Liverpool FC: 7 Takeaways from Liverpool's First Half of 2011-12 Season
2011’s last image for Liverpool supporters was of Steven Gerrard’s brilliant goal against Newcastle United upon his return from injury. Naturally, it wouldn’t have been a big crime to wish for 2012 to begin on the same note.
But Manchester City had other plans. Liverpool got beat 3-0 and in doing so the Citizens also exposed a considerable number of flaws/weaknesses in the Reds’ tactics.
Though, at this point, the club have bounced back from that defeat and beat Oldham Athletic 5-1 in the recently concluded F.A. Cup fixture, problems are still aplenty. But that doesn’t take away the fact that Liverpool did have a better first half to the season—comparatively better than the statistics during the Roy Hodgson period.
So here we take a look at some key pointers that has had a direct or indirect influence over the Merseyside club’s performances thus far.
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When Kenny Dalglish unveiled his new signings to the public, there was a general feeling of confusion amongst the fans.
For Liverpool had just invested a whopping £50 million on Jordan Henderson, Stewart Downing, Charlie Adam, Sebastian Coates and a goalkeeper in Alexander Doni. This also took NESV's net spend past the £100 million mark since their takeover of the club.
Three out of the five signings promised the supporters performances of the highest order. But all that they got to witness were performances that downgraded from mediocrity to worse.
But let’s not forget the costliest British player ever, Andy Carroll. Though the former Newcastle man had come in earlier that year, it was literally a fresh start for him as well because of the nagging injuries that had cost him first team action since his arrival.
Now, after nearly a year since making the switch, Andy Carroll still has the ponytail, hasn’t trained any better, hasn’t really set the Premier League on fire nor has he even managed to rise over the defenders who mark him.
But every dark cloud has a silver lining…
… Jose Enrique and the Return of Craig Bellamy
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Yet another Newcastle United representative made his way into the Liverpool first team squad.
But this one was a bit different from the previous export.
Just a little over 24 hours removed from the transfer taking place, Jose Enrique pulled on a red shirt, walked out the historic tunnel and came up with a performance that instantly garnered him much-deserved appreciation.
Now just six months into his new project, Jose Enrique has become the undoubted top choice for Liverpool at left-back position.
And he deserves every bit of it for he has worked hard for all the accolades.
The transfer deadline day proved its worth as it bore witness to one of the shrewdest bit of businesses ever done by Liverpool.
Craig Bellamy made a sensational return to Liverpool while Damien Comolli ensured that he didn’t bring back the putter along with him. While the return of the diminutive attacker did spark online forum discussions over Liverpool’s buying policy, Bellamy went about impressing in a way that only he knows to do best.
Now 32, the Welsh winger/forward has six goals to his credit, two more than Andy Carroll, in his second stint at Liverpool.
Over Dependency on Luis Suarez
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Agreed that the Uruguayan is a sensational player but depending too much on him for our breakthroughs is not going to get us anywhere.
Previously, when the Torres-Gerrard partnership was successful, the pundits had labelled Liverpool as a two-man team.
In 2011, we saw a resurgent Liverpool shining brightly even without the two. Torres doesn’t play for Liverpool anymore while Gerrard missed almost the entirety of 2011 due to injury.
Still, it doesn’t by any means justify Liverpool’s game plan of having the former Ajax man work out every attack and also try and convert them at times.
The competitive nature of Premier League is such that it doesn’t take too long for rivals to read your tactics and alter their defensive strategies accordingly.
So, the opponents have more or less figured out that shutting out supply lines to and from Suarez will easily place a stranglehold over Liverpool’s attacking options.
Kenny’s frustration over the lack of return on investment from Andy Carroll is clearly the reason for his over dependent tactics involving Suarez. Consequently, it has also been the reason for the high number of home draws at Anfield this season.
Maybe they rely too much on Suarez; he is a player who can make a difference.
But against us he didn't, and they didn't score. Maybe because we kept him quiet they didn't have other options. We did our homework and worked hard to deny him the chances.
Jamie Carragher Is Fallible: The Rise of Agger and Skrtel
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2011 was also the year that saw Mr Consistent for Liverpool, Jamie Carragher, not start a match even when he was completely fit.
Matches after matches passed by, still, Carra didn’t make it to the lineup despite being the club vice-captain.
Jamie Carragher, just like Frank Lampard for Chelsea, is not invincible anymore. Kenny preferred the central defence partnership of Agger and Skrtel, a gamble that paid off.
The best part, however, is that Carra understood the decision and accepted it. He realised that the future of Liverpool isn’t him and to this day hasn’t voiced any frustrations over the lack of playing time.
That is testimony to the strength of his character—one that differentiates greats from legends.
The Skrtel-Agger combo is still one of the tightest defence partnerships in the league despite the 3-0 routing at the hands of Manchester City. I can only hope that long may it carry on considering that it only takes one mistimed moment for Agger to be out injured.
Lucas Leiva Sorely Missed
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Despite missing Steven Gerrard for the most part of 2011, there wasn’t much of a midfield dilemma for Liverpool.
Undoubtedly, it was down to the performances of a blonde Brazilian—Lucas Leiva.
But a season-ending injury suffered during the Carling Cup fixture at Stamford Bridge has revealed exactly how much Liverpool can’t do without him.
Fortunately, the return of Steven Gerrard has bolstered the ranks.
However, the need for Gerrard arose in the first place because of lackluster performances from players who had filled in for the injured Samba star.
That asks questions about the stability of this Liverpool team in the absence of its star players.
Luis Suarez and Racism
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Well, there are no value additions remaining for me to make on this issue.
It’s been assimilated and dissimilated; the remnants then filtered, galvanised, re-energised and recycled to its last bit!
Although, I may receive some flak for what I’m about to say, but there is just one word that comes across my mind to describe the people that make a big deal out of these issues—Paranoid.
Note that I didn’t mean to say that the fight against racism is a paranoid activity but that the people who pretend to work for it are really and truly paranoid.
I don’t know if the decision to ban Suarez will help curb racism. But it did help intensify the rivalry between two fiercest rivals in England.
One thing is for sure—Suarez will definitely think twice before he utters the next word in English.
January Reinforcements Needed
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Ultimately, Liverpool endured a half season with ups and downs.
Though it would be my imperative to suggest that happenings off the field have provided for distractions, it is no excuse to summarise an average showing by Kenny Dalglish’s boys.
So reinforcements are necessary and Liverpool need to act quickly to bring in reasonable replacements while also keeping in mind the long-term future of the club.
Investing in young but equally talented players is what Liverpool need if they are to achieve their objective of breaking the Champions League barrier.
Apart from that, all we can do is to hope for better things to come.