Saturday, 8 November 2014

A Review of Liverpool's Match against Real Madrid and a Look Forward to the Crucial Tie Against Chelsea

A few days ago, Liverpool lined up against Real Madrid at the illustrious Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in what would turn out to be a special but in the end, a fruitless night. Liverpool could only muster up 4 shots at Iker Casillas’ goal and to make things even bleaker, could only conjure up one shot on target. While this might seem abject and even catastrophic, there were lots of positives to get out of the game and the performance was infinitely better than the ones in recent memory. I make this observation on the fact that I believed once again. I believed that Liverpool could win, even against the best side in the world and there seemed to be light at the end of the long and dark tunnel that this season is turning out to be. While others most definitely might not feel this way, this game could spark resurgence and resurrect the giant of last season. But, as is constantly reminded, you are only as good as your last game and the truth is that the team could not get the points and in a results-based business, that is all that matters. Brendan Rodgers has to carry the positives from this game and utilize it to its utmost. While the eagle or in this case, the LiverBird might not be as powerful or as predatory as before, a wounded bird has the ability to be even more dangerous and that is the message Rodgers must deliver.

Rodgers surprised all of us by playing what looked like a ‘reserve’ team at the Bernabeu with regular starters Steven Gerrard, Raheem Sterling, Jordan Henderson all missing with further catalysts from last season like Phillipe Coutinho also missing. The talk before the match for Liverpool was to expect the worst and hope for something less humiliating. But, the players surpassed all expectations and gave a fair shot when almost everyone had written them off. If was one of the players playing in that team, I would feel insulted and humiliated to be categorized as a reserve player who plays only when the first-teamers need a rest. It was indeed that with the Chelsea game looming over the weekend. But, the team surpassed expectations and did not look out of place against a side of Real Madrid’s caliber. In fact, the performance was arguably better than all of the others of this season bar the win at White Hart Lane. There was passion and there was a want to be on the football pitch doing what we all love. No sulking, no diving, no complaining and definitely no biting. Some have regarded this selection as damage limitation. If true, then where does that put 20 million man Dejan Lovren when a 33 year old who is now regarded as a comedy act is trusted to do it rather than him? Where does that put multi-million pound earner Glen Johnson when an uncapped Spanish Under-21 international is entrusted to play ahead of him. The simple fact is Rodgers, in thinking that he picked his substitute players actually picked the better players on forma and it showed on the pitch when you contrast the performance with the one at Anfield, which was mundane to say the least.

We are not football experts or ‘pundits’ but everyone watching the game could tell that Fabio Borini, a player who almost left for QPR over the summer showed more effort in one game than Mario Balotelli in 13. While that is not to degrade the more experienced Italian, it is always uplifting for the crowd and indeed for the team when you see a striker showing commitment to track back and help the team out when under pressure. Unfortunately, Balotelli has not been doing enough of that this season. While it would be unfair to rule him out, Balotelli is running out of chances and with a paltry two goals in 13 games, things are not looking good for him. Balotelli is static in his movement and his nonchalant attitude can sometimes have a negative effect on the team morale. We have seen how the willingness and desire of a single player in Luis Suarez can galvanize the team and Borini can do something similar.

So, this brings us to the match against Chelsea, which will be a dark memory in the back of every single Liverpool fan’s mind after the events of last season. Jose Mourinho’s park the bus tactics got a lot of negative press with it but there can be no arguments that it was successful in stymying the Reds and it did seem like Mourinho had Rodgers’ number. Now, Chelsea come to Anfield with a better attack, better midfield and same solid defence making this an even worse proposition for the Reds. If past games are anything to go by, it will be a feisty encounter and if Rodgers’ remains static in his team selection and refuses to budge with his style, it could end in tears for the men from Merseyside. In my opinion, Rodgers should play this team

Simon Mignolet

Javier Manquillo------Kolo Toure-----Dejan Lovren-----Alberto Moreno

Lucas Leiva

Emre Can-----------------Jordan Henderson

Phillipe Coutinho

Raheem Sterling---------------Fabio Borini

Prediction – 2-0 to Chelsea. I predict the same scoreline from last year because Rodgers just simple refuses to change his team selection and style. There will most probably be no movement and no incision and Liverpool will slowly move towards its downfall.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Newcastle 1 Liverpool 0 - Same Problems Hurt The Reds Yet Again

Yesterday, Liverpool visited St.James' Park to play perennial foes Newcastle United in what turned out to be a very disappointing loss and not the first of a very uninspiring season. A single Ayoze Perez goal was enough to settle the difference between two sides but in reality, it could have been much worse for the Reds. The deficiencies in the team were there for all to see except for the man who matters it seems in Brendan Rodgers. While the easy excuse would be to say that Liverpool are missing Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, the problems are way worse than that. What Liverpool are going through now is not a result of losing two individuals. Brendan Rodgers and the team in general seem to be hiding behind this excuse to mask their poor play. So what can these problems be?

A wise man once said that insanity is doing the same things over an over again and expecting different results and by that definition Brendan Rodgers is indeed insane. But we all know that Rodgers cannot be insane because he is the same man who brought Liverpool to the closest it has ever been to the elusive title. So what is going on? Well, first, Brendan Rodgers has to realise that Liverpool cannot revolve with only one lone man up top. Mario Balotelli is too static in his style to create chances on his own like Suarez did but for some obscure reason, Rodgers is still persisting with it. There have been no signs of positivity or improvement when Liverpool have been playing that system so why persist with it? Every time Liverpool have played with two strikers, they have looked their old selves. Be it Sturridge and Balotelli at Tottenham, Lambert and Balotelli at Hull or Borini and Balotelli at Swansea. Whoever the individuals are, the simple fact is that Liverpool play better when having two up front to lead the line.

The next problem lies with Rodgers' teams selection in general. Liverpool have only played their strongest team on form in only one of the Premier League matches( Tottenham away). In the other games, there have simply been glaring weaknesses in the team lineup. There has been no game where the fans have felt that the lineup is the one that will pickup the points in contrast to last season where fans knew that the team had the game won from the lineup itself. This poor team selection and negligence of better and more pertinent players is simply unacceptable. In crucial games, these kinds of liberties can simply not be taken . There is not way Glen Johnson and Jose Enrique get into that team. But, time and time again they get into the team and there is no justification for this. Joe Allen has his qualities but mainly they are defensive ones and he should be used in games where the team will be on the back foot and composure is needed. In games like the one against Newcastle where Liverpool is expected to lead the attack, Joe Allen should not play as he lowers the team's speed which has been at slower than a snail's at points in the season.

Then comes the much debated and in reality ridiculed defence. Martin Skrtel and Dejan Lovren are never on the same page and look clueless when on the ball. They just keep on passing to each other and back to Simon Mignolet and spoil any chance of counter attacks. They are so weak as well. Whenever faced with a physical presence, the defenders always seem to fold. The prime case is that of Moussa Sissoko who easily tore past the defence like it was not even there. Another thing is that they cannot even clear a ball 10 yards properly. Needless to say that it is unacceptable and has to be changed. Mamadou Sakho has his critics but him and Lovren seem to have much better communication and the quicker they are back to playing together, the better. The defending of set pieces should not even be asked. Liverpool look so vulnerable to set pieces that a single ball floated into the box is like a bomb like against QPR where it seemed like the bottom team could score at will.

In my opinion, these are the three underlying problems in the Liverpool team right now. But, I think that the main origin of these problems have something to do with backstage politics. As said before, Brendan Rodgers is not a bad manager so the fact that the team is suffering from such basic problems is all the more baffling. The simple solution would be to just fix these problems but there is no guarantee given how low the team is on confidence. But even though there is no guarantee, fixing the problems will at least mitigate the damage and could at least improve the level of performance even though the results might not come.