That was horrific. We've seen some bad performances this season, but that was the worst, in every facet and phase of play. Liverpool deserve to have points taken away from them after that.
There are a few things that I don't understand:
1) Why Rodgers persists with Balotelli as a lone striker
2) Why Rodgers persists with 4-2-3-1
3) Why Sterling continues to play on the right
4) Why Glen Johnson is preferred to Manquillo
5) Why Liverpool keep making insane defensive mistakes
There's more, but those seem the most egregious. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Today's performance and result are on Brendan Rodgers, continuing to ignore the few things that had worked on Tuesday to again try to smash square pegs into round holes. Neither Borini nor Lambert started, Balotelli was again isolated, Sterling was again rendered fairly useless by playing him wide on the right. Liverpool were 4-2-3-1 when out of possession, with Coutinho central and Henderson on the left, but pretty much three at the back with Moreno and Sterling as very advanced wing backs when in possession. Which makes the decision to prefer Johnson to Manquillo even more baffling.
It's one thing if that had led to the defensive stability we've craved, but nope, Liverpool stupidly conceded, again, because of individual mistakes. Johnson's zero-percentage shot led to a Newcastle counter down Liverpool's right, Moreno appeared to have intercepted the centered pass but could only tee it up for Ayote Perez. He'll be blamed, but Johnson's giveaway, abdicating Liverpool's right flank, and Lovren's positioning were even more at fault. Systemic failures, individual errors, yet again. It's not as if Liverpool had been incredibly secure to that point – Newcastle had nine shots to Liverpool's five at that point – but they'd at least allowed few concrete chances.
It was Basel all over again, playing it "safe" but still conceding thanks to mistakes, and wholly unable to create anything in attack. Against opposition that wasn't even very good in the first place.
Liverpool controlled possession, Newcastle controlled the match. Out-managed by Alan Pardew. That's embarrassing.
64.5% possession led to all of six shots. Six! The only other match under Rodgers that comes close to that low-water mark was last season's 1-0 win over Aston Villa, when Liverpool got an early goal and then defensively shelled like they'd never shelled before. Today, Liverpool needed a goal all game long, whether at 0-0 or 0-1, and still only managed six attempts. There are no words for how bad that is.
Liverpool's first shot didn't come until the the 40th minute, Skrtel's off-target header from a set play. That was one of just two Liverpool shots in the box. Liverpool's first open play shot didn't come until the 55th minute. Liverpool's only shot after Newcastle scored was Moreno's attempted acrobatic volley from a cross in the 87th, easily held by Krul. Liverpool created all of three chances from open play, despite 64.5% possession, despite attempting 575 passes in total.
There's blunt, there's toothless, there's impotent, and then there was Liverpool today.
Mario Balotelli is a useful scapegoat, but it hardly seems his fault when he's used like this. He's not going to grab the game by the throat, to single-handedly win you points like Suarez or even Sturridge. It's just not who he is, not how he plays. We knew this. He pressed, he tried to link play, but Liverpool don't provide him any support, Liverpool aren't set up to provide him any support. And this is exacerbated by playing Sterling on the right, taking away his best weapon – cutting inside and shooting – and making Liverpool even more reliant on crosses when Sterling gets the ball out wide.
But it's not as if the substitutions – Borini for Allen, Lambert for Coutinho – made Liverpool any more potent. There was simply no cohesion, at all, as Liverpool continued to play low-percentage long balls and crosses that were easily defended.
It's incredibly easy to stifle Liverpool at the moment, made even worse by the system and personnel Rodgers insists on using. We knew sides would set up defensively and look to counter against Liverpool, but Liverpool are getting worse, not better, against the tactic.
Liverpool are simply bad at football at the moment. Liverpool are missing its best player, Liverpool are misusing its best-at-the-moment player, and Liverpool continue to look apprehensive and error-prone in defense. No one played well today; even usually reliable players (Henderson, Allen, Moreno) were off-color. But what's most infuriating is that Liverpool aren't set up to take advantage of its personnel or strengths. They continue to do what didn't work before. And blame for that lies nowhere but at the manager's feet.