In the NFL, there is a famous quote that is widely used by pundits, players and coaches when a team is engaged in the playoffs: ‘Defence wins championships’.
If only Brendan Rodgers or any of the backroom staff had pinned this on the tactics board at Anfield or at their Melwood training ground, then Liverpool could be Premier League champions.
The draw against Crystal Palace displayed the gulf in class between the attacking and defensive parts of the Liverpool team. After a period of reflection, fans and pundits have come to realise and appreciate more the attacking talent of the front four.
Without Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho, Liverpool could have been below Manchester United in the league table.
Once the 2013/14 Premier League is concluded, rival teams will analyse their style of play and devise a strategy to disrupt the Liverpool assault on goal. Jose Mourinho has already uncovered the algorithm and the famous Liverpool quartet may never have such a prolific season again.
A strong defence is needed to support Liverpool’s flamboyant attacking style of play but in order for a fierce defence to materialise a leader is required. Throughout Liverpool’s title winning teams, there has always been resolute figure in the backline such as Alan Hansen, Phil Thompson, Sami Hyypia or Jamie Carragher.
Since Carragher’s retirement, Liverpool's defence has sometimes looked like a ship without a captain. During last summer’s transfer window, Rodgers bought Kolo Toure and Mamadou Sakho. Both players are skilled defenders and have experience in domestic and international competitions (Toure has 103 caps for the Ivory Coast) but they do not have the same leadership qualities as Carragher.
Rodgers and his backroom staff’s first priority should be to invest in a defensive player or players of superior quality that are also effective leaders. The recent performances of Sakho indicate that he is an average squad player but Toure’s peak has past. What’s more, the solemn figure of Daniel Agger on the bench implies that his Liverpool career could be coming to a conclusion.
Reports suggest that Liverpool are interested in Micah Richards and Stephen Caulker. Both are talented defenders but do they possess the quality that is missing from Liverpool’s backline?
An overhaul of the defence is not the only priority. Liverpool also need to learn how to win whatever the situation. If that means ‘parking the bus’ and winning ugly then by all means park it and take three points. That’s how Manchester United were successful under Sir Alex Ferguson.
If Sir Alex only needed one point against Chelsea, he would set out a team that played positive football but above all did not lose Style points win you fans but they do not win you titles.
Liverpool’s position in the Champions League may assist in Rodgers adopting an all-round structured game next season. The amount of games will result in the enforcement of squad rotation, which may hinder Liverpool’s fluent attacking style.
Aside from the recent fixtures against Chelsea and Crystal Palace, Liverpool have had a triumphant season; one in which they have re-established themselves as a powerhouse of English football.
But for them to become champions they need a defensive renaissance. Once this has been implemented, there could be no stopping them.
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