What’s gone wrong at Liverpool FC and what can be done to fix it? Vital Liverpool editor Gavin Kelley-Day takes a look at some key issues on the pitch…
Two consecutive defeats at such a formative stage of the season wouldn’t normally be the catalyst for such ire but when set against the backdrop of last season and this summer’s extensive squad and coaching overhaul it’s no wonder many Liverpool fans are calling for manager Brendan Rodgers to be sacked.
Up until now I’ve been a staunch supporter of the Northern Irishman but the last two results, and perhaps more crucially the performances involved, have simply not been good enough.
We’ve seemingly not moved on one iota from the dark days of Crystal Palace and Stoke City at the end of last season. The only real discernible difference now is that Rodgers is running out of excuses to explain away his team’s persistent failings.
The former Swansea City boss got the backing of owners Fenway Sports Group at the end of last season – while others were thrown under the bus it shouldn’t be forgotten – and then proceeded to bring in £80m of his own transfer targets, but the same glaring issues still remain.
At the back, Simon Mignolet, Martin Skrtel and co. still seem convinced that they were Franz Beckenbauer in a previous life no matter how many times they are robbed of possession or misplace a simple pass.
With Christian Benteke now up front there really is no excuse for overplaying it at the back when under pressure, let alone doing so several times in each and every game.
In midfield, the desire, tempo and creativity which was crucial to our title tilt in 2013-14 remains worryingly absent. Gone are the days when we would harass the opposition from the first whistle and then burst forward the moment possession was won.
Of course the personnel has changed somewhat since then but there’s certainly no excuse for the lack of ambition or ‘character’, as Rodgers calls it, that’s been on show recently. The players appear stifled and reluctant to improvise or take charge.
The lack of cohesiveness in midfield causes issues further up the field too where Benteke regularly cuts an isolated and frustrated figure. We need people running beyond the big Belgium international and players to be alive to the possibility of him winning knock-downs and flick-ons.
To me at least, much of these issues can be addressed by moving away from the 4-3-3 formation Rodgers is currently steadfastly persevering with.
I’m a firm believer in the notion of square pegs in square holes; playing Danny Ings out wide is ridiculous when you have a natural winger in Jordan Ibe on the bench.
If the manager was so set on playing with wide forwards why did he let Lazar Markovic leave on loan? Or why didn’t he bring in someone specifically suited to the role? Pushing left-back Alberto Moreno forward just isn’t an option that should be considered at a club like Liverpool let alone regularly utilised.
Furthermore, we’ve undeniably played most of our best football under Rodgers with a midfield diamond and two strikers. With Daniel Sturridge on the brink of making his eagerly anticipated comeback from injury, there is simply no excuses for ignoring that fact any longer.
Such a formation would allow us to get Philippe Coutinho, or Roberto Firmino, involved in a key area (tip of the diamond) rather than wasting them deep or out wide.
The perceived downside of the diamond is usually a lack of width but in Moreno and Nathaniel Clyne we have two of the best attacking full-backs around, while the willing running and energy of Jordan Henderson and James Milner from the middle of the park can also help overcome any deficiencies of this nature.
Whatever he decides to do, Rodgers must do something and do it quickly otherwise no amount of media savvy or teeth whitening will rescue him from a date with the dreaded P45.
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