The Reds produced a more convincing display during a 2-1 win over West Brom last weekend. In fact, they’re now just one point away from fourth spot.
But prior defeats to Aston Villa, West Ham and Manchester City have left Liverpool in ninth place, and there’s been a clear slump in performance – both with and without the ball – in comparison to last term.
Clearly Brendan Rodgers needs to instigate some changes if the Reds are going to retain their Champions League status come May-time. And just in case he’s short on a few ideas, here’s FIVE ways the Ulsterman can revive Liverpool’s form.
Signed for a whopping £20million this summer, constituting Liverpool’s second largest transfer since Brendan Rodgers took the Anfield helm in 2012, the Reds boss understandably feels under pressure to issue Lazar Markovic as much game-time as possible.
The 20 year-old is clearly very talented – he’s been targeted by Chelsea in the past and was in sensational form for Benfica last season. Hardly lightweights on the continental scene.
But the winger’s struggling to adapt to the power, pace, intensity and quality of the Premier League. He’s yet to record any output in four top flight outings and has often looked isolated on the right-hand side. Here’s a look at his stats this term, according to Whoscored.com:
In the Serbian international’s absence on Saturday, Liverpool produced a considerably improved performance against West Brom:
Of course, there’s nothing like regular game time to help players adapt to a new league, but right now, Markovic’s form isn’t helping Liverpool or himself. The last thing the Reds need amid their stuttering form is a passenger on the right wing.
Brendan Rodgers needs to take the young prodigy out of the firing line. When Liverpool’s form and confidence improves, Markovic will find it much easier to make an impact.
They say there’s no such thing as standing still in the Premier League – you’re either evolving or regressing.
Yet Steven Gerrard’s quarterback role at the base of Liverpool’s midfield hasn’t changed since last season, and now opposition are working out how to play against it:
Playing Gerrard as a CDM every game is too predictable,just being marked out of the game
— Marco Ross (@Hanno_Hanley) October 1, 2014
Gerrard man marked out of game again. Downing today. Agbonlahor / Weimann last few times at Anfield. Basic.
— Ian Bennett (@irbenno) September 20, 2014
Indeed, the likes of West Ham and Aston Villa have found great success in marking the former England skipper in possession, before attacking the space behind him on the counter.
The 34 year-old still possesses the quality to be a key influence on Liverpool’s campaign – as you can see, statistically his performances have been on par with last season:
Gerrard’s world-class ability at dead ball situations is a massive advantage too.
But his role needs to be modified to give the opposition something unexpected to think about. A rotational system involving Jordan Henderson and Joe Allen has been mooted, which could work wonders if it forces opposing midfields to constantly change shape and personnel throughout games.
Liverpool have been absolutely shocking without the ball this season – especially the back four.
Amateurish errors are being made, such as poor marking at set pieces, and the Reds’ ten goals conceded is only exceed by six Premier League sides, two of which are in the relegation zone.
It may seem like a rather masochistic suggestion considering how unpopular he’s become with the Anfield fan base over the last twelve months…
…but reinstating Glen Johnson could do Liverpool’s defence a world of good.
It’s been quickly forgotten amid the Mersey outfit’s slump in form that three of their back four have changed from last year, with summer signings Alberto Moreno, Dejan Lovren and Javier Manquillo, along with Anfield stalwart Martin Skrtel, emerging as Brendan Rodgers’ favoured defence.
Resultantly, Liverpool’s backline has lacked the experience, consistency and organisation only continuity can provide.
Boasting 54 caps for England, 144 Premier League outings for the Reds and currently the oldest defender on the Anfield roster at 30 years of age, although Johnson may not be the perfect solution, he would be a step in the right direction.
The right-back made his first appearance since August against West Brom last weekend, having been sidelined with a thigh injury. Brendan Rodgers needs to make Johnson a permanent fixture in Liverpool’s backline once again, regardless of the negative reaction he might receive from supporters.
With the former on the mend from a knee injury and the latter stuck behind Mario Balotelli and Daniel Sturridge in the pecking order, Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert haven’t seen too much action for Liverpool this season.
But the duo proved how effective they are as an attacking tandem last season at Southampton, amassing a collective 22 goals and 15 assists between them. Here’s a look at them in action:
Likewise, they were at the heart of Liverpool’s victory over West Brom last weekend. Lallana grabbed this goal to give the Reds the lead after 45 minutes:
That firepower alone may not be enough for the Anfield outfit in the heavyweight contests, but it should see them claim decent results against the Premier League’s more rank and file sides.
Liverpool’s fixture list is rather kind over the next few weeks with the exception of Chelsea, as shown below:
And although Brendan Rodgers will be keen to rehabilitate Daniel Sturridge after his recent injury lay-off, this is the period of the season where Lallana and Lambert can justify their combined £31million transfer fee.
With Luis Suarez now a Barcelona star and Steven Gerrard’ influence naturally waning with age, Liverpool need to find a new, long-term formula, shifting the emphasis onto other players.
Such a role must be gained rather than gifted, but if there’s two players already verging upon the peripheries of talismanic for the Reds, it’s undoubtedly Raheem Sterling and Jordan Henderson.
The former is currently leading the Anfield scoring charts with three goals and two assists in seven Premier League appearances. He’s also in the Premier League’s top ten for successful dribbles:
As well as key passes:
For a 19 year-old, Sterling’s quality and decision-making is exceptional. He could underpin Liverpool’s successes for the many years to come, but he needs to be given more consistent game-time at No.10.
As viewable below, despite it being his most successful position this season, Brendan Rodgers has seen fit to utilise the England international in a variety of capacities:
Likewise, Jordan Henderson has been nothing short of incredible to find one goal and three assists for the Reds this season. Here’s a look at his stats, demonstrating his defensive and offensive qualities:
Clearly the England international has shaken off the negative stigmatism immediately surrounding him following his move to Merseyside in 2011, and he now appears ready for even more responsibility in the first team.
With Sterling and Henderson both still under 25 years of age, restructuring the starting XI around their strengths now will improve Liverpool’s form in both the short and long term.