Why Liverpool Can't Blame 3-0 Loss On De Gea
David de Gea isn’t the reason that we lost our latest ‘most important game of the season’. The fact that his team could win 3-0 and he still receive the Man Of The Match award notwithstanding, he was NOT the reason we lost. Not the only reason.
The main reason that we lost at Old Trafford to a definitely improving United side is the complete lack of any kind of credible threat from our forward line. We can point at the number of efforts that we created, we can point at the fact that both Sterling and Balotelli could have had hat-tricks but we can’t disguise the fact that we never look like scoring at the moment.
Sterling had two fantastic one-on-one chances. On the first he hit the ball tamely at the ‘keeper, on the second he rounded the Spaniard but allowed him time to recover and block his eventual, overly delayed shot. And I’m not criticising Sterling for this; he’s just turned twenty, he’s a winger or a number 10, he’s not supposed to be our main goal threat.
Balotelli - on as a sub in the second-half for Adam Lallana - caused De Gea the most danger with a snapshot that the keeper palmed upward and (fairly luckily) onto the bar. Other than that his remaining work consisted of the weak shots, uncertain positioning and appalling decision making that we’ve come to know and ‘love’ from him. He may well be the most frustrating player ever to have worn the red shirt - all the natural talent in the world but no application whatsoever.
That he didn’t start was, one assumes, due to lack of fitness after injury. That Lambert didn’t start was likely due to Tuesday night’s performance. That we had no recognised strikers on the pitch at the start was absolutely fine - it had worked at the end of the Basle game and we wanted to continue in the spirit of those last ten minutes didn’t we?
We came with three at the back: Johnson until he retired with a groin issue, Skrtel and Lovren who was fine until he wasn’t. Again. Ahead of them? Seven players. You want a clue to the formation that those seven played? Not a scooby. But in a good way, they switched, they swapped, they moved. We put the technicians out and we played technically. And we were the better team. We prodded. We passed. We probed.
And then a sumptuous Lallana pass put Sterling free in the area. He doesn’t lift the ball over De Gea, he doesn’t curl it round him, he puts it straight at him. The lad’s confidence in his own finishing is absolutely shot at the moment but we shouldn’t be relying on it anyway, he should be an addition not our only option. Within five seconds Valencia has nutmegged Joe Allen as both Moreno and Lallana watched and passed across the area to a lad from Croxteth to power home.
One attack, one chance, one goal. Clinical. Everything that we’re not.
The second goal? Offside. By a mile. Van Persie admitted as much in his post-match interview. By which time it’s too late. A ball from the wing into the area, Van Persie flicks it on for the blatantly offside Mata to nod in.
Which, again, is not the reason that we lost 3-0. It doesn’t help but it’s not the reason.
Dejan Lovren isn’t the reason that we lost 3-0 either. The fact that he can’t just put his foot through the ball, can’t just hammer away a clearance and has to tap it to an onrushing Mata to pass to Van Persie to convert the killer blow isn’t the reason we lost.
The reason that we lost is that we lack strength, mentally and physically. That United were stronger than us all over the pitch, that United didn’t make the mistakes that we made and that they had world class finishers in their forward line. The reason that we lost is that we lack belief. United are beginning to believe. Six wins on the trot will do that for you. Having footballers who can put the ball in the back of the net will do that for you.
Simple statement: Sturridge plays today and we win that game. The one-on-ones come to a player who can lift the ball over the keeper, a player who knows that he’s going to score. And the other lads start to believe that they have the freedom to play their game.
We did a lot of stuff right today. We had more shots than United, more on target than United but United were more clinical, United were stronger, United believed more. We played some nice football and we were much better than United for decent stretches.
But United put the ball in the back of the net. And that’s why we lost 3-0. We weren’t far off today but we were miles away at the same time. That’s the conundrum of being a Liverpool fan at the moment.
Rumour has it that Torres lad is going free at the moment. Go on. Could be worth a shot. Stranger things and all that.