Firstly I must eat some humble pie. I cant believe that as I type this we are only 4 points off top spot, have put 4 and 5 past Everton and the previously unbeatable Gunners.We are also [playing some of the best football in the League with only Pellagrini's Man City outscoring us. I have always thought we would struggle to finish 4th.
How wrong can I be. Brendan Rodgers is rightly talking down title talk at the moment with 12 games left anything can happen. We might even win it. With Chelski,City and Spurs still to visit Anfield we certainly can influence directly where we finish and possibly who win the League. Our remaining fixtures outside of this game are mostly winnable, A tricky trip to St Mary's aside. Yes I know we have to still visit the Scum but lets be honest the Theatre of Delusions is hardly a fortress these days with most Premier League team winning there for the 1st time in 8000 years. Long may it continue. ;-)
Don't get me wrong we are in with a shout but have still huge we defensive shortcomings which we claim to be working on. But every game there is at least 1 if not 2 clangers. Especially away from home. Our last 6 away games we have shipped 12 goals. So in order to win we are having to score 3.
Our last gasp win at Fulham illustrated that perfectly. While they probably deserved to be 1 up. Toure's gaff is symptomatic of our general defensive mode. Blind Panic. After that we pretty much controlled the game but yet again we go sleep from a throw in, allow a cross and with no-one in the box our 6"6' Goalkeeper remains rooted to the spot while Flanno and Skrtel got in each other way and the ball dropped to Richardson. Sure it shows great desire and strength to get back into the game and go on and win. We endured a similar comeback against Villa. Who if I am being honest were unlucky not to win the game. Sterling handballed in the build up and went down under the faintest contact to get us a pen.
So we have defensive fragility. This is what cost us last season and I am not really seeing an improvement this season. We still split the Centrebacks too much so the Fullbacks push on to almost the wing position. So any loss of possession or stray pass means there are acres of space either side of our Centrebacks and that means any team playing on the break with a good pressing will pose us problems.
Yet against Everton and Arsenal our approach was slightly different. The fullback didn't push on quite as much when we are have possession in deep areas or indeed just over the halfway line. Additionally Gerrard covering while Lucas is injured has at least added some pace and a bit of extra steel to cover. Plus he is better at the Hollywood pass than the ticcy-taccy stuff in the final 3rd anyway. Hit set piece delivery has also improved and we are even scoring from HIS corners! LOL
Part of our defensive frailty is the tactical issues mentioned above the other is a lack of a settled back 4. This has been caused by injuries, under-performance and lack of understanding of who our best 4 defenders are. For me with everyone fit its Flanagan-Skrtel-Agger-Enrique. Yes, no Sakho or Glen Johnson. Sakho is struggling to adapt in his 1st season in England so perhaps one for next season and at £18million there had better be an improvement. He has pace height and a needs to work on his positional sense and distribution.
Glen Johnson has never been a good right fullback. FACT. He should have been made a winger years ago. At least there his lack of positional awareness, poor touches don't result in goals, free crosses and general buffoonery in your own box. If England take this muppet to Brazil just watch how many goals come down his side of the pitch and how many times he is out of position, playing people onside and generally being a nuisance to his teammates. Rumours are he is off in the summer anyway. Thanks Glen make sure the door doesn't hit you on the way out!
Our other defenders on the fringes also aren't really doing much. Cissokho bless him isn't a footballers arse. He is big, gangly and that's about it. He is slow, have no 1st,2nd or 3rd touch cant pass for toffee and defends like a startled giraffe.
Martin Kelly is being used sparingly despite being back for some time. I don't think he will be a right back in the modern game. He has, pace, height but doesn't like it when his winger cuts inside and get squared up too easily. He is good going forward but think he will ultimately slot back onto where he played most of his youth football. Centreback.
Might solve a problem for us as who partners Skrtel. Ironic that the player who looked out the door in the last week of the transfer window has been our best defensive player by a mile and if it wasn't for the other 3 S's in the team he would be a shoe in for our player of the season.
Leftback is another concern its a mark if how stuck we are that we are looking forward to Enrique coming back who is a bit cavalier there to say the least. Carragher during one of his early Sky Sports Punditry sessions this season stated 'it doesn't matter how much you speak to him, he doesn't listen'. LOL enough said.
Thankfully we have an embarrassment of riches from an attacking perspective. The Triple S's have been outstanding. While you expect it from Suarez, Sturridge is finally showing the form and potential he showed when he 1st burst onto the scene as a Man City player. I have always been a fan and glad he is at a club where he is one of the main men and can just do his thing. If they stay fit they may be untouchable to win us the whole thing.
As for young Raheem Sterling he has really blossomed. I think he was over used last season because we didn't have any options. He also has lots of off field issues which seem to have been solved. As for Coutinho and Henderson they are actually the key in the team. Hendo is not just running around aimlessly anymore. He closes with intelligence, passes well is adding goals and starting look like we might have actually bought a player.
Rodgers is not rotating the team and some would say rightly. I would say that our lacklustre performances against West Brom and Fulham were as a result of lack of changes, the effort we put in against Everton and Arsenal took lots out of some of the players. Coutinho especially. Not calling for wholesale changes but with Arsenal looking for revenge tomorrow we might need to rest 1 or 2 with it being our 3rd game in 8 days.
I think that is still a weakness for us. Options. Moses on loan has done very little to make us want to make that a permanent move. That was probably the reason went for the Dnipro player and Salah from Basel. Not because Sterling was on his was as was madly reported but for the lack of input from Moses. Rodgers quite rightly said that unless we can sign someone who improves the 1st 11 we wont waste the money. For this transfer window that is a great plan. Not sure if we are in the Champions League again next year we might not need more bodies.
We have 2 very good attacking option but they are unfortunately playing at Stoke (Assaidi) and Sunderland (Borini) who are both playing well and scoring. Conor Coady also doing a great job at Sheffield United, and Jack Robinson. We have David Suso to come back from Spain too. That certainly bodes well for next season. It does make the signing of Aspas look strange. Both against Everton and Arsenal when we were well ahead he still didn't get on to give one of our main men a run. If he isn't coming on when the game is won, when does he?
So our bench is mostly Moses,Kelly,Allen,Aspas,Ibe,Smith,Alberto and an other. Its not great bench and perhaps the lack of European football will help but you can feel that if we have a major injury to a creative player we will struggle.
It does mean we have to recruit quite majorly in the summer. We need leftback, we need to decide what we do with Toure and Agger. We need another player like Coutinho. We need another winger and do we sell Aspas or is he like Borini going to be used as rotation for one of the other 2 next season?
Youngsters coming through we have the ones mentioned here and young Texiera, Micheal Ngoo but can we really use these player if we are in the Champions League? I don't think so. We need 16 top players. We currently have 8.
I am really looking forward to the run in and hope that we can tighten up a bit at the back and continue with the exhilarating entertaining football we have played so far.
Anfield is a fortress again, ManUre are rubbish and Barry Manilow is touring the UK later this year. Are the 80's back?????
- I have been a Red since I was about 6 or 7. My boyhood hero was Kenny Dalglish and I have an autograph from him while he was still at Celtic. Thanks Gran! As such I gravitated towards the team he played for. So I have been Scottish-South African- Scoucer for about 30 years now! I am extremely passionate about our club, and have felt the need to start this blog in the face of the abject nature of our performaces under Benitez and the Hicks/Gillett ownership.