Liverpool go in search of their first home league win of this campaign as they host lowly Reading, who are still without a league win all season. With the daunting prospect of a trip to Goodison to face Everton next weekend, Brendan Rodgers’ side could really do with getting the home league monkey off their backs and rising a couple of places in the table to keep the dogs at bay (which is a ridiculous statement, really, but such is the nature of modern football). It looks likely that he will keep his trust in the young players who have served him well so far this season, but here are five things I’d like to see happen in today’s game:
Jack Robinson start at left-back
Andre Wisdom has looked surprisingly assured at right-back, having plied his trade as a centre-back for the 18s and ressies. That said, he is, understandably, yet to really assert himself going forward - which may be a tactical instruction from Rodgers – but with Suso playing on the right, and doing his best work when cutting inside, there is no real threat out wide on the right. For me, then, it would make sense to play Johnson on the right and play Jack Robinson (who I’m a huge fan of) at left-back. Johnson would be able to play his natural game on the right and get forward regularly, whilst Robbo is more than capable offensively as well as being solid defensively. Sterling will offer a threat from the left, so there is not as much of a necessity for the left full back to get forward as there is for the right one. Another alternative would be to play Johnson and Wisdom as they are, but play Suso on the left and Sterling on the right, but my suggestion is a more natural fit.
Sahin, not Gerrard, to take all set pieces
One of Nuri Sahin’s many strengths is his ability to deliver a quality set piece, as he has already shown in his few appearances for the Reds by claiming a couple of assists from corners. However, when he and Gerrard have played together, the Turk has had to submit set pieces duties to the captain, who, despite being extremely technically proficient, fails to consistently deliver a good dead ball. Sometimes they’re perfect, as you’d expect, but more often than not they either sail out play or fail to beat the first man. Stevie is also a threat in the air, or capable of lurking outside the box for any failed clearances that drop to him, so it makes sense for us to allocate set pieces duties to the most ideal candidate, which is Sahin.
For someone as gifted as Luis Suarez undoubtedly is, he doesn’t half give the ball away needlessly a lot, particularly in the middle of the pitch.
Suarez to keep it simple until he gets in the final third
For someone as gifted as Luis Suarez undoubtedly is, he doesn’t half give the ball away needlessly a lot, particularly in the middle of the pitch. When there is the option to take a touch and lay it off, retaining possession and allowing the team to build an attacking move, he will try a one-touch pass or a little flick that, more often than not, fails to come off and means we lose the ball. His unpredictability is what makes him such a dangerous and brilliant player, but he needs to learn when to try something more risky and when not to. This is something Rodgers has spoken about before (although he didn’t single Suarez out) so hopefully they have been working on it in training and he’ll save it for when he’s in and around the box. Oh, and Luis, it’d be great if you stopped diving, as it makes your manager and teammates look stupid when defending you, even though they have every right to do so as opposition defenders get away with kicking the sh*t out of you.
Gerrard play further forward where he’s most dangerous
In the latest edition of Being: Liverpool, Brendan Rodgers alluded to maybe playing Steven Gerrard out wide - something he did exceptionally well in the 05/06 season - once Lucas returns from injury and takes his place as the deepest holding midfielder. As I’ve said before, the group of Gerrard, Sahin, Lucas, Allen, Shelvey and Henderson is one of, if not the strongest central midfield core in the league, so it is easy to see why Rodgers wants to accommodate as many of them as possible in the starting line-up. But with us struggling to score goals it makes sense to play Stevie as high up the pitch as possible where he is most dangerous and likely to score or create goals (his goal against United being a prime example of this). Plus, he often struggles with the intricate passing triangles when playing deeper, so finding a role that gets the best out of him as key going forward (no pun intended).
Brad Jones to have the best game of his career
I know, I know, stating the bleeding obvious here, but it seems as if Pepe Reina’s injury will keep him out of today’s game so Brad Jones will desputise – and with the greatest respect to Reading, we really shouldn’t need our ‘keeper to save us today as we have more than enough quality to comfortably beat the Royals. Still, Reina’s well documented demise is not something recent; his performances have been getting progressively worse since Benitez left in 2010. Unfortunately, despite us signing an absurd number of back up goalkeepers over the past decade or so, we’ve not had any serious competition to challenge Reina. Jones has been solid in his few appearances this season, so hopefully he can put in a good display here and start to put pressure on Pepe for the starting berth.
You can follow Alex on twitter @woolfc
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