Carragher Kyrgiakos Skrtel Konchesky
Meireles Gerrard Lucas Maxi
Just when you think it can't get more embarrassing.
As against Wigan, Liverpool sat back and allowed Stoke to dictate terms. And as against Wigan, the tactics made Stoke look like bloody Brazil. 2-0 actually flatters Liverpool. All of this is completely deserved, which makes it even harder to take. Is it clear that Chelsea was an aberration, that normal service has been resumed? Is it clear that Hodgson isn't even trying to win away from Anfield? How about that Hodgson needs to go as soon as possible, is that clear?
It's impossible to do justice to the complete and utter awfulness on display today. Indescribable and indefensible excrement. It was a car crash so horrific you actually want to turn away. Stoke could have scored four within 20 minutes: twice from Delap long throws and twice from free kicks. Liverpool retreated as deep as possible, allowed Stoke all the possession they could want, and left Torres completely isolated, complete with deck chair and umbrella-laden drink.
Yes, Liverpool actually improved over the subsequent 25 minutes – there was nowhere to go but up – registering not one but two (two!) shots on target, but soon regressed back to form. And Stoke scored a typical Stoke goal 10 minutes after the interval, finally taking advantage of Delap's long throws. Defenders hilariously tried to clear, missing multiple times, before Etherington's deflected shot fell to Fuller, who twice hit the hapless Konchesky before toe-poking in.
The goal finally brought Liverpool out of its shell, which begs the question why the manager thought it clever to play Stoke's game, waiting until Liverpool went behind before pressing the opposition and actually attacking with more than two men. Kuyt presented Maxi with an opportunity in the 64th, cutting back from the byline only to see the Argentinean's shot saved, while Skrtel prodded a wide following Kyrgiakos' knockdown from a free kick. Hodgson tried to make changes by bringing on Ngog for Meireles and Babel for Maxi, but the complete disconnect remained. Too little, too late.
Already ahead, Stoke's big defenders could protect the edge of their area, continue bludgeoning attackers with Halsey happy to 'let them play,' and Liverpool offered next to nothing. Tactical simplicity, tactical ineptitude. Babel's blast two yards wide after cutting in from the left was the only chance of note in the final 15 minutes.
Stoke piled on more misery in the first minute of injury time. Gerrard's hopeful Hollywood ball was easily intercepted, Konchesky couldn't close down Pennant, and Jones found acres of space between a static Carragher and Skrtel for an easy strike. To add insult to injury, Lucas picked up a second yellow a minute later, ruling him out of next week's match against West Ham. Just what Liverpool needs... more Poulsen.
The team's now taken all of three points off of Birmingham, Sunderland, Blackpool, Everton, Wigan, and Stoke. That's humiliating. Two of those six – one draw, one loss – were at Anfield. Continuing the process started by Hicks and Gillett, Hodgson's succeeded in making Liverpool a laughing stock. That's the only thing he's succeeded in.
Stoke had 64% of the possession today. Sixty. Four. Percent. Making the comparison is as depressing as this result, but even when Liverpool were absolutely dire under the previous manager – as in this fixture last season – they at least attempted to keep the ball. Today, Liverpool let Stoke do whatever they desired. Eleven players stood around and waved Stoke towards their own goal, while the manager stood complacently on the touchline. Watching this was cruel and unusual punishment.
NESV needs to put this regime out of its misery as soon as possible. The same tactics time and time again, and the completely frustrated body language from every single player suggests it's not getting any better.