Had it not been for *that* slip, we could be talking about Liverpool as the reigning Premier League champions.
We all know what happened on that crucial, cruel day at Anfield and since then it hasn’t exactly gone to plan for the Reds.
Liverpool have already suffered three Premier League defeats and talk of another title siege appears to have already died down after just eight games. But what has gone wrong?
Luis Suarez is the obvious answer, a whopping 31 league goals last season, the Uruguayan was pivotal in what was a remarkable run for the Reds. Daniel Sturridge being plagued by injuries hasn’t exactly helped, it could be another month before we see him back in action.
The influence Suarez had is unquestionable; he seemed at times on a one-man mission to deliver a Premier League title to Merseyside for the very first time. But when a reported £75 million is thrown in your face it is hard to turn down.
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With that money and the lure of Champions League football, Liverpool should have been able to attract some world class talent; I’ll let you be the judge if Rickie Lambert is in that bracket!
Liverpool this season have been strikingly similar to Tottenham were after Gareth Bale was flogged for a world-record fee, the many replacements bought failed to hit the ground running.
The signings Rodgers should have made didn’t happen. A truly Champions League standard defender was imperative, instead Dejan Lovren was purchased. The Croat seems out of his depth and the defence is just as shaky as it was last season, without the firepower of old to compensate for this.
Mario Balotelli needs to start delivering, and fast. His laboured performances have been frustratingly poor and just one goal against Ludogorets is a very disappointing return. At one point against QPR last Sunday, Balotelli had his back turned whilst Liverpool played a quick free-kick. Super Mario at the moment doesn’t look up to speed with the pace of the division and is in desperate need of a goal. Not good enough.
Adam Lallana and Alberto Moreno have shown glimpses of their capabilities but the acquisitions of the Liverpool boss have not been shrewd. Very little was invested in players with Champions League experience and re-investment in the January transfer window is likely to be required.
Already mentioned is the disastrous defence of the Merseyside club. It is baffling as to how poor and unconvincing Liverpool look when defending set-pieces. Not one player takes charge and the numerous centre-back partnerships experimented with have brought the same result-calamity.
The amount of money Liverpool have spent in this department is a scary figure- over 50million in the past two campaigns. This number is made worse by the fact no solution has been found to their woes at the back and yet more money being spent looks likely.
Also a problem position is goalkeeper, Simon Mignolet. The Belgian started his Liverpool career so promisingly with a match-winning penalty save on debut. However, a number of high profile mistakes have followed, no keeper made more errors leading directly to goals in the Premier League in 2013/2014.
His form hasn’t improved this campaign, with similar errors costing goals against Manchester City and Ludogorets. Even Phil Jagielka’s long-range wonder strike drew criticism from the likes of Gary Neville due to the Belgian’s poor positioning.
With Liverpool’s defence last season so shaky, the Reds often relied on three or four goals to win a game. This season finding the back of the net has been hard to come by, just 13 league goals so far, the same amount as Hull City.
The passing of Liverpool this season has far too often been laboured and pedestrian; it seems a real effort to break down teams. Only against Tottenham have Liverpool ever looked like recapturing the form of 2013/2014 that was so impressive.
Chelsea’s park the bus tactic seemed to set a precedent on how to beat Liverpool and well-organised defences now fancy their chances of coming away from Anfield with something, simply by putting ten men behind the ball.
Already we have seen Aston Villa, Ludogorets and West Brom ploy this tactic to great effect. Although Liverpool did emerge victorious in two of these games, the opposition were very unlucky not to get a famous result.
Last season, (a common phrase in this article) West Brom lost heavily 4-0 to the Reds, now they can push them all the way. In the previous campaign, Liverpool made flying starts against almost every side they played. This has not been evident so far this season and the tempo which set them apart seems to have gone, the lack of intensity has been frightening, especially in defeats to West Ham and Aston Villa.
Balotelli is unfortunately not the type of striker to chase lost causes and hassle the opposition, something that was evident in the Liverpool front line last season.
When put under pressure by the opposition, even Steven Gerrard has found proceedings very difficult in his deeper role and has found himself playing further forward again, arguably without success. Unfortunately, the Liverpool legend may be out of the first team picture before long.
So what solutions can I offer?
In the January transfer window, it may be difficult to buy a whole host of players considering Liverpool’s spending far exceeded £100 million in the summer.
However, something does need to change; I would suggest a new goalkeeper and centre back.
A new striker also seems needed but unrealistic as Divock Origi will return next season and Daniel Sturridge should be fit soon.
Here are my ideas...
Goalkeeper. Victor Valdes: The free agent has been strongly linked with the club and has spoken of his desire to play in the Premier League. Costing nothing, this seems a logical purchase.
Centre-back. Ron Vlaar: Certainly a more difficult position to find truly outstanding talent, Ron Vlaar seems the most suitable buy. Vlaar was exceptional at the World Cup and has carried his form into the Premier League this season. He has limited Champions League experience but does regularly represent his country.
This was always going to be a season of transition for Liverpool, but their fairly straightforward start to the Premier League campaign should have yielded more points. Achieving Champions League football for next season seems a big ask and the Reds have already looked out of their depth in Europe’s elite competition, facing an uphill battle to get out of their group. Brendan Rodgers certainly has work to do…
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