20 July 2013

Liverpool 2-0 Indonesian XI

Coutinho 10'
Sterling 87'

Arsenal scored seven against this opposition! Pitchforks! Torches! The sky is falling!

Yawn. Whatever.

Preseason is preseason is preseason is preseason. Especially a preseason match on a shit pitch in 80º heat and nearly 95% humidity.

2011-12 versus 2012-13:
This was Liverpool's starting XI in the second friendly last season. Gulasci; McLaughlin, Skrtel, Carragher, Enrique; Shelvey, Spearing, Aquilani; Sterling, Eccelston, Cole. A bit different than the one we saw today. Sure, Liverpool were missing even more than usual last year because of both the Euros and Olympics, but the difference is still night and day. This is a much deeper and much stronger squad, and Brendan Rodgers is taking preseason very seriously.

Gerrard ahead of Lucas:
Last season, whenever Gerrard and Lucas played together, both were "sitting" midfielders. Sure, Gerrard bombed forward on occasion, while it was Lucas' primary job to mop up in front of the back four, but both were deep-lying midfielders. In contrast, Gerrard was definitely ahead of Lucas today, nearly on the same line as Luis Alberto, getting forward more consistently while Lucas was an out-and-out defensive shield.

Incidentally, Gerrard played like a man who's missed the last few months due to surgery, his passing rusty almost beyond belief, but kicking out those jams is truly is the point of preseason.

Luis Alberto and Philippe Coutinho:
It was somewhat surprising to see Luis Alberto in the "number 10" role with Liverpool's actual #10, Philippe Coutinho, playing mostly on the left. Sure, they switched positions at times, although less frequently than I expected. Sure, Coutinho still spent a lot of time on the ball, drifting infield whenever it suited him. He played there in more than a few appearances last season, and that positioning makes a certain amount of sense given Liverpool's dogged, if unsuccessful, pursuit of Henrikh of House Mkhitaryan. And Luis Alberto played on the left, as the #10, and as a false nine for Barca B last season. Nonetheless, Coutinho was also much less influential, despite his goal, than he was in the first half against Preston. Make of that what you will.

Goals make me happy:
Both of Liverpool's goals came from situations that fill my heart with joy. The first was admittedly a bit lucky, but – as in winning the penalty last week – came because Coutinho refused to give up after conceding possession, pressing an Indonesian into a mistake, profiting from a kind bounce of the ball, and bursting through to slot under the keeper. I expected more pressing in the attacking third last season from Liverpool. From the first two preseason matches, it looks like we'll see a lot more of it this season.

The second was a blistering – and I mean blistering – counter-attack from an Indonesia corner. Wisdom's fine clearance, Ibe's speed taking him past two defenders followed by a throughball for Assaidi, unselfishly handed off to Sterling for an easy tap in. Liverpool were often potent, at least in the second half of last season, when playing direct football, and that was direct, breakneck football. Rodgers clearly prioritizes speed from his attackers, and both Ibe and Sterling have speed to burn. I expect big things from Liverpool's counter-attack next season; last season showed how other teams can profit from Liverpool's failed set plays or conceding possession in the attacking third. Liverpool need to do that to other teams, and have the ability to do so.

But still blunt up front:
But despite those two encouraging goals, I'd hoped to see more for Liverpool's strikers. Both Borini and Aspas suffered from the rutted pitch more than most, with bobbles of the ball spoiling outstanding chances for both. But neither impressed up front; at the least, neither showed the ruthlessness needed from the spearhead. Both linked up with others decently well, Aspas more than Borini, but both assuredly need to improve that ruthlessness in front of goal. That, or Sturridge needs to get fit very soon.

Go away, woodwork:
It is really never ending. The frame of the goal has been one of Liverpool's biggest enemies for two full years now. And Liverpool's woes with the woodwork look to continue apace, with both Luis Alberto and Sterling cannoning strikes off the crossbar. Please stop. It's not funny anymore. Get it out of your systems now.


Anonymous said...

How did assaidi perform in his time on the pitch?

Anonymous said...

Was the woodwork actually a problem for us last year?

Yohan said...

This match was the 1st time i watch Liverpool with no screen involved. and i can tell you, it wasnt as exciting as what i wished it could be. Yeah, i was at the stadium, expecting we can get more goals, but it didnt happen. Actually, Indonesia's squad last night is much better than what arsenal faced last week (I'm an Indonesian), and with better condition too, due too more time to rest their stomach after break their full day fast.

nate said...

Assaidi was better than against Preston, with an assist for Sterling and setting up a chance for Borini (that ended with Sterling cannon off the woodwork), but still not impressive enough to make me think he's got a massive role to play next season. Will be surprised if he's not sold.

Re: woodwork. Bass Tuned to Red wrote about it here. Wasn't as dramatic or infuriating as 2011-12, but still a fairly big issue.