Shanks Grandson Christopher Carline on the West Ham debacle, defensive issues and the elephant in the room ; the midfield 3
To date, my blogs have been quite mild mannered; as we haven’t really had a situation that has provoked any form of outspoken or controversial opinion. Yes, the Villa game was disastrous; but there remained an err of “it’s only early in the season and it’s a new team,” to dilute any furious thrashing of the keys on the keyboard for my post match blog.
The showing at Upton Park yesterday pushed me over the edge slightly, but with a number of specific issues rather than total doom and gloom. I was a rare absentee from the game in London yesterday, as I have just become a new father, to William David Shankly Carline, named of course, after his great granddad Shankly. I watched the game on television from my living room with my new born son on my knee kitted out in his brand new Liverpool baby grow purchased from the club shop at the ground on Friday. I’m glad he slept through the performance as if he had to witness that too often; he might start casting his eye further afield, despite his blood line!
Let’s get it right straight away, the performance was shocking; being outplayed by a Sam Allardyce managed team is unacceptable to me. We lacked intensity and pace both in attacking and defending. No pressing when we didn’t have the ball, and too pedestrian when in possession to have any cutting edge. Too many players hid when their team needed them the most; and perhaps most frustrating was the amount of individual mistakes being made.
There are however, a few burning points that I want to address in my blog.
Firstly, the defending from set pieces. Some fans see fit to blame the manager and coaching staff for this; with some idiots last night calling for a change at the top. I wont pay those sentiments any attention whatsoever as they don’t deserve to be addressed with my time; but a point I made last night about some of the defending is that there comes a time when a line has to be drawn and PLAYERS take responsibility for actions. Last week, in training; the team spent a lot of time on defending of set pieces. It beggars belief therefore that after 75 seconds of the next game, Jordan Henderson completely loses both the flight of the ball and his man, from the first set piece we have to defend, and we are a goal down. That is NOT an issue with the manager. That is plain and simple a player switching off and going to sleep when his team need him. Likewise; is it Rodgers fault that Sakho decides to inexplicably head the ball straight to a West Ham player in the onset of the third goal that killed the game? The manager must have wanted to pull his hair out and for me, the message to the players is to wake up, get tight, get organised and take some responsibility.
Secondly; and perhaps controversially, the more pressing problem we have is the selection of the midfield three, which at the moment, is Gerrard, Henderson and A Nother, yesterday Lucas being that man. Rodgers got that wrong, like he did in the first game against Southampton. Those three players are all far too similar. They sit deep, they want the ball off the back four and they rarely forge forward into the final third, or more importantly, rarely show to take the ball under pressure in the final third, hold off the challenge, turn and pick a forward pass. What results is absolutely 0 service to the front three, meaning Liverpool are camped in their own half going nowhere fast. Is it any wonder the stat that was revealed yesterday that Lovren has made more passes than any other Liverpool player? It’s because it gets as far as Gerrard, maybe Henderson and then comes back as there is nothing on.
Steven Gerrard is a situation on his own in this sense, as he is clearly told to play that deep role, and effectively become a third centre half, but the other two positions in that midfield three should be striving to take the ball from him in forward positions, make angles and play through midfield. At the moment; this clearly isn’t happening. Teams are now more than savy that if they press Gerrard high, they will not just disrupt the Liverpool tempo but also stand a chance of picking up the scraps from the Liverpool skipper when he has no out ball. I touched on this point in my last blog. For me, if we play Gerrard, then the other two positions in that midfield 3 need to be occupied by attack minded players, good on the ball, who can turn and pick passes. For me; Id play Gerrard, Lallana, Coutinho and go for it, more often than not.
Lallana clearly made a difference when he came on yesterday and he should have started.
To stick my neck out more; and to make my third point; I also don’t think Gerrard should be automatic first choice EVERY GAME either. To make this statement, draws ridiculous reactions from some Liverpool fans. My response is to say get real. Steven Gerrard is the best player who has EVER played for this football club. That is quite some honour. He is one of the best footballers to have ever graced the planet and I absolutely worship the man. He has given me some of the best moments of my life. He is however; now 34. His legs have gone in that he isn’t box to box anymore and he is having to adapt his NATURAL game to play another role. At times, he has been targeted and he has been isolated by teams. There are occasions when the manager should look at games depending on who we are playing and really analyse whether Steven is the best option in that role for that game. There is no disrespect in this, nor any shame. Age is something that NO player can defeat. It will eventually claim Lionel Messi and others. It always does and to try and argue that this should be ignored because of what a player has done in the past is backward. Ryan Giggs would still be ambling down the wing at Old Trafford as we speak otherwise.
At the end of the day, let’s not panic. It is early in the season, the team is still trying to bed in and we wont see the best of it until another month or so. BUT; it is important to begin to address and understand the three points I make above if we are to pull ourselves from what at the moment is a bit of a cat nap by Liverpool in the midst of the Premier League campaign. Let us not forget also, this is the most competitive league in the world, and if that doesn’t help improve your mood, the example that proves this is that as I write this, Manchester United’s expensively assembled squad has just come a cropper 5-3 against little old Leicester City!
What better game to bounce back in than our lovely neighbours next week………post Capital One Cup of course.