23 November 2014

Liverpool 1-3 Crystal Palace

Lambert 2'
Gayle 17'
Ledley 78'
Jedinak 87'

This is why we can't have nice things.

Liverpool's attack actually did something early and something good and. A striker other than Daniel Sturridge actually scored a goal, within the first 90 seconds: an accurate long cross-field pass from Lallana, a striker making a clever run into the behind the back four, Lambert's control and finish past Speroni. That's exactly what Liverpool had been missing.

That was Liverpool's only shot on target today.

After the opener, Liverpool didn't even touch the ball in the opposition penalty box until the 28th minute. By which point, Crystal Palace were level.

It's not coincidence that Allen was off the pitch, receiving treatment for a head wound, when Palace broke away for the equalizer. But it's not the sole explanation either. Once again, Liverpool's cut open on the break, cut open through the middle. Palace win possession after Skrtel's aimless long ball forward, pass around Sterling and Lallana trying to press, then pass past a completely static, ball-watching Gerrard. The speedy Bolasie runs at the retreating, out-of-position Lovren, and Gayle is first to the rebound in front of Skrtel when his shot cannons off the post. Point at Skrtel, point at Gerrard, point at Lovren. The trilogy of error.

It was Palace's first first half goal at home since February.

And it's the same story we all know by heart. The same damned story. Palace play an organized low block, denying space in its own half, then break out at pace when Liverpool's slow attack eventually loses possession. We saw nothing like the opening goal after the 2nd minute. And once Palace counter through Bolasie and Gayle's speed, panic panic PANIC!

The only reason Palace didn't take the lead in the first half was because Mignolet saved a Bolasie shot from distance and Manquillo blocked another from the Congolese winger after a nice one-two. And yes, both attacks came from counters, including one that started from a Liverpool corner.

Liverpool switched to 4-3-3 at halftime, ostensibly to allow Sterling more opportunity to run at Martin Kelly, denied space in the congested middle by Jedinak, Dann, and Delaney, but it made little difference. Both Liverpool and Palace had a couple of marginal chances, but the pattern of play remained the same. Liverpool's best opportunity came after a lone moment of clever buildup through Coutinho and Sterling, but ended with an open Manquillo nearly hitting the corner flag with his shot. Palace's best opportunities required a crucial block from Joe Allen and saw Manquillo do just enough to keep Bolasie from reaching Puncheon's deep cross at the back post.

And then Rodgers made his substitutions. First, Borini for Lallana – fine, understandable, even though Lallana had done reasonably well, but he was playing on the right at the time, hadn't done much in the second half, and Borini (in theory) provides more attacking threat, even if it didn't play out that way. Then, Can for Allen.

That was less fine.

Liverpool didn't concede twice more because Joe Allen wasn't on the pitch, although that all three of Liverpool's goals conceded came when the Welshman off is an interesting coincidence.

Liverpool conceded a second because Mignolet's goal kick went directly out of play, Liverpool didn't get back into position, and Bolasie beat Lovren like a rented mule who owed him money down Liverpool's left before centering for a wide-open Ledley because Gerrard didn't track his run.

Liverpool conceded a third because Skrtel couldn't deal with Gayle on a hopeful ball over the top and fouled him, and Jedinak's direct free kick was flawless. And yes, it's fitting that Palace's third came from a set play after scoring the first two on counters.

But that Can replaced Allen rather than the struggling, ineffective, woeful, etc Gerrard – who's basically turned into late-era MLS David Beckham; he's here for the set plays and nothing else – is symptomatic of Liverpool's current problems.

The usual suspects cost Liverpool either one or all three points yet again. Gerrard, Lovren, Skrtel, Johnson. At least one of them, if not more, if not all three, bears some responsibility for at least one of the goals Liverpool's conceded, as has been the case for most of the season. And they keep their place every match, except when Liverpool "rotate" in cup matches. You know, matches where Liverpool almost, kinda, at-least-more-than-usual look marginally competent.

Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge were responsible for last season's brilliance, but Brendan Rodgers' chutzpah gets a little bit of credit. Now? He has to find that chutzpah again, and drop players who are hurting this team's chances of stopping the rot: the chutzpah to drop a full-back who's less than a shadow of himself, to drop Liverpool's most expensive defensive signing, to drop the man who's arguably Liverpool's great player ever.

Rafael Benitez's 2009-10 Liverpool after 12 games? 19 points. Brendan Rodgers' 2012-13 Liverpool after 12 games? 15 points. Roy Hodgson's 2010-11 Liverpool after 12 games? 16 points.

This Liverpool? 14 points. And rightfully so; this Liverpool is worse than any of those incarnations at the moment, despite the money spent, despite having an on-paper stronger squad.

It's still far to early to even whisper about sacking Rodgers: because of last season, because Liverpool were seemingly building for the future with this summer's signings, because you've got some excuses due to injuries and bad luck, because you're probably not getting a better replacement at this point of the season.

But things have to change, and soon, or else we will be having that conversation.


Anonymous said...

Rodgers needs to make the call and bench Gerrard. He's nothing more than a passenger at best. Waltzing around without a care in the world on that 2nd goal.

And it's looking like the only answer offensively is going to be a January move. Borini and Lambert are not it. Balo up top without support is not it. Sturridge on the treatment table is not it.

We need help with the addition of 2 very good players.

Rodgers is looking more ineffective every game. Either he makes the move or FSG will be forced to.

TOmW said...

How obvious was that Palace win with 20 mins to go? Our quaking defence piss their pants as soon as any oppostion player runs at them. In fact, as soon as the ball is in our half you get this sinking feeling that it's all about to unravel...

Rodgers hinted after the Madrid game that Toure wasn't able to play loads of games in quick succession but surely he could have played yesterday after not playing for a few weeks? Skrtyl amd Lovren is one of the least convincing centre back partnership I've ever seen.

I'm now starting to wonder if Rodgers has any clue how to solve this mess.