King Kenny looks for answers after another poor result at Anfield by the Reds.
It has becoming increasingly obvious that Liverpool's lack of goal production will inevitably harm their chances of earning a top four finish this season, only finding the back of the net fourteen times in eleven matches is surely not the formula for success Kenny Dalglish had in mind when constructing his team in the off-season. The delivery from the flanks has been for the most part poor and off the mark, either going behind their intended target or embarrassingly out of play. When the distribution has been there, the finishing has been non-existent.
Stewart Downing has under-performed, lacking the accuracy in his distribution that brought him much praise at Aston Villa. Jordan Henderson is another one of Dalglish's recent signing that has struggled to make a positive impression, mostly looking lost and out of position. These are still early days but both will need to step it up in a hurry. Dirk Kuyt has become the forgotten man since all the new arrivals at Anfield, losing his starting place to Henderson for reasons I find difficult to understand. No one can match his work rate on the pitch and dedication to the team, endearing himself to the Kop and deserving of a place in the starting eleven.
Dropping points at home has become an alarming trend these days at Anfield, suffering humiliating draws to Sunderland, Norwich City and most recently Swansea City, shockingly unable to beat two newly promoted teams on home turf. That is six points that could make or break their European ambitions come May. It has been a long while since Anfield has been regarded as a fortress, the feverish support emanating from the terraces still provides an intimidating atmosphere for the opposition. Shamefully the performance on the pitch falls short of the input given by the twelfth man in the stands.
While Luis Suarez has been the clubs savior and top performer since his arrival back in January, earning much of the spotlight with relentless pace in attack and his never say die attitude, Andy Carroll has been a major disappointment. The price-tag for his services is well-known, plenty was expected from the thirty-five million pound man, sadly for Liverpool their return on investment has been a woeful three goals in all competitions this season, not good enough plain and simple.
The chances have been there for Carroll to prove himself, missing a header from six yards out against Norwich that would have sealed victory for Liverpool in injury time, striking the crossbar on a complete sitter with the net at his mercy against Swansea City this past weekend, the opportunity for redemption has been within his grasp only for Carroll to fall short at every attempt. Those examples are the most memorable, although their have been many other shortcomings. Not to knock the big man too much, his aerial prowess has been strong in knocking down balls to teammates and linking up play. However strikers are judged on goal production and Carroll needs to step it up.
Statistically Liverpool has enjoyed the majority of possession in their matches thus far, controlling the flow and dictating the pace early on but having nothing to show for all their hard work. You can see the frustration build in the eyes of the manager and supporters as the clock continues to tick away along with the chance to earn maximum points. Scoring from set-pieces is almost non-existent, comical even, looking at the amount of corners or free kicks that have been wasted. Charlie Adam was bought specifically for this reason, but so far has been inconsistent in his distribution of the ball, sometimes being at fault for over-complicating things with a brash long ball rather than the safer short pass to keep possession.
Despite owning the league's third best defensive record with only ten goals allowed, the majority have come from poor man marking on set-pieces or defensive errors that could have been avoided, dropping precious points from winning positions after controlling large portions of the match. Martin Skrtel has been below-par and has proven incapable of covering his marker, Daniel Agger has recently returned from another injury set-back that continues to sabotage his form, the Dane has found it difficult to stay healthy for long stretches.
The only positives defensively have come from the flanks; Jose Enrique has been outstanding at left-back, strengthening a position of weakness for Liverpool. Melwood graduate Martin Kelly is the other bright spot; the youngster has been a revelation at right-back, wrestling away the starting spot from Glen Johnson with his reliability and skill on both ends of the pitch. A future call-up to England’s senior side is a definite possibility for the Whiston born defender.
For all the slack he receives because of his age and lack of pace, Jamie Carragher is still the heartbeat of the squad and an integral part of Dalglish's formula defensively. Without his experience commanding the back line Liverpool would be lost. While Steven Gerrard continues to struggle through injuries that have forced the club captain to watch from the stands, Carra's leadership on the field is needed now more than ever.
Even Pepe Reina has struggled with consistency this season. The Spaniard has built a reputation of being one of the Premiership's best between the posts, having a collection of golden glove awards as proof. But the past two seasons have been extremely difficult, constantly picking the ball out of his net after countless defensive mistakes despite his best efforts, surprisingly able to keep his confidence through theses rough patches. Always dependable and a true leader on the field, Reina has looked shaky at times. Normally a gifted distributor of the ball with tremendous skill at reading crosses into his area, both have seen spells of inconsistency, coupled with Liverpool's shoddy man marking, it's not surprising Reina has kept only kept four clean sheets in all competitions this term.
Liverpool were never going to challenge for the title this season although more was expected after making such a huge splash in the transfer market this past summer. John W. Henry made his expectations known, expecting nothing less than Champions League qualification; this cannot be attained if the team continues to struggle at home against inferior opposition. Their failure to close out matches has not gone unnoticed by the rest of the league, absorbing the pressure and striking back on the counter attack as Liverpool start to get sloppy after every missed opportunity.
Like a boxer who out-punches his opponent but fails to provide the knock-out blow with him teetering on the ropes, only to get caught in the later rounds by a lucky punch. Liverpool is lacking that killer instinct needed to win games, especially at Anfield. Dalglish needs to find the right formula to get his under-performing stars firing on all cylinders if Liverpool expects to finish in the top four.
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