Liverpool: Four CBs Was Mental, But Suarez Will Sort Us Out...
'Be careful what you dream of, it may come up and surprise you'
I'm ascribing that one to legendary Scouse songstrel Ian McNabb from The Icicle Works' sublime 'Hollow Horse' single though I'm sure he's adapted it from elsewhere.
No matter the origin it sums up my current mood perfectly; I've spent the last couple of weeks watching Liverpool impress for 45 minutes before serving only to depress the fan base for the next 45 and prayed, nay demanded, that they provide us with a consistent level of performance for an entire 90 minutes.
Today they came up that consistency of performance. Unfortunately they opted to replicate the season's second half standards for an entire match with their chosen level hovering somewhere around the 'abject' mark.
You could try to blame complacency for today's result, an attitude that 'we're top of the league, it's only Southampton, we've beaten far better than this, we've beaten man United, we're Liverpool, we only have to turn up, job's a good'un' but you would hope that the players are aware that we've been hanging on to leads, we're not blowing away teams as we were in the run in to the end of last season.
You could accuse the players of leaning in the idea that we had become invincible, that we hadn't lost a league game since March but you would hope that they realised that our last loss was at St. Mary's to Southampton at a point when we were on a run and expected to steamroller the opposition.
A desperate man would point out that Gerrard had two fine free kicks saved brilliantly by yet another keeper having a 'worldy' and that Sturridge was denied a penalty. A Saints fan would then retaliate with a nod in the direction of Simon Mignolet's (once again) sublime performance, specifically his stunning triple save. It could be very convincingly argued that it was only our Belgian wonder keeper that saved us from humiliation by a far superior Southampton.
The blame (if we're looking for blame) falls squarely in two areas;
Lack of creativity. Ashley William's attempted disembowelling of Coutinho on Monday night with one game still to come of Suarez' ban cost us dearly. The fans hoped for Alberto as the Brazilian's replacement after his mid week hat trick for the under 21s. Instead we were given the next chapter in Iago Aspas' ongoing struggle to adapt to the Premiership. Impressive in pre-season, ineffective ever since, hooked at half time for Raheem Sterling.
Which leads us neatly to;
2. Team selection. Four centre backs? Seriously? Four? Are you mad Brendan? Four centre backs in any system would be folly but in the Rodgers system where you expect your full backs to carry an attacking threat, where you expect the transition of the ball from back to front to be very much the responsibility of the full backs?
Sakho may well be able to carry out that role (hard to judge on the basis of today) but Toure (and you know how we feel about Toure) can't. He may well have played the position in the past but not with the same level if attacking responsibility and not at a relatively advanced age. The loss of Glen Johnson is massive. That a far from fit Agger was replaced by an actual left back in the form of Enrique (moving Sakho back to the middle) and Henderson ended up moving to right back as Skrtel was withdrawn to form a more balanced back four should indicate that the experiment was flawed from the start.
Shape, performance and passing all went missing. Hopefully Brendan will learn from that. Whether arrogance or foolishness, today was a mistake. Brendan wanted to reduce talk of a title challenge, today will certainly have helped in that aim.
Hopefully you will have noticed by now that I'm not predicting the end of the world, I'm not lamenting Liverpool's season's end because of one defeat because that's what it is; one defeat. Our first defeat since March. A win today would have seen our best ever start to a premier league season. We got it wrong today. We were poor. It's gone. As I write Liverpool Football club sit second to Chelsea in the table. On goal difference. Won three and drawn one of our first five games. You'd have taken that in August. Coutinho and Johnson will return. At some point Sturridge will reach fitness, think how devastating he'll be when that happens. Move on.
Wednesday sees a chance to make a statement; Manchester United away in a cup competition? That should be enough to raise the players performance.
And if it isn't? If we're still looking for creativity?
Well, we've got this little Uruguayan bloke who's just chomping at the bit......