Why Liverpool Have Got Themselves A Player In Lazar Markovic
Sturridge, Sterling, Lallana, Allen, Gerrard. You’d have those five in your team wouldn’t you? Five decent players, bit of threat, bit of skill, some goals. We spent the second forty five minutes on Saturday afternoon without any of those on the pitch. Four of them weren’t even in the city. One was in a completely different country.
And still we came through a tricky away tie against ten men - who, as we know, are always harder to play against. All the cliches in one go.
In fairness, we should have battered Sunderland. Should have been out of sight by the time that we lost Gerrard to a tightening in his leg at half-time. As superior first-halves go, that first forty five minutes was pretty much definitive. We controlled the game in every area. Gerrard in an advanced position allowed Henderson to show what he could do sitting deeper alongside Lucas and dictating play. The loss of Gerrard showed us that Emre Can, so comfortable at the right of a defensive three could move to an attacking role with equal aplomb. He was also just as comfortable when dropping into the right-wing back role but limited Markovic’s previous effectiveness.
Markovic. We’ll come back to this lad. We’ll come back to this lad a lot in the foreseeable.
The decision to start with Fabio Borini as the focal point of an attacking three was baffling. The decision to do anything with Fabio Borini is generally baffling. He gives you decent movement but does nothing at the end of that movement. His latching onto a fine through ball, rounding the keeper and then lacking anything like the technique to slot home was emblematic of his Liverpool career. He won’t give you goals.
Nor will Phil Coutinho at the moment. Brilliant as the Brazilian was yet again, his forte is the jinking run at defenders and the slide rule pass for a striker to convert. A Sturridge for instance. Phil’s not going to get goals on a regular basis, his shooting is far too wayward for that. If he can add that to his game - and he’s only 22, so there’s still time - then he’s going to play the Suarez role for us. He’s got the skill, he’s got the feet, he’s got the unpredictability. Add the goals? Laughing.
The goals were the issue again though, the lack of goals. A better team than Sunderland would have punished us for not punishing them. One goal leads are never enough for us. We usually need two to cope with the fact that our defence will have one major mistake in them. Our defence looked better at the Stadium of Light though. For the first 45 anyway. The loss of Gerrard saw the introduction of Lovren as a chance to allow Can to play in one of his many normal positions. Loren immediately made the defence look as shaky as he has all season. Admired him for Southampton, but for us he still needs to settle in.
And if we’re talking settling in? Lazar Markovic. At £20m he looked a wasteful indulgence. His early cameos had shown a tidy touch but very little else. He’d started to look promising in that European appearance that lasted 10 minutes until he threw an arm out and walked.
Since then though? Stronger by the week. His appearances at wing-back in the current system had shown promise; at Sunderland that promise burst through. Whisper it if you like but we’re going to shout it; we’ve got a player here.
Bursting through at every possible moment, linking play, always moving forward, endlessly threatening, thoroughly tricky. It was his desire to just keep on going that brought us the goal. There was no way that he was stopping until the ball was in the net. A run that started at the halfway line, a move that passed through Gerrard and (in fairness) a nice touch from Borini as he was fouled and Lazar just kept going.
If his first was about pace and power, if the blatant penalty that he wasn’t given was about pace and power, then what should have been his second, what should have been a goal of the season contender, was about pure technique. A staggeringly beautiful mid-air volley with a ridiculous adjustment of his body shape to accommodate the ball dropping before him; the bar and then Pantilimon’s elbow and back out. Could have had a hat-trick, should have had a hat-trick, Gerrard could have, should have, Henderson could have, should have.
And then Sunderland go down to ten men and decide that it’s time to become difficult. And we’re holding on. In a match that we should have killed off in the first half, we’re holding on and getting nervy.
But that’s where we are. We need the goals adding. We came through a difficult away game with three points and a clean sheet, we’re unbeaten in 12 games, we’re four points off fourth and there’s still five months to go.
Get Sturridge fit and on the field. Get Lallana fit to give us the trickery up top, Get Sterling back, refreshed - and, honestly, that lad deserved a week in Jamaica for the way that we’ve worked him into the ground this season - get Allen back to make things tick and suddenly the squad that we though we were building is looking more convincing.
The summer signings are looking about 50/50 at the moment. Lallana’s a star, Can and Markovic are beginning to look the real deal. Get Lovren settled and playing to his potential and show Lambert and Balotelli where the back of the net is.
We’re going to be okay. Top four and three cups still to play for.
Go on, let’s say it shall we?
We go again.