Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Liverpool Still A Work In Progress After Stoke Stumble

International matches are proving a bona-fide bane to Liverpool. It has been so since the Benitez days. Charlie Adam came back from Scotland international duty with a slight injury concern. That clearly hampered his performance at the Britannia last weekend. Even the hardworking Dirk Kuyt looked very lethargic and contributed little at Stoke.

Still it wasn't a completely insipid performance. 24 shots on goal and 72% possession time on the ball typifies another solid Reds' performance under Kenny Dalglish. Liverpool must show lots of heart and combative spirit whenever they go to a fortress like the Britannia Stadium. For the first time, no one shirked their duties, and everyone in a Reds' shirt fought hard. Going behind early to Walters' penalty goal allowed Stoke to effectively park the bus and they did that expertly with Shawcross a key man defensively.

I was gutted that Henderson and Adam could not score in that now famous "5 chances in a min" scramble. And like many, I begun to get the feeling that Liverpool will not get the goals that their effort deserved. However, I get excited watching this new-look Liverpool side. I particularly enjoyed the energy, swagger and quickness in the whole "pass-and-move" philosophy that the Reds have once again revived this season. Gone are the boring ho-hum Benitez tactics of stifling opponents in those albeit some successful trophy-laden seasons. Obviously, the less said about Hodgson's reign the better. I much prefer the more cavalier and more British approach that King Kenny has had the Reds playing than at any time in the last ten years.

But if Liverpool are to regain a place in the Champions League next season (which they have a great chance), I feel the Reds coaching team must work to overcome three problem areas.

1. Lack of composure in front of goal by Liverpool forwards
There is no denying that potentially the Reds' attack is a potent one. And yet if a team does not put away 24 chances in a game, something must be wrong. Jordan Henderson snatched at his gilt-edged chance to equalize. Suarez also could have done a lot better with his chance especially in injury time. In an earlier game against Bolton, the Uruguayan also chose to go for the "showboat" chip which went over. So, Liverpool need to work on composure and be clinical in front of goal.

2. Inability to capitalise on Adam's excellent corner deliveries
Against Stoke, Adam delivered several excellent corners and there were no Liverpool player attacking the ball. Last season, Blackpool scored many goals just from Adam's setpiece corners. The Reds must take advantage of the Scot's well taken corner kicks. It is a weapon that even Alex Ferguson acknowledged to be worth £10m alone.

3. Persistent injuries to Liverpool right backs
Martin Skrtel played at right back at Stoke and Liverpool weren't as penetrating down the right channel as they had been in previous matches this season. Glen Johnson and Martin Kelly seemed to be continuously injured, leaving Liverpool with no capable rightback as their backup. With the acquisition of Sebastian Coates, Liverpool could opt for a three-at-the-back system, with Enrique and Gerrard as wingbacks.

In those dominant 80's, I remember watching Liverpool and knowing exactly when they would score and they inadvertently did. Now, I get that same feeling when watching Manchester United matches. I am eager to feel that same way again with Liverpool under Dalglish and I think it could happen.

Four games on, Liverpool is still a work in progress. There is no better man for the job than Kenny Dalglish.

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