10 August 2013

Liverpool 0-1 Celtic

Amido Balde 12'

Well that's not the way this preseason was supposed to end.

Let's go through the list of Liverpool's major weakness last season. Humor me.

• Struggling to achieve fluency against a physical, resilient, tightly-packed defense? Check.

• Still creating chances, but foiled by an outstanding performance from the opposition keeper and/or their own profligacy in the final third? Check.

• An inability to come back, despite overwhelming possession, after conceding first? Check.

• Conceding on the counter-attack, with a lot of blame on a single Liverpool mistake, as well as frightening defending on set plays? Check.

• An inability to cope with a burly frontman? Check, although, thankfully, to a lesser extent than Benteke, Walters, Carlton Cole, etc (thanks Kolo).

We're ready for Stoke next week. Sigh.

Yes, yes, it's still preseason. Don't overreact when Liverpool play well, so don't overreact when Liverpool play poorly. And, admittedly, it wasn't nearly as bad as last season's "bad."

Nonetheless, it's slightly worrying that so many of last season's disappointments reappeared today, against the toughest opposition that Liverpool have faced over these seven friendlies. That's not a welcome sign right before the real football starts.

Don't get me wrong, there were some positives. Toure looked far better at dealing with the physicality of Balde than any Liverpool defender did against the aforementioned brawny strikers last season. Ibe and Sturridge, despite forgetting their shooting boots, were vast improvements on Aspas and Downing when coming off the bench; that Sturridge was fit enough to play 45 minutes today is an excellent sign for next Saturday. Rodgers again demonstrated Liverpool's increasing versatility, with different midfield set-ups in each half, utilizing Coutinho, Henderson, Allen, and Gerrard's adaptability. And Liverpool monopolized possession and monopolized chances, Liverpool just shot poorly – which hadn't been much of a problem through the first six friendlies – while Zaluska also kept Celtic ahead with some outstanding saves in the first half. But, yes, Liverpool did that a lot in draws and losses last season too.

In addition to the above litany of previously seen complaints, I was incredibly disappointed by Aspas' struggles against Celtic's center-backs. The star of preseason so far, the Spaniard conjured next to nothing today; even his first touch completely deserted him, always looking over his shoulder to see where contact might come from. Nonstop movement, but absolutely no end product. That bodes poorly against next week's opponents, and against Premier League opposition in general.

Also, not only is it only preseason but he's only 20, yet Andre Wisdom also notably suffered today. Like Aspas, Wisdom had been one of preseason's revelations, looking surprisingly comfortable at center-back, albeit against much weaker forwards. It may have been my fault, making the amateur mistake of talking up his future on Twitter prior to the match, but Wisdom hasn't looked so at sea since Mirallas tormented him so effectively for the first half of last season's first Merseyside derby.

On the whole, this was still Liverpool's best preseason since 2008-09, winning six of seven, scoring 17 while conceding just twice. Liverpool's squad looks more cohesive, more coherent than last season, especially in attack, even if there are still identifiable holes that we'd hoped would have been filled by now.

And all that said, all that's been said in these friendly reviews, it is still just preseason. We'll know much more about where we stand and how loudly we should scream in a week's time.


WetCelery said...

I don't understand how we can go through all of this time knowing exactly what our weaknesses are and still seemingly do nothing about them. Any coach knows what tactics will beat us: high pressing, physical play, set pieces, defend deep, counter-attack, game over. So what do we do when we play a team like Celtic? Let them have a free goal by playing too slow at the back. Either you drop more players back to quickly pass around the pressing, or you bait the pressers out of position and go over top of them. It's just a bit dispiriting when we fall at our first real test.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your concerns but there are some things to note.

First, the transfer window isn't closed yet. I can see Rodgers buying a CB to replace Skrtel and if possible a LB. This bodes well for the defence which was picked apart due to the inexperience of Wisdom and Enrique's frailties.

Secondly, this isn't liverpool's first real test. If liverpool beat Stoke next week then todays evens will be forgotten.

I can' remember the last time LFC won on the first game of the season. Hopefully that is about to change.

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