30 September 2010

Liverpool 0-0 Utrecht

Johnson Carragher Skrtel Kelly
Meireles Lucas Poulsen Cole

Trying not to lose and lucky not to lose. Gutless, frustrating tactics, yet again, and if Utrecht showed any pretense of the finishing quality that saw them beat Celtic 4-0, we could have had a similar result here.

Where to start? Persisting with the Lucas/Poulsen midfield again, despite getting nothing from the pairing in each of their previous appearances? Playing Meireles out of position on the right side of a 4-4-1-1/4-4-2? Joe Cole's invisibility on the opposition flank? The disheveled, insanely deep defense? The complete and utter lack of lack of service for Torres? Waiting until the 81st minute to make the lone change, even though Liverpool had created next to nothing? No width, no pressing, none of what's led Liverpool to the few successes seen in recent seasons? It was all there, and it was all infuriating.

There's little point in a blow-by-blow recap like usual. If this wasn't a Liverpool match, I would have fallen asleep or changed the channel. There were that few chances, at least for Liverpool. Duplan shot wide in the 7th, set up by Cole's attempted diving clearance. Utrecht had a goal ruled out from a corner in the 26th because Lucas was "fouled." Reina had to palm away Cornelisse's low cross when Liverpool was again beaten down its left in the 30th. Pepe made a few more saves, Meireles cleared off the line in the 56th when Reina flapped at a corner, Mulenga narrowly shot wide when both Kelly and Carragher dawdled in defense seven minutes from full time. Lucky, lucky Liverpool; they easily could have lost to a Dutch club for the first time in 44 years – since Cruyff's Ajax. They'd won their last five matches against opposition from that country by a 12-2 margin.

The aforementioned Meireles and Reina are the only two to come away with any credit. The decision to play the Portuguese midfielder on the right baffled, and contributed to Liverpool's perpetual lack of width, but he wasn't terrible. In fact, he created two of Liverpool's few shots; unfortunately, both were tamely at the keeper. You just can't help but think he'd be better in his natural position. Otherwise, none of the players performed to their potential, and despite the lack of any attacking impetus, I still can't understand why Hodgson waited until the 81st to replace Cole with Maxi. It wasn't the strongest bench, but it contained both Babel and Ngog. FYI: Ngog is Liverpool's top scorer in this competition, and his introduction in the last two league games has led to goals.

Torres can't escape blame either, but for those claiming he looks disinterested, I'd counter that Liverpool couldn't possibly cater to his talents less. He barely touched the ball in the first half, and when he did, it led to a corner and a shot narrowly wide of the far post. In the second half, he had two chances: once on the counter, set up by Kuyt – a chance he should have converted (and should have won a corner from) – and once on a defensive mistake. He continually got the ball with his back to goal, with no Liverpool attackers going beyond the defenders, which successfully isolated the striker. As much as it pains me to write, I wouldn't blame him for leaving the first chance he gets. That's what we've come to.

But, hey, the point means that Liverpool's currently atop the group, after Steaua drew with Napoli at home (despite going up 3-0 in the first 20 minutes). It's another clean sheet, even if it's a lucky one. I can't see post-match coverage, and I won't look until finishing this write-up, but I'm sure the manager has told us we should be thankful. As if.

Calling for a manager's head during the season goes against everything I believe in, and, as I always feel compelled to write, I'm well-aware of the root cause: the tumorous owners. Liverpool is not a club that sacks managers during the course of a campaign. Unless the team's in the midst of a relegation fight or Hodgson gives an interview to The S*n, we're probably stuck with him until the end of May. But this match has me closer to making that declaration than I ever thought possible. Steady the ship? Ha. To steal a joke from someone on my Twitter timeline, a sunken ship's steady. The "low point" that was last season was miles better than anything we've been served so far this season.

Blackpool on Sunday. Ian Holloway's already announced his desire to test Liverpool's backline at every opportunity. And that actually has me frightened.


Anonymous said...

I wouldn't call for the manager's head myself either, it's just not right unless he's the one that misses the penalty, mistimed the pass, or fails to track the opposing player's run towards goal.

I've come to accept that every Liverpool's game is going to play out this way, lack of width, dearth of creativity and the death of any intentional attacking forays.

Bring back Babel's driving runs from the left, bring back Ngog's clumsy forward runs, because they're forward runs nevertheless. Or maybe they could just bring back Alonso and Garcia huh?

Marc said...

In all of sports, I'm not sure I've seen a manager come into a team and apply a system that makes less sense for the players he has. Torres is abandoned, Gerrard is anonymous for the majority of most games (unless he's taking FK/PKs), Johnson is bottled up, and Cole seems perpetually misused.

None of this makes any sense. Who takes the Liverpool job hoping to draw against Sunderland and Utrecht? I understand y'all's points about not firing him in season, but really, other than the lucky strike against WBA, things couldn't be much worse on the pitch. If Torres hadn't scored that one goal, LFC would be next to Everton at the bottom of the table. And worse, deservedly so.

The owners and Hodgson have conspired to rob me of any joy from LFC. I have a much better time watching other matches as a neutral. Not only is it less depressing from a results standpoint, but there are actually chances by both sides and I don't have to suffer world class players being completely misused all over the pitch.

This was Hodgson's last chance to go for glory. Even with his hamstrung transfer policy, he could have opened things up. If WBA can win at Emirates, if Newcastle can drop 6 on Villa, we could be good, too.

Thanks Roy.

brian said...

"As much as it pains me to write, I wouldn't blame him for leaving the first chance he gets. That's what we've come to."

As much as it pains me to admit it, I wouldn't blame him either.

nate said...

@ aredthing,

I wouldn't call for the manager's head myself either, it's just not right unless he's the one that misses the penalty, mistimed the pass, or fails to track the opposing player's run towards goal.

I've come to accept that every Liverpool's game is going to play out this way, lack of width, dearth of creativity and the death of any intentional attacking forays.

These two paragraphs seem incompatible to me. The manager is never the one who misses the penalty or doesn't track the run. That's not why managers are fired, and those things aren't why Liverpool's drawing or losing games they should win. And why are we accepting the traits you bring up in the second part?

@ Marc,

As you mention, it's the lack of ambition and strange tactics that are so frustrating. For the most part, and probably excluding myself, Liverpool fans are fairly clued up. They know that there's an awful lot of blame to aim at Hicks, Gillett, Broughton, Purslow. But such negative tactics and wishy-washy, embarrassing post-match statements ('we're happy with our performance,' 'we don't play with wingers so Meireles is suited to the position,' 'Trabzonspor was a famous victory,' etc) are sure-fire ways to alienate a fanbase.

Anonymous said...

Sorry about that, but I'm kind of in a resignation mood and I'll be in denial if I say that Liverpool has a shot at next season's Champions League slot, if they continue playing like they've been playing and if Roy keeps putting out teams like he's been putting out.

It all seems like the players are just as clueless as the manager when it comes to their playing position or what's required of them during a game.

I can't help but admire the likes of Sunderlands, Utrechts play with such smooth flow, even if they lack the quality, but they never lacked the ambitions and determination.

Roy Hodgson said...

We created some good chances ourselves and it wasn't a dull 0-0.

lfcfan said...

This is so sad. It's heartbreaking, really. I don't know which is worse-the performance itself or the fact that the manager seems entirely unphased by mediocrity.
He's okay with draws and anfield, he's okay with draws against clubs that we haven't lost to in years, he's okay with draws against arched rivals, and he's okay with below average play on the whole.
If he doesn't set the bar hgh enough, the club will suffer tremendously. It' almost as though he's telling the fans - look, it's fine. this is the best we can do so be happy with it. never in a million years did i think id say ''we're aiming for top four''. and never in my worst nightmare did i say ''top four looks difficult''. and yet, here we are...

Earl said...

Joyless. I fought harder trying to stay awake than they did on the pitch for this one and Birmingham. Its getting to the point where I'm almost indifferent about making the effort to watch a match. I'm stealing the tag given to the Washington Redskins for the last few years, Infinite Sadness. Torres is most assuredly gone.

I do like Meireles, you definitely see the talent there.