20 September 2014

Liverpool 1-3 West Ham

Reid 2'
D Sakho 7'
Sterling 26'
Amalfitano 88'

If you keep starting in the worst possible manner, if you keep conceding early goals, you will probably keep losing games.

At the moment, Liverpool are bad. Very bad. Yes, it's with a team still trying to gel. It's without Sturridge and Allen, two very important players. But that's no excuse for the last two league matches, especially the way Liverpool have started those last two league matches.

The only positive from the first half was that Liverpool went into the break down by just one goal.

It took Liverpool even less time to concede today, from West Ham's first opportunity, from West Ham's first set play. An unnecessary foul by Moreno, Henderson beaten at the back post by Tomkins, Skrtel caught ball-watching as Tomkins' header back in found Reid the wrong side of Lovren. Fantastic.

And before we could even start slitting wrists, West Ham had a second, from their second attack. Balotelli outmuscled, maybe fouled, turning the ball over in midfield, Moreno stupidly sucked inside when watching the ball rather than Sakho, Sakho's wide open cross ending up in the back of the net. I refuse to believe that was a shot and not a cross. But had Sakho crossed as he meant to, Valencia would have easily headed it in at the back post. Liverpool are conceding either way from that situation: because they turned the ball over in a dangerous place with everyone trying to spill forward and make amends for the first goal conceded, because the midfield is out of shape, because both fullbacks' positioning is very not good.

Rodgers responded, because Rodgers had to respond with the team so broken and the game nearly beyond Liverpool, bringing on Sakho for Manquillo and switching to three at the back. And it surprisingly paid dividends within minutes, as Sterling got forward from his new wingback role to brilliantly pick up the pieces after Balotelli's initial shot from Henderson's cross was blocked, hammering in an unstoppable effort from the top of the box.

But Liverpool were unable to build on that, and the subsequent best three chances both fell to West Ham: Moreno's tackle and won foul saving what looked an easy goal for Kouyate, Mignolet parrying Valencia's shot on the break, and Tomkins' header wide from a corner.

West Ham had six shots on target in the first half, from 10 in total. Liverpool had three shots in total. Last season is becoming an increasingly distant memory. All I remember now is 2009-10 and 2012-13.

Rodgers once again reacted, bringing on Lallana for Lucas at halftime. Chasing the goal in the second half, Liverpool's attack didn't seem quite as abominable as they were a week ago. West Ham weren't as strong in defense as Villa; Liverpool had chances at an equalizer. Borini shot straight at Adrian when the center to Moreno was on, then the Italian curled a shot narrowly over. Balotelli's fierce shot was parried at the near post, Sakho headed point-blank directly at Adrian from a corner. But those were still half chances, and this side is still unable to either create anything clear cut or truly threaten from a set play, the source of so many goals last season.

West Ham's main defense was Allardyce's usual defense: foul furiously, foul often. The referee is probably eighth or ninth on the list of things which make me want to burn the world, but he had three opportunities to send West Ham players off, but showed yellow twice and completely ignored Adrian's studs into Borini's thigh. And after West Ham kept fouling and time-wasting and fouling and Liverpool had lost what little momentum they'd built up, they conceded a third on the break, from a mistake, when Sakho's clearing header under no pressure went straight to a West Ham player, ending with an Amalfitano toe-poke past a helpless Mignolet.

Liverpool's record so far this season, including the one Champions League game? Win, loss, win, loss, win, loss. This is an inconsistent team. Again, with two key players absent, the need to bed in a bunch of new players, and three matches in a week, this is probably is news to no one.

But everything has gone to absolute hell, and there's little post-loss-anger exaggeration in that statement.

An already porous defense has somehow become even more porous, and continues to make the same mistakes which have cost them points this season. A midfield easily bypassed no matter the shape or personnel, clearly missing Allen and with both Henderson and Gerrard clearly fatigued. An attack in name only. A side which used to blitz opponents from the opening whistle getting blitzed from the opening whistle. The utter inability to even pose a threat from set plays after averaging a set play goal once every 1.6 games last season. You name it, it's gotten worse.

You'd think it'd be easier to fix Liverpool's defense than the attack. Liverpool were never going to score 100 goals without Suarez, and the loss of Sturridge obviously exacerbates the problem. Balotelli – who didn't exactly play poorly today – is a completely different striker than those two. Because he often drops deep, he needs support from wide players cutting in and runners from midfield. He hasn't gotten that support at all, whether in the diamond or 3-5-2 today, or the 4-2-3-1 against Villa, or the 4-3-3 against Ludogorets. Balotelli drops into midfield to pick up the ball out of defense – with the nominal link midfielders bypassed yet again – and there's usually no one beyond him, especially since Borini plays in a similar way. But then Lambert, much slower than Fabio, came on, and Liverpool looked even worse. This is partly why moving Sterling further from goal baffled, even if he did score Liverpool's consolation, and why leaving Markovic on the bench baffled.

But the defense baffles me. Absolutely baffles me. Has for a year now, and it's gotten worse. No matter the personnel, Liverpool look lost. I know Rodgers' preferred system, regardless of formation, leaves them exposed to a certain extent, especially with Gerrard as the deepest midfielder, but there's no explanation for the constant mistakes. And there isn't just one culprit, whether it's Skrtel and Lovren spoiling a set play, Moreno's man getting open too easily, or Sakho heading straight to a West Ham player. Just like it was a combination of errors on the corner conceded against Villa or the counter-attack goal against Ludogorets. Last season it was usually just set plays or counter-attack. But this season it's set plays and open play, deliberate build-up or counter-attack.

There is no balance, no cohesion, in any part of the pitch.

So many things need fixing. Even more than the most pessimistic of us expected at the start of the season. They need fixing fast. And Rodgers will need to do it with limited time on the pitch because Liverpool will have a midweek match for the next month, except when there's yet another international break.


Anonymous said...

What worked well last year is not working this year partly because of personnel (no Suarez and for this game no Sturridge) but also because of team changing tactics against us. West Ham and Villa were high tempo in the first 15 mins and out worked us. Abgonlohor and Downing man marked Stevie G depriving him of the space needed for the quarterback regista role, teams are more compact like Chelski were last year and more organized at set pieces and finally teams are using well designed set pieces on us. Stevie drifted upfield to find more space and Henderson dropped deeper but Stevie no longer has the legs and Henderson does not have the positional awareness. Also Manquillo and Moreno and Raheem as a wing back all push up. Rodgers needs to step up and manage better as the players look lost. Fowler help us

Anonymous said...

A midfield of wee Joe, Hendo and ABG at DM would fix a lot of things.

These league matches after the midweek CL games are going to be a big test. Irregardless of the league competition we play. These matches it HAS TO BE ABG at DM. Or we should just play with 10. Sad.