The two goals shipped early in the second half in the Merseyside Derby yesterday took our league goals conceded tally up to 31 for the season already. This is four more than the entirety of 2008/09 season and only 4 behind the team that finished 7th last campaign. Another interesting fact is that we have conceded eight goals in our last four games while we only conceded 10 in 18 matches between January and May last season. Has our defensive line really changed that much? Here are my five reasons for our defensive demise.
No Established Centre Back Partnership – An important part of keeping it tight at the back relies on keeping the same personnel in the same positions so every knows what to expect from each other. This season has seen both Roy Hodgson and Kenny Dalglish utilise a number of centre back defensive partnerships. We started the season with Martin Skrtel and Jamie Carragher, we then had combinations of either Soto with Carra or Skrtel with Soto before Jamie’s injury left us with Skrtel and Kyrgiakos only fit. Needless to say this partnership was only going to end in tears as both players are neither fast nor have any ability on the ball. It led to both the team playing deeper and deeper, (as evidenced on Match of the Day 2 yesterday after Kyrgiakos replaced Agger) as well as a lack of ball being played out from the back.
The Form of Kyrgiakos – The Big Greek was on tremendous form last season, and he was a bargain buy by Rafa at a time when we needed an aerial presence at the back to replace the great Sami Hyypia. He also started this season pretty well, scoring his fair share of goals from corners as well as defending his own penalty area. He was however abject in Roy Hodgson’s last game in charge against Blackburn Rovers and was substituted at half time, and he was partly at fault for the second Everton goal yesterday when he was pulled out of position allowing Jermaine Beckford to get in behind with only Raul Meireles for company to stop him scoring. There was no coincidence that our defending became decidedly dodgier and our team started to play deeper once Soto came on for the ill Agger at half time.
The Form of Glen Johnson – Not much needs to be said about this, but when Glen is not playing well, his defensive displays are absolutely shocking. He can be fantastic going forward but his form at right back this season has not been up to the standard required. His worst display came against Blackpool earlier on in the season at Anfield when he was at fault for both goals. I am quite worried at the prospect of him playing out of position at left back, and although still a threat going forward, his defensive vulnerabilities still worry me. Perhaps a move to right wing could be in order?
No Left Back – The departure of Emiliano Insua on loan to be replaced by the equally mediocre Paul Konchesky was one of the biggest gripes of Roy Hodgson’s tenure as manager. Since his departure, Kenny Dalglish immediately replaced Konchesky with Fabio Aurelio against Manchester United, but mindful of his injury record, Kenny left Aurelio out against Blackpool and Everton, and he has had to put Johnson in an unnatural left side role. We are in desperate need this January for another left back. Marseille’s Taye Taiwo’s contract is up in the summer; perhaps a bid for the Nigerian could be a possibility?
Mascherano’s Absence – The departure of the Argentinean midfield destroyer was always going to be felt, and although Lucas had done admirably in his absence, the Brazilian is still finding his way in the game while Masch had the ability with his pace and tackling to break up opposition counter attacks, something Lucas doesn’t currently do as well. With Christian Poulsen not performing, and an average Jay Spearing playing against Everton, a proper replacement for Masch is needed to help the Liverpool backline keep clean sheets.
Written By David Tully at the excellent ‘Live4Liverpool’