But few expected the Uruguay’s departure to be so debasing that the Reds would fall to eleventh place after as many fixtures, with just 14 points on the board.
The £120million summer spending is yet to prove fruitful and news this morning that Daniel Sturridge has picked up another injury will do nothing to help their cause.
Brendan Rodgers needs to take some drastic action, and just in case the Ulsterman is surprisingly out of ideas, we’ve come up with FIVE ways he can revive the Anfield outfit’s form.
Despite spending around £62million over the last two summers to transform Liverpool’s backline, bringing in the likes of Mamdou Sakho, Tiago Ilori, Simon Mignolet, Dejan Lovren, Alberto Moreno and Javier Manquillo, the Mersey outfit’s defensive displays have been more than suspect this season.
Indeed, Liverpool’s 15 goals conceded this term is matched or bettered by eleven Premier League sides, whilst they’ve kept just two clean sheets since the summer – against Tottenham Hotspur and Hull City.
But in truth, the Reds have perpetually failed to keep it tight at the back since Brendan Rodgers took the Anfield helm in 2012. On average, Liverpool concede 1.2 goals per game under the Ulsterman, which is far too high for a Champions League-contending club.
Of course, Rodgers tends to be more concerned with the more exciting end of the pitch from Liverpool’s perspective. But in the absence of a guaranteed goal scorer as Mario Balotelli continues to search for his first Premier League strike and Daniel Sturridge’s sideline bout appears to have no end, the Anfield gaffer must revert back to basics and assure his side aren’t conceding easy goals.
Part of the problem is that Liverpool have changed three of their back four since last season, with summer signings Alberto Moreno, Javier Manquillo and Dejan Lovren becoming starting Xi regulars, and alongside stalwart Martin Skrtel, they’re struggling to gel as a defensive unit.
Even so however, there’s obvious areas the Reds can improve. Liverpool have conceded seven times from set pieces this season and Anfield legend-turned-Sky-Sports-analyst Jamie Carragher has dubbed their deadball marking as the worst in the league.
Likewise, Rodgers likes his defenders to play out of the back rather than passing long to gain territory. That’s all well and good but it’s rendered the Reds the most error-prone side in the Premier League:
The Liverpool gaffer will argue that the pros outweigh the cons – certainly a valid point. But perhaps for the next few weeks, until the Reds’ form improves, the defenders should be asked to keep it simpler and more direct rather than inviting pressure on themselves.
Anfield was a fortress last season; the Reds claimed all but eight available points at home, only losing to Chelsea and Southampton and averaging 6.8 shots on target per match – a Premier League best.
Compared to last term where their home form was only betted by Manchester City however, Liverpool have now dropped to tenth in the Premier League’s home table following defeats to Aston Villa and Chelsea:
Anfield’s fear factor appears to have diminished from last year, where most of Liverpool’s home fixtures were essentially decided within the first half an hour, and it’s an issue Brendan Rodgers has already commented on.
Of course, every league fixture is important but prominent home displays were at the heart of Liverpool’s second-place finish last year and the Reds need to get back to winning ways at Anfield as soon as possible.
That will quickly breed confidence throughout the side and the fan-base, which should in turn improve Liverpool’s form on the road.
With Mario Balotelli hopelessly out of form and Daniel Sturridge sidelined through injury, hitting the onion bag regularly has arguably been Liverpool’s biggest failing this season.
Yet, in Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana, two summer signings that have surprisingly seen just 589 minutes of Premier League action this term, Brendan Rodgers possesses an attacking duo that amassed 22 goals and 15 assists between them last year. Here’s a look at the England internationals in action:
That firepower may not be enough in the heavyweight contests, but Liverpool have a relatively easy run of fixtures between now and the New Year, excluding Manchester United and Arsenal:
Lallana and Lambert are more than capable of running rings about the Premier League’s ordinary opposition and now is the time for Rodgers to let the former Southampton pair justify their combined £31million transfer fee.
One of Raheem Sterling’s greatest gifts is his versatility, being capable of playing anywhere across the attacking midfield berth and even making a few appearances at right wing-back last season.
Yet, in my opinion, the England international’s best and ultimate position is at No.10 – the role that he took up last term amid the Reds’ sensational end-of-season run and for England at the World Cup.
Duly, he’s produced his most consistent output for Liverpool this year when playing just behind the striker, as shown below:
Brendan Rodgers often opts for Philippe Coutinho in central attacking midfield and although the Brazilian is very influential going forward, Sterling is a talent the starting XI should be forged around.
He’s recorded the most goals, assists, chances created (defined below as key passes) and successful dribbles of any Liverpool player this term:
Therefore, he must be kept at the epicentre of the action as much as possible.
In my opinion, it’s no coincidence that the Liverpool side with Steven Gerrard lost to Real Madrid 3-0 at home, yet the Liverpool side without Steven Gerrard lost by just one goal to the European champions at the Bernabeu.
There was a time when the England centurion’s name was guaranteed on the team sheet for any given fixture, but he’s not the talismanic entity of old and statistically, his form has declined somewhat from last term:
It appears several Premier League sides have developed a strategy for targeting Gerrard in his deep-lying role, particularly Aston Villa and West Ham who both recorded shock wins against the Reds:
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
I’m not suggesting the 34 year-old should be sent to the reserves and I’m not suggesting he doesn’t deserve a new contract. But clearly, some fixtures will favour him and some wont – particularly those against highly-industrious or fast-paced counter-attacking sides – and it’s time Rodgers utilised Gerrard a little more wisely.
Furthermore, Anfield’s Captain Fantastic won’t be around forever, so starting the fazing out process now, gradually, will allow for a far smoother transition in the long-run.
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