Christopher William Shankly Carline
Whilst last nights 3-0 reversal to Real Madrid may not have come as a surprise to many; for me it should mark the occasion where the manager draws the line and makes some hard decisions to try and rectify both our problems at the back and our issues going forward.
The first 20 minutes of last nights game threatened to produce a Liverpool performance that could in some way identify with those of last season. Pressing, pace, intensity. Sadly all that was undone when Ronaldo raced onto a clever one two and lobbed home. I think everyone in the ground knew there was really no way back then and whilst it would be harsh to have a go at the defence for the first goal (believe me I did, there were more than enough red shirts for one to drop off realising the give and go was apparent), the self capitulation back to schoolboy defending and goalkeeping that has been a constant feature of our play this season soon came back to haunt us. A free header allowed for one of the best strikers in world football right now for number 2 and some inexplicable goalkeeping and defending for the third (from a set piece AGAIN) put the game as a contest to bed.
Let’s address once again (I’m using that word a lot here); the Mario Balotelli issue. Yet again, no movement, greedy and selfish play, workrate sporadic at best. Brendan Rodgers is an admirable guy and a top manager. Id bet good money he is driven by the potential to be the manager proclaimed to have brought the best out in Mario. To be the manager who finally sees him produce this mythical wold class talent. It isn’t going to happen though. And Rodgers needs to realise that now and draw a line under it and start looking at his other options up front in an attempt to try and get us out of a frustrating rut. The persistent chance giving to Mario is hurting us all over the pitch; hurting morale with the players and hurting morale with the fans. For the first time last night, there was a unanimous aura that showed fans have lost patience now. When the substitution was announced it was cheered ironically. Brendan now needs to work with the front 3 options, still minus Sturridge, to come up with a system that bring goals and fluidity back, from a selection of Sterling, Coutinho, Borini, Lambert and Lallana. Mario needs to be consigned to the bench for the foreseeable future and I agree with Carra in that he won’t be here next year. It is as simple as that.
The problem at the back isn’t as easily sorted. Moreno and Lovren should be persevered with. Lovren in particular for me is being negatively affected by the madness going on round him and behind him. He is trying to do everything and is trying too hard to compensate for others deficiencies. The problem we have is who partners him as right now, Skrtel, Sakho and Toure are all as bad as each other. Step forward however one of the main protagonists. Mr Mignolet. Nobody likes a smart arse, but as with Balotelli,I made the call on Mignolet when we signed him. My sentiments were that Pepe Reina was still one of the best goalkeepers in Europe and possessed a complete set of skills needed by the best goalkeepers, namely that as well as being a good shot stopper; he had the respect and command of his back four, the confidence of his back four and could command his penalty areas. Mignolet in comparison has just one of those skills. He is a good shot stopper.
I actually said at the time that replacing a goalkeeper and getting it wrong can affect the back four and that is EXACTLY what has happened. They don’t trust him as he isn’t vocal enough and does not command his penalty areas in any way. Is it any wonder therefore that when balls come into the box, we trip over each other? Yet again last night he made a hash of dealing with the set piece for the third goal. There was talk of Victor Valdes but he looks destined for Utd now. I’d have gone and got him. Mignolet has no competition and he knows it at the moment. Signing him would be a bold statement. Starting him would have been even bolder and could have proved to be the fresh start needed for the back four. Whether that ship has sailed is another matter. If it has; we need to look at addressing it in January.
I do have to finish on a positive. Once again, Lallana shined when he came on at half time. Why he was left out I am not sure. He has been our stand out performer this year and fingers crossed he is straight back in for the weekend.