04 November 2012

Liverpool 1-1 Newcastle

Cabaye 43'
Suarez 67'

1-1 Sunderland, 1-1 Manchester United, 1-1 Norwich, 1-1 Manchester City, 1-1 Blackburn, 1-1 Aston Villa.

New season, meet last season.

All of the above were at Anfield, all of the above were matches that Liverpool should have won. Just like today. I guess we can throw this season's 1-1 at Sunderland into the group as well, even if it was at the Stadium of Light.

Incidentally, Suarez also scored Liverpool's lone goal in three of those six matches. As he did at Sunderland earlier this season, at about the same time in the match as today's strike. If not him, then no one. Once again.

We've seen this script before. Liverpool started with such fire that steam was coming off the front six. Sterling tortured Anita, Suarez was typically torrid. But Liverpool couldn't turn the inferno into tangible reward. Sterling saw an excellent chance well blocked by Coloccini within three minutes, then sailed a shot wide of the near post. Suso shot past the far post after cutting in from the right. Suarez could have won a penalty – but surprisingly didn't (I'll give you a moment to regain your composure) – narrowly missed with a free kick, and had an effort kick-saved by Krul. Gerrard looked to mark his 600th Liverpool appearance by taking speculative shots from anywhere on the pitch. Even Joe Allen got in on the act, unable to get clean contact when following up after Suarez was dispossessed. All within the first quarter of the game.

Liverpool's quick start was already subsiding when Perch suffered an injury, replaced by Danny Simpson in the 27th minute, but the move ended up helping the away side as well. Simpson did a better job marking Sterling, while Anita is first and foremost a holding midfielder. He gave Jonas and Cabaye more freedom in the middle, while Simpson's tight marking limited Sterling's influence.

The move for Newcastle's opener started with a foul throw from Wisdom deep in Newcastle half and ended with a goal scored from his area of the pitch. In between, Newcastle quickly got the ball up their left flank before Ba spread play to Ben Arfa on the opposite side. The tricky winger dribbled around and through the retreating and tentative Enrique and Sterling before crossing to Cabaye in acres of space at the back post, with Liverpool's 19-year-old right back sucked into the six-yard-box by Cisse's movement. Rather than leaving the striker to one of the many Liverpool defenders already in that area, he followed the man he was "supposed" to be marking, leaving Cabaye with all the time in the world to shoot. Still, it was an acute angle and a marvelous finish, if one Jones probably should have done better on. It's not a typical Liverpool stomach punch if the finish isn't marvelous, though.

One shot on target, one goal. Just like against Everton, United, Sunderland, and West Brom this season, and Villa, Newcastle, and Wigan to close last season. And Liverpool were lucky that Newcastle didn't extend the lead before halftime. With Liverpool on tilt, Cabaye missed the target from the top of the box after stealing from Gerrard, then Gerrard and Allen got in each other's way trying to clear a free kick. Luckily, the ball fell to Steven Taylor rather than a more potent finisher, shinning a shot wide.

With Newcastle's goal coming at the same time as West Brom, the fear that today would replicate opening day was palpable. But Liverpool did well to steady the ship before resuming some sort of impetus around the hour mark. Still, everything came from Suarez. Krul saved a shot that might have been going wide when Suarez turned into space before the striker nearly set up Şahin, narrowly missing wide of the far post from a similar position as Suarez's earlier shot.

Seven minutes later, the Uruguayan finally found the back of the net, and in brilliant fashion. Allen's slip allowed Newcastle room to counter, but Jonas' ball was just too high for Cisse. Enrique picked up possession deep in his half, looked up, and fired over the top for the on-rushing Suarez, who had split Coloccini and Taylor with his immediate run. Still, he had an inordinate amount of work to do, out-muscling Coloccini to get behind him, somehow killing the hard-hit ball with his chest, then a quick, jaw-dropping touch to somehow round the keeper with less than zero space to operate. From there a tap-in. Just watch. This angle's good too. They're equally enjoyable, and I'm still not sure how he did it. If not Suarez, then no one.

Liverpool had four excellent chances to take a rightful lead, to come back for a league win for the first time since this fixture last December. Surprisingly, none came from Suarez, although he did set up two of them. Less surprisingly, Liverpool converted none. Not three minutes after Suarez's equalizer, when the striker's trademark mazy byline run allowed him to center for an open Shelvey, losing his balance and poking a soft shot to a grateful Krul. Not in the 76th, when Allen's tackle led to a breakaway, with Suarez charging forward and finding an open Sterling, who lingered just long enough to allow Taylor to make an outstanding block. And not after Coloccini was rightfully sent off in the 83rd, attempting to disjoint Suarez's kneecap after the ball had long gone; Shelvey had a shot and header easily saved, but otherwise Newcastle were able to hold up against unstinting Liverpool pressure, with numerous free kicks and corners too easily cleared.

I guess I should be grateful that Newcastle didn't come up with a second stomach punch. They had chances in the 77th and 79th from Liverpool mistakes: first, Wisdom's poor clearing header fell to Cisse, who had more space then he realized, his first-time shot on the turn wide of the near post. Then, Enrique's insane giveaway led to Ben Arfa cutting inside from the right, thankfully blasting too close to Brad Jones. But it's hard to be grateful that Liverpool dropped just two points rather than the full three.

It remains the same broken record. Liverpool are wholly reliant on Suarez, who has seven goals while no other Liverpool player has more than one, and who has taken the most shots in the league and is joint-second top scorer. Liverpool concede cheap goals. Liverpool miss its defensive stalwarts, specifically Johnson, although I can't help but think Reina would have done better on Newcastle's goal, even if that might be misplaced hope given this season's form.

Liverpool can out-shoot its opponents 23 to 11, out-pass its opponents by 250, and out-possess its opponents 66-34%, but if Liverpool concede sloppy goals, don't finish its chances, and remain wholly reliant on Luis Suarez, Liverpool will continue to drop points when they have little excuse for doing so.

It's not as if this is a problem developed this season under this manager; it was the case for all of last season too. But, despite looking more and more like a Brendan Rodgers side, despite the promise sometimes shown, and despite what are – on the whole – improving performances in a settled XI, Liverpool don't look much like fixing that problem either. Which can't come as a surprise when last season's side couldn't finish its chances. That side had three or four more recognized goal-scorers. And that's not the fault of the players or manager.


Ryan said...

Nate, another subperb piece of analysis. Deja Vu all over again.

As you rightly point out, the lack of accuracy when shooting, and downright lack of a killer attitude has been missing for some time, and I don't know what the answer is. As much as I love watching the technical acumen of both Sterling and Suso, neither look like they will score 5 league goals and that is a problem.

People banging on about Carroll miss the point, we had him last year and he didnt solve any of these problems. Would he have been better this year? Maybe, but not at his price. Kuyt was woefully underplayed last year and would have given us at least a poacher up front-right. We still need 3-4 attacking players is the truth of it. One or two in January will help, but to really get where we need to be we need two more windows.

We are fun to watch though, no doubting that.

Milo said...

Hi, I really like your blog, good work! You are of course right in your analysis, we need to score more goals, but I fail to understand why you seem so surprised by the lack of them.

- We let four of our best veteran first team attacking players (Kuyt/Carroll/Maxi/Bellamy) leave this summer
- We failed to buy Dempsey as a replacement for Carroll
- The only semi-mature striker we managed to buy broke his foot and is out for weeks

I thought everyone would understand that we were in major trouble after this summer's transfer window. The new owners splashed a huge amount of cash last year, but all those players, except two (Suarez/Enrique), have under-performed and become a burden for Liverpool. One player has already been sold at a loss, and one player is on loan. The other three players (Downing/Henderson/Coates) are wearing out their trousers on the bench. No wonder the owners were a bit more cautious this summer, and the result was disappointing to say the least.

The cold, hard facts are staring us in the face. Luis Suarez is the only senior striker in Liverpool FC. That is why Luis Suarez are scoring most of the goals, and of course those goals are not enough to win games. No manager or tactics in the world can change that.

Yes, we have a fantastic talent pool to draw from, but it's really unfair to expect Sterling and Suso to be "killers" in front of goal this season. They are 17 and 18 years old. They might score a couple of goals each if they are allowed to play regularly the whole season.

Maturity is a key aspect for a striker in Premier League. The only other dangerous, mature player we have in Liverpool FC is Steven Gerrard, and I can't understand why Rodgers isn't playing him as one of the three strikers. We have a lot of alternatives in central midfield.

I knew this was going to be a bad season, as to results, but I have great faith in Brendan. Hopefully he will be allowed to buy a couple of players in January, then they are already a part of the Liverpool team when the next season starts.

Cheer up! :-)

Stephen said...

Gerrard was a liability again. I do love Rodgers "system" but can someone inform him not to play our regular XI in non-league matches. Would Gerrard have been more effective had he not substituted in mid-week? We will feel still worse if we lose Allen or Suarez to those matches.

Cooker said...

You will really feel sick if you watch the miss from Shelvey again. Suarez' run pulled Krul out of position, and Shelvey only needed to tap in with his left foot. Instead, he lunged at the ball with his right. All to typical for the last full year or so... fantastic chances are being missed.

Gerrard said...

nice blog bro