21 January 2012

Liverpool 1-3 Bolton

M Davies 4'
Reo-Coker 29'
Bellamy 36'
Steinsson 50'

So is this what FSG feared when appointing Dalglish? A manager that should be, hopefully, exempt from criticism, but there has been so much to criticize in tactics, personnel, and transfer dealings lately. Let alone the performances from those on the pitch. Hodgson was absolutely excoriated for games like this. Being the best player and one of the most-successful managers in Liverpool history can't save Dalglish from similar, if deservedly less vehement.

I can't keep making excuses, and probably have to finally admit I've been proven wrong. The jury I've tried to keep hung keeps delivering its verdict louder and louder. Liverpool's summer signing scapegoats still aren't clicking, and still don't look like doing so. More bad games than good means the bad games aren't aberrations. Still just six points behind fourth, but again failing to take advantage of competitors' results means that the Champions League looks less and less likely for yet another season.

It's another terrible performance against a relegation-threatened side, as in losses to Blackpool and West Ham last season and in draws against Blackburn and Wigan (and arguably others) this season. It's the first loss to Bolton in 11 tries, a comprehensive defeat to the side with the worst home record in all four divisions. With this win, Bolton move out of the bottom three for the first time this season.

It was the type of performance that can push even a sycophant like me over the edge. The tone was set when Bolton carved open Liverpool's 4-4-2 within four minutes. The home side got at a disjointed, second-best Liverpool immediately, and Davies easily burst behind Liverpool's midfield from Ngog's flick-on when no one tracked his run, sliding his shot past Reina before Skrtel could recover.

Liverpool had little response for the early concession and continued to look completely insipid. Bolton could have had a second soon after, but Eagles could only cross across the face of goal after beating Enrique all ends up. The only reason Bellamy and Carroll were marginally exempt from criticism was because the other nine Liverpool players couldn't create anything. Unlike in recent setbacks, chances weren't coming at all.

Bolton added an improbable second in the 29th, again carving open Liverpool like that clichéd Thanksgiving turkey. Eagles, Reo-Coker, and Ngog excellently combined on a throw-in, with Liverpool embarrassingly static; Eagles' chip found Reo-Coker charging into the box unmarked, controlling with his chest then firing past Reina.

Finally finding a semblance of attack when two down, Bellamy and Carroll pulled one back in the 36th, as Bellamy charged onto Carroll's header after Adam headed Bogdan's goal kick out of defense, beating Knight for pace before slotting home. An equalizer even looked possible before the interval, as Bogdan saved shots from the goal-scorer and Gerrard.

It didn't take long for Bolton to destroy that optimistic notion after the restart. Again, Liverpool started sloppily and again, Liverpool paid for it, this time on a set play. Wheater, out-jumping Skrtel, headed Petrov's corner up and Steinsson classily volleyed it in. The clearly unconfident side had little heart to try to fight back from a two-goal deficit again, and the final forty minutes were a depressing formality. Kuyt and Downing replaced Maxi and Adam, who were probably Liverpool's worst players today, but neither made the side any more cohesive. Liverpool's subsequent half-chances followed the stereotypical script. Agger cannoned a shot off the crossbar. Carroll hilariously whiffed when open for Maxi's cutback. Bellamy selfishly shot at Bogdan when Liverpool broke in the 78th, a deflection making it easy for the keeper. I can't even think of any consolation chances in the last 10 minutes, with Liverpool solely focused on leaving the Reebok as soon as possible.

Where Liverpool go from here is the crucial question. Somehow, Dalglish has to restore self-belief when absolutely none is evident. Earlier this season, Liverpool played well but couldn't take advantage for any number of unfortunate reasons. Now, Liverpool are struggling in every section of the pitch and are getting exactly what they deserve. It's no coincidence Liverpool are far, far worse without Lucas and Suarez, but no one expected them to suffer this mightily. That Liverpool went 4-4-2 with Gerrard and Adam in midfield and Henderson and Maxi out "wide," no matter previous results, is mostly unexplainable and nearly unforgivable.

Panicked January spending probably isn't the answer. Another new manager almost certainly isn't the answer. But something, lots of things, need to change. And very, very quickly.


Mike Georger said...

The only reason spending will be panicked is if we went into the window not actively looking to improve. If we did that, I am absolutely done with believing Damien has even a semblance of an idea of what he is doing.

I don't care how amazing Lucas is, you always need depth. Spearing has done well, but guess what, Spearing is our only proper defensive midfielder and he's hurt. If you don't have a backup to the backup, you're going to be fucked. We needed to get a player who could protect the back four this month, and a creative player in attack. I would argue the former is more important than the latter at the moment.

Going into this game with the Adam/Gerrard combination was terrifying. If Spearing is not healthy for the City game, we will absolutely lose.

Build from the back! But don't take any precautions to shore up the acres of space between the backline and midfield.

Ponderous, man. Fucking PONDEROUS.

Anonymous said...

It's Bogdan (Bogdán), not Bodgan.

Mike Georger said...

I keep seeing people say we've hit bottom.

I'm uh ... we have City, United twice, Spurs, Arsenal, and Everton in the next six weeks. It could get a LOT worse.

nate said...

Thanks for the heads-up re: Bogdan. I promise, I know how to spell his name, but kept doing that today for some reason. My notebook is littered with the incorrect spelling crossed out.

My brain sucks sometimes.

Also, might as well echo Georger's first comment while I'm here.

Anonymous said...

Was just wondering about peoples thoughts about Suarez back for the FA Cup against MU next Sat?

Anonymous said...

was wondering why Dalglish was only blaming the players for the loss?

Signs were indeed imminent but surely the ones on the fringes should have got a game, and ask the likes of Shevley to show that they do belong in this league....

Some soul-searching to do, but with the lack of personnel I guess this would be sadly the starting 11 versus city with Kuyt replacing Maxi

the winter has gone .... but will it leave us walking alone ?

- Kasper

Anonymous said...

At one point I believed the lack of depth at cdm could be covered by Kelly/Aurelio but after seeing how bad Johnson (and the rest of the D) looked after the mystery position he played last week I think I might have to change my stance and ask why not try someone like Coady from the reserves(I'm no expert on the reserves so if he is not our best cdm prospect there then feel free to correct me). Is he really that much further behind developmentally from where Flanagan/Robinson were last year? This would allow for some consistency in shape snd roles for the rest of the personnel which seems to be important for this team.

nate said...

• I don't think Dalglish's comments were meant to direct the blame onto players rather than coaching staff, but were hopefully a needed kick in the rear end.

• I don't follow the reserves as much as I should, but, yeah, you'd have to think Coady will get a look-in – on the bench if nothing else – sooner rather than later.