As the dust settles on yet another frustrating match day for Liverpool; a stark reality hit home as the clock ticked on towards yet another defeat.
Whilst Chelsea are head and shoulders the stand out team this year in the Premier League; and will bar a catastrophic collapse, win the league at a canter; I couldn’t help but realise that they never really had to beat us to claim the 3 points. We did that ourselves. And it isn’t the first time!
Let’s start with this seemingly inexplicable need to play ourselves into trouble in our own half, most notably in front of our own penalty area. At times I wonder whether there is some strange bet going on between the goalkeeper and his back four, as to who should be the first one to launch the ball long loses.
I admire a team and a manager who have principles and a style of play; and I admire it even more when it involves keeping the ball on the floor. What I don’t admire; is when a team shows a complete lack of flexibility in their play to adapt this style when the opposition is clearly counteracting it.
News flash. Teams know that we like to play from the back, with Gerrard dropping in and the full backs creating options wide; and they set up to stop us doing it. It beggars belief to me therefore that these players seems to be incapable of looking at the situation and mixing it up a bit to counterbalance this. It’s like a gang of kids who’ve been told what to do by their teacher and none of them want to break rank for fear of reprisal.
Instead, they’d rather continuously play themselves and their team mates into trouble, without ever getting out their half. This mindless course of action presented Chelsea with a plethora of chances today that Liverpool were lucky to get away with; the only surprise being that the away teams two goals didn’t come from this schoolboy method of play.
Indeed the manager should not escape criticism for this. Why he isn’t screaming for his players to adapt and look to plan B and C is quite astounding at times, and was today compounded when; pre half time Liverpool contrived to present Chelsea with a host of chances; and then came out post half time and picked up exactly where they left off. It really beggars belief for me right now.
You can also throw into the mix; the team selection. Again, I ask, what did Jordan Henderson bring to the party today? How is Adam Lallana on the bench and equally; when we are losing, how does he not get on the pitch but Joe Allen does? And whilst on that topic; Coutinho and Can off, whilst Henderson stays on, with Allen being one of the replacements! Gerrard, Allen and Henderson on the pitch at the same time is a no no. A BIG no no. It means no creativity whatsoever.
Furthermore; the last substitution was wasted with one striker off for another on. Last season, the Henderson, Gerrard combination was ok, as what it lacked in creativity was cancelled out by the all encompassing creativity of one man up front. He isn’t here now so it needs to change.
I’m a Brendan Rodgers fan; but he really needs to heed the warning signs and look at the history and fates of some of his predecessors in the Anfield corridors of power. Namely Rafa Benitez. Rafa’s stubbornness cost him his job. I really hope Rodgers doesn’t go the same way.
Last season, the 433 worked because of the players we had. It worked because of the majestic Uruguayan up front who was infectious. It doesn’t work for us at the moment and it needs to change. You’ve got to work with what you have and Rodgers needs to show he isn’t a one trick pony and that he does have a plan b, a plan c, and a plan d, e and f.
It’s clear to fans that two up top works better when Mario is playing and it’s clear to fans that Borini’s admirable persistence and work rate has played his way into the fans thoughts at least. He should be starting up top with Mario and we should be deploying the diamond behind it, with Adam Lallana a focal point of that.
Additionally, maybe he also needs to tell his full backs that in a time when it seems a distinct impossibility for Liverpool to keep a clean sheet, maybe they should spend a bit of time staying fairly close to their central defensive cohorts and learning to defend in a line going back to basics, rather than being told to hare forward at every rush of blood to the head (I seem to remember Philipe Coutinho being in the right back position for Chelsea’s controversial winner).
If that wasn’t all bad enough; I cant sign off without commenting on another woefully inept referee performance. It seems to me that the FA have a production line for turning out incredibly poor officials. Taylor was poor; we were denied a blatant, stonewall penalty in the closing exchanges for handball. Chelsea might have got the 3 points today; but they will play harder games throughout the season; having to only take advantage of the implosive nature of their hosts.
Come on Brendan, it needs sorting out!
Chris Carline is the Chair and Founder of The Shankly Family Foundation. For more of Chris’ thoughts and views, visitshanklyhotel.com.