12 January 2011

Liverpool 1-2 Blackpool

Kelly Skrtel Agger Johnson
Meireles Poulsen Lucas
Kuyt Torres Jovanovic

Torres 3'
Taylor-Fletcher 12'
Campbell 69'

The perfect start, fitting for a new era. Then the old era crept in. It's going to take more than "good feelings" to fix this side.

When Torres scored in the third minute, sent through by Kelly and smashing over Kingson from an acute angle, it looked as if we'd see a new Liverpool. The attacking, mobile 4-3-3 formation demonstrated intent.

But that formation, and individual mistakes, let Liverpool down fairly quickly. Blackpool leveled less than ten minutes later because of errors from Torres, Meireles, and Agger: misplaced passes from the first two let Taylor-Fletcher in, while Agger wasn't strong enough to hold the striker off, his "tackle" unluckily letting the Scouser in for the equalizer.

And because of the horrors from the past six months, confidence plummeted. Blackpool could have had a second minutes later, only Campbell headed wide from six yards out following a corner. Liverpool remained completely disjointed until the final minutes of the half, when Agger headed at the keeper from a free kick and Kingson just kept out Lucas' near-post flick from a corner.

But with no ability to string anything together in attack, Blackpool were by far the better side after the interval. Their confidence increased with every kick, while Liverpool's vanished – especially in defense. Only Reina prevented Blackpool from quickly getting a second, saving shots from Adam and Vaughan ten minutes after the restart.

Liverpool started to build up some slight momentum – Torres volleyed over, Meireles shot wide, and Kingson saved Kuyt's bouncing effort from distance – but mistakes and poor defending soon condemned the away side. Another Meireles giveaway led to a corner when Agger got back to block Phillips' effort. While Liverpool cleared their lines, Blackpool quickly regrouped, Evatt easily out-jumped Skrtel to head across goal, and Campbell easily headed in when Johnson abdicated any defensive responsibilities.

And that's when morale hit rock bottom. There was little attempt at a comeback after Blackpool's second. Having conceded, and lost a lead, so often this season, you could clearly see heads drop. Other than a Meireles header over the bar and a cast-iron penalty shout for handball – ignored because of a questionable push – Liverpool had no response. Blackpool spent the majority of the final 20 minutes toying with their opponents, which would be the height of humiliation had Liverpool not been humiliated so often this season.

I didn't get on Hodgson's back after the first couple of games, and I won't get on Dalglish's. Confidence is at an all-time low, and it's evident in almost every single player. Only Reina, Lucas, Kelly, and Torres can come away with any credit today.

But there were some exceptionally questionable line-up decisions which came back to haunt Liverpool. Glen Johnson is not a left-back – he's only played there once for Liverpool, against Atletico in last year's Europa League, where his mistake led to the goal that knocked Liverpool out of the competition. Jovanovic, finally given a chance by the new manager, completely disappointed. Kuyt continued his dismal form when not playing against the likes of Chelsea or United. Et cetera, et cetera...

Up until Blackpool's second, Liverpool at least tried to play football, tried to pass the ball through midfield instead of hoofing and hoping. But the lack of quality in the final third other than Torres' moment of magic and the utter lack of self-belief are unfortunate holdovers from the previous regime. A tired side following Sunday's match – which led to many of the line-up changes – didn't help; that Blackpool rested nearly its entire side in the FA Cup made a difference.

I'm already dreading the 'see, it wasn't Hodgson's fault!' comments. Hodgson's at fault for the total lack of confidence. That's not to ignore today's team selection or the individual performances. But it's Dalglish's job to restore morale, and that won't happen overnight. And it's the job of FSG and Comolli to provide funds to fix the glaring holes in the squad – specifically at left back and in attacking width, which isn't news to anyone.

At least it should be harder for the team to roll over on Sunday, at Anfield against their most bitter rivals. If Liverpool can't get up for that game, maybe the problems do run far deeper than the manager.


Anonymous said...

I'm wondering if this defeat will be heaped at the feet of that Nasty Spanish Waiter. Time will tell.

The Commish said...

I am looking for positives at this point:
-Kelly is terrific, and in my opinion is our first choice right back;
-Lucas was tenacious and outstanding today and seems to be making great strides;
-Torres has a decidedly better appearance on the pitch;

There are clearly issues that need to be addressed:
-Jovanovich and Poulsen hopefully played their last game in the shirt...neither should be playing in the premiership let alone for the Reds;
-Skertl seems off the pace and I am normally a fan;
-left back is obviously a problem as the oft injured Aurelio is our only option.

The rebuilding of our team is paramount, and Kenny will do as well as anyone at getting the best out of these guys. The problem is that a lot of them need to leave.

drew said...

Charlie Adam better not be a Manc or a blue next year because I really don't want to have to hate him.

winnie said...

I don't think all the troubles we've had are not coming from Roy. Maybe he did his best during his reign to solve the problems. There have been some real troubles that Roy couldn't solve but IMO Kenny could.

As Kenny once said, it's all about confidence. Just like Torres fired again, the team would get some results under Kenny. I hope it could be happened asap.

And I have a question to you. Which player do you want in this transfer window? Not a position, but a specific player, please. I wonder if there are few players in the market who can be a realistic target.. Of course it's the job belongs to the club but I want to know how you think of it.

Neel said...

Of this current squad I would keep only

drew said...

Don't think we need to tear down to 6 players to get Liverpool going again. Otoh, with the truly outstanding talents we have coming through the ranks in the next few years (people who know these sorts of things are calling our U-18 side the best they've ever seen), and with actual money to spend in the next couple transfer windows, we also don't need to rely on the sort of spare parts that Rafa did under the sell-to-buy regime.

Looking at it from the back:

--Keeping Reina is, for me, the single most important thing on the list. There's no keeper in the world better suited to the pass-and-move style we all want to see from LFC. Gulacsi and Bouzanis are both capable of spot starts at this point, and past that Tyrell Belford is an English U-16 international; I would like to find better cover than Jones but not yet a major concern.

--Center backs: With RH out I don't think we have to worry so much about Agger leaving, it's just a matter of him staying healthy. Wilson will be ready soon, and Ayala is ready now. Kelly would likely be a very capable center back, though his value at right back might not see him there yet. Down the line we have Andre Wisdom who is already a beast,

So then: flog Skrtel (sad but necessary), , let Carra have a couple matches a month till he calls it a day and keep the Greek for another year for spot starts against cloggers while the kids are out on loan. Build around Agger+Ayala/Wilson.

--Right back: I'm loath to sell off Johnson yet, as he's capable of far more and just needs to shake off the disenchantment of the previous regime's hoof-and-hope approach. Kelly more than capable here but doesn't need an Insua-type workload. John Flanagan will be along soon to pitch in, though needs a loan spell.

--Left back: Aurelio is great when healthy but we all know how rare that is. Don't even want to talk about Konchesky. Have some great prospects, not least Jack Robinson, plus Mavinga if he stays and takes to the new order. Assuming we don't ever get Insua back, we could definitely spend here but only if quality is available (will leave that sort of speculation to others).

Defensive mids: To my mind we're set here, think the Meireles-Lucas holding axis is tremendous when they're not having to carry Poulsen, and Shelvey will be putting in regular shifts from now on too. And who knows, maybe we'll actually get Aquilani back. Spearing I doubt will make it, though Conor Coady might get a look in down the line, as might Palsson, though he needs consistency. Hearing decent reports on Karl Clair too, though as he's Anfield-born that may be Scouse-eyed.

drew said...

Wings: Obviously a trouble area. Still think Kuyt is invaluable but we need some variety to mix in from the right. Honestly would like to see Gerrard featuring out there a bit more, and if anyone's got the ability to put him there it's Kenny. Also think Maxi has more to contribute, if he could get a run of games. Even with that, could definitely use some spending here. The left--woof. Been a weak position for ages, really ever since Digger moved infield (Macca being more an all-over player). Babel and Jova need selling, If we were to spend on one world-class player, I'd think this would be the spot.

Filthy with talent at the lower levels on the flanks, with Suso looking an absolute wizard and stronger than you might expect. Sterling and Silva will also be up there once they fill out. Above them I think David Amoo's worth a look in, as he is electric fast and could develop into a real threat. Thomas Ince might still have a chance, though I think Eccleston will be off to the Championship after his loan spell.

Attacking mid: well, Gerrard, though I honestly suspect he and Kuyt would do better to switch habitual roles. And Cole, whose wages we would struggle to clear. Pacheco deserves some time here, Aquilani could fill this if we get him back. Suso could excel here, though seems best so far cutting in from the right onto his left foot. Honestly I think we're good here if we get back to playing attacking football, not that I'd turn down a van der Vaart if he fell into our laps.

Striker: The obvious, though I think Kenny has some convincing to get Torres to stay through another season of UEFA football (if we even can get back to that point). Ngog is decent cover and worth keeping even if we have proven quality coming in. We could definitely use a fox in the box type, for sure.
Lower levels, Ngoo is developing well as a target man, Adam Morgan is the latest instinctive finisher to be pinned with the rather unfortunate "next Fowler" tag. Get the feeling we'll be looking for some more young talent here, as well as an established international or two.

Anyway, all of which is to say, there's plenty of talent in the squad and talent moreover which can flourish in a pass and move side. If we spend on the left side, especially on the wing, and pick up at long last a quality backup striker, then I think we're looking at a much brighter 2011–12.