The Liverpool Attack: All Thunder, No Lightning
Liverpool’s Premier League debut did not quite live up to expectations.
However, those proclaiming the failure of the Brendan Rodgers revolution are a bit premature. The Reds were unlucky to go into the half down 1-0. From there, silly mistakes widened the gap in a match not entirely reflective of relative form.
Further, we all knew the adoption of the 4-3-3 would take time. Steven Gerrard must learn to be less profligate with the ball. Lucas is still recovering from injury. Also, both full-backs were playing out of position. From there you can chalk a lot up to inconsistent form to an abbreviated summer build-up.
That said, the critics do have justification for their collective outcry. Despite a new regime, a new emphasis on youth, and an entirely altered system –- the result was simply more of the same.
Liverpool outclassed their opponents for long stretches of play but could not get the result. Sound familiar? That same lack of killer instinct in front of goal which plagued the club a year ago persists.
Given current personnel, we are essentially replicating our approach from a year ago and expecting different results. That, in short, is the definition of insanity. Adjustments must occur in the form of a re-configured approach that involves a few new additions.
Forget the defense and forget the midfield. Until a serious overhaul takes place up front, nothing will change.
The Luis Suarez Problem
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This summer, the managerial situation may have changed—but the deployment of Luis Suarez did not. That fact is baffling to me given Brendan Rodgers’ acumen for the game.
It does not matter how you design the build-up. You can have wingers cut inside, as Rodgers prefers. You can have them cut out and cross, as Kenny Dalglish advocated. Yet any attack that directs all that movement towards Luis Suarez as a lone striker is not going to be as potent as the best of the EPL.
He is Liverpool’s greatest offensive weapon at this point. The Uruguayan’s ability to wreak havoc on opposing defenses is unparalleled. However, if there is one weakness it is in his inability to cap off his runs with goals.
Suarez is the danger man. Yet for all his bark, there is comparatively little bite. And Rodgers should have known that. He had an entire season’s worth of footage to prove the point.
Despite the evidence, Suarez trotted out Saturday leading the line in front of Stewart Downing and Fabio Borini. From there, Suarez doubled down on the point made last season. He missed two clear headers and a host of more speculative chances across both halves. Conservatively, he should have scored at least twice on the day.
Looking forward, the club has to entertain the idea of putting Suarez out on the wing. I assumed the 4-3-3 made that a de facto decision. After all, the role is seemingly tailor made for the former Ajax man. Rodgers asks his wingers to cut inside, create and give others the best possible chance to score. Simultaneously, it eases the burden on a prospective player in having to do all the scoring himself.
In writing that description, I can think of few across the world of football better suited to play the position than Suarez. Hopefully, Saturday was enough to finally prove it, and Rodgers will learn his lesson.
The Need for a Poacher
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The problem then, is that putting Suarez on the wing leaves Borini, Andy Carroll and perhaps Adam Morgan as the only viable alternatives at centre-forward.
Rodgers clearly does not value Carroll’s style given his system. He also seems to believe that Borini is best suited to play the wing. Thus, there is a total void.
For this reason, Liverpool has to make one more major foray into the transfer market in search of someone who knows how to finish.
My speculation will remain limited to a prospective player’s skill set and avoid specific names. The potential signing needs to be quick and have a good enough work rate to press on defense. He needs to be able to pass well and possess excellent tactical ability. Yet, above all else, he must possess the ability to finish.
A Failure of Ideas
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As mentioned in the title, Liverpool’s offense is all thunder and no lightning. The wingers suffer from a total lack of creativity. In short, none of the present options are able to consistently come up with a creative direction to head with the ball. Further, Suarez is not a pure finisher in any sense of the word.
As a result, the attack exists in fits and starts. The build up meanders until it gives in and forces the ball to Suarez. Then, once he gains possession, the likelihood that he will score is slim.
That failure of ideas has to be addressed if the club is to go anywhere. Moving Suarez back would be a good start. Signing a world-class striker would do even more. Maybe then Liverpool will finally have the kind of fluid attacking play that really will lead to more goals in the league.
This is the main hindrance to success at Anfield. If adequately addressed, the top four is not out of the question.