by Christopher William Shankly Carline
Coming away from St James’ Park on Saturday with a defeat was extremely frustrating and quite frankly, unacceptable. Let’s get that on the table now. As inconsistent as our start to the season has been; losing to a poor Newcastle team who created next to nothing, at home or not, was poor to say it mildly.
The managers statement that we didn’t deserve to win, yet didn’t deserve to lose either is actually quite accurate as a statement about the game; but that doesn’t make it ok. Saturday was the first time I’ve really felt that Brendan got it very wrong with his team selection. And no, that doesn’t mean we should start a Twitter campaign calling for him to be ousted from his job. The less said about the people behind that the better!
He does however need to start looking at a plan B or plan C, and a more flexible approach to both shape and formation and team selection. And with that will come some harsh decisions.
We’ve clearly seen that Mario functions better with a more mobile, hard working strike partner, as opposed to him being the lone striker. If Brendan is to persist with the Italian which it seems he is, then he needs to look at and maybe look to implement the 442 (with the diamond midfield) we have deployed in the past. The last 30 minutes against Hull at Anfield were played out this way; and it was one of the most threatening we have looked all season, all be it we lacked the finish when needed. This suggestion naturally leads to the question as to who the candidates are to partner him if you take Sturridge out the equation due to injury. Right now for me, Id be giving Borini the job with the ask for him to go prove himself. Fabio hasn’t set the world alight at Liverpool, and none of us would have batted an eyelid if he had gone to Sunderland in the Summer. Yet we have to ask has he ever really been given a chance. He played a few games for us out wide in his first season (not his natural position), got injured, came back, got injured again and that was about it. He was then sent on loan last season and scored the goals that kept Sunderland in the league.
Im not by any chance suggesting here he is the answer long term. What I am suggesting is that having watched him work with Mario against Swansea, then maybe he should be given a prolonged run to stake a claim for the job long term. He is mobile and works hard and to be honest, in may ways, should be commended for his decision to not leave permanently. As a young lad, he seems to have stated he isn’t ready to give up on the dream of playing regularly for a huge club; and in the face of overwhelming support for his sale from fans and staff alike, he dug his heels in and was prepared to fight. It is spirit like that that we need right now. Quite why he wasn’t therefore given the chance to pick up where he left off against Swansea does perplex me.
The other massive error for me is the selection in midfield. I’ve touched on this before on my blogs and Ill touch on it much more now as I feel it is more and more relevant. We cannot play both Gerrard and Henderson in the same team in my opinion and we certainly cant do that with Allen as the other centre mid. It is a midfield three that lacks goals and creativity, something we are already trying to make up the loss ratio on with the loss of Suarez.
There can at times be no room for sentiment and harsh decisions need to be made. Either Gerrard doesn’t start and Henderson takes up the holding role which is his natural position anyway, or Gerrard retains his place and Henderson drops to the bench with the aim of possibly being the captains long term successor. When Henderson plays with Steven and is asked to play further forward, he doesn’t offer enough to warrant a place in the team especially when you have Lallana sitting rather bizarrely on the bench. He doesn’t score goals and he doesn’t really create them either and at Newcastle, his place in the team was a waste of a position; and it isn’t the first time this year.
I like Henderson, I’m a fan. He is another who has displayed a steely resolve at a young age to get into the team after having been played out of position in the wake of a transfer with a hefty price tag; and I think he does have decent attributes. He has a wonderful engine, can tackle, gets round the pitch, puts himself about; gets it, gives it and rarely gives it away. Attributes all suited to the holding role.
The fact is that the manager needs to make a decision and drop one down to the bench which will bring Lallana into play. Lallana has been our best player this year, and it was clear that after half an hour of the Newcastle game; whilst we were bossing possession; we weren’t even getting close to opening Newcastle up. It was slightly disappointing therefore to not see the necessary changes made quick enough to address the issue and we paid the ultimate price.
If Rodgers wanted to play the conventional 433 he likes, it should have been Sterling Borini and Mario up top; with the midfield 3 of Gerrard, Lallana and Coutinho.
If the diamond is to be deployed, it should be Gerrard, Lallana, Coutinho, Sterling with Mario and Fabio up top. For me; it is a gamble worth taking; as equally as bad as our defending is; our lack of creativity and fluidity is hurting us. It’s time to be bold and brave!