps too much. The superb individual goal against Chelsea was fantastic but asking that of Sterling every game could be unrealistic at this point. How will Liverpool’s board react to the need for a top class striker? The good news is that Sturridge’s return is imminent and it couldn’t come quick enough for Liverpool.
Midfield offers chances in abundance
At the moment Liverpool’s midfield is alive with playmakers. Coutinho, Lallana, Markovic and Henderson today showed their attacking mind-set and came together to create chance after chance. Especially inventive was the Brazilian number 10, always thinking innovatively and making something out of nothing. Coutinho had the most shots on goal today, topping the list with six. Not only did he provide some ingenious through balls but he made every single run a problem for the opposition defence. Coutinho offers the spark and he keeps getting better.
Lazar Markovic displayed his quality again today. Making some audacious forward runs cutting through Bolton’s defence, he created some brilliant chances which just needed the final ball. Possessing pace, fine link up play and fearlessness Markovic is growing confidently into Liverpool’s system and contrastingly to the start of the season, the side looks more threatening with his inclusion.
Henderson captained the side with authority and showed his stature in being able to take over from Gerrard. He commanded his team and provided some wonderful crosses. Henderson possesses the ability to pick out players and his passes are often catalysts for excellent goal scoring opportunities. The only thing we need to see more of from Henderson is shots on target when in good positions. He needs to add goals to his game as his two shots on goal matched only that of Glen Johnson.
Defence shows consistency
This season’s frustration comes from poor defensive form however today Liverpool kept a clean sheet despite some worrying moments from Mignolet. Manquillo, Enrique and Johnson started after long absences but the Reds dealt with Bolton’s chances without too much trouble. Towards the end Lucas was introduced to add some calm and solidity which he provided. The midfielder had his own chances on goal too, though the fact none of them were converted added to the frustration culminating in the dying minutes of the game.
Too many changes?
If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, so the saying goes. Did Rodgers’ inclusion of Enrique, Johnson and Allen tinker too much with a side that needed to hold on to the consistency and togetherness shown in recent weeks? The positive side to this is that even with these changes Liverpool did not concede. However this game could have been wrapped up with only one goal and Liverpool did not make the most of many set piece opportunities presented to them. Set pieces must improve, whether in attack or defence. Irrespective of this however, Liverpool are still in the FA cup and favourites to go through.
Stretching their unbeaten run further the positives are still building for Liverpool and with the return of Sturridge an exciting team is shaping up. Until then it’s all eyes on the fixture against Chelsea in the Capital One cup where the Coutinho show will again be eagerly anticipated.