Swansea vs. Liverpool: 6 Things We Learned in 0-0 Draw
Both teams came into the game on a decent run of form but languishing in mid-table, with two places and one point separating them.
The game marked a return to Wales for Brendan Rodgers and Joe Allen after their moves to Liverpool in the summer, but neither could provide the inspiration to give Liverpool a win.
The away side were the better in the first half, having a goal disallowed, striking the woodwork and generally missing a few other chances, but after the break the game disintegrated into complete stalemate.
Here are six things we learned from the game.
Liverpool's Unbeaten Run Continues, but Draw Not Enough
The only club in the Premier League with a longer current unbeaten record than Liverpool is reigning Champions Manchester City, who are still unbeaten this season.
Following the Reds' 0-0 draw at Swansea City, Brendan Rodgers' team are now eight without defeat in the league, equalling former manager Kenny Dalglish's best run (achieved twice, once in 2010-11 and once in 2011-12).
During this most recent stretch, Liverpool have drawn five and won three of those matches, scoring 13 at conceding six goals.
It's progress, but the Swansea match should have yielded better figures than a single point and a fourth clean sheet in eight league games.
In the first half, despite starting slowly, Liverpool were the better side at the Liberty Stadium. They created four clear chances to take the lead and were denied by a variety of means, including last season's great enemy, the woodwork.
But they failed to capitalise on that superiority after the break.
In fact, Liverpool's second half performance was unambitious, meek and uninspired. They lacked pace and fluidity in the final third, committed few numbers forward and generally looked far more hopeful than expectant of scoring a goal.
There haven't been too many games this season where Liverpool genuinely haven't looked like a half-decent side still trying to find their way, but the second period at the Liberty Stadium certainly comes under that category.
Missed Opportunity to Climb the Table
It's not just three points on the day that Liverpool missed the opportunity to collect, but also further momentum, a chance to gain ground on rivals above them and the possibility to climb several places up the league table.
In fact, had the Reds won the match they would have risen—temporarily at least—from 12th place up to eighth in the Premier League.
They would have been two points off Arsenal and at best one point behind Spurs, whom they face on Wednesday. Victory there would have presented the Reds with not only the chance to jump over a rival, but to announce that they were truly on the up ahead of an important period in the season.
That particular opportunity has been missed on this occasion, and the side must hope they can perform better and take the points at White Hart Lane during the week.
11th place is not ideal of course, but the centre third of the table is so congested at present that a single win can still lift any team up into a position of contention for European spots.
The Unexpected Turnaround of Stewart Downing and Jose Enrique
Summer of 2011: Liverpool shell out £20 million on a winger and £6 million on a full-back. The left hand side of the team should be revitalised.
November of 2012: The left-back has been removed from the defence due to a high number of errors and an inability to pass quickly into midfield, and has been relocated further forward.
The winger can't provide goals domestically and has generally shown poor form and a lack of "heart", and so has been shifted back into defence in the hope he could attack spaces from deep.
Wherever Liverpool have gone wrong in their transfer dealings over the past decade, the switch around which has befallen Jose Enrique and Stewart Downing has to rank up there with some of the most disappointing.
Over the past few games the Spaniard has proved an outlet and an option on the left of the front three, though with his usual limitations, but Downing continues to disappoint whatever position he is played in.
His time at Liverpool must be coming to an end, and the same should still be said of Jose Enrique—though whether there are takers for either at a price which Liverpool consider acceptable has yet to be determined.
Liverpool Need Midfield Changes for the Trip to White Hart Lane
Liverpool's squad depth in midfield was highlighted at the start of the campaign as being one area which needed little improving, and in fact one area which could actively help the Reds climb the table.
Over the past few matches though, two or three have been so below par that they are rather hindering the team in an attacking sense.
Against Swansea City, Joe Allen and Steven Gerrard were, to put it mildly, disappointing.
A series of needless fouls from the former and poor passes from the latter constantly put Liverpool under pressure in their own half of the field, and both were lucky to not see better attempts on goal result for Swansea after their mistakes.
Jordan Henderson made his first league start of the season as the third midfielder, and though he was substituted he was arguably the least unimpressive of the trio.
Nuri Sahin and Jonjo Shelvey should both come back into the starting 11 for the midweek game against Tottenham, and Liverpool will need to be far better in the middle of the pitch to control the game.
Lack of Quality Highlighted off the Bench
There was a glaring lack of good options for Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers to turn to off the bench as the Reds sought to win the game.
Oussama Assaidi was again overlooked in favour of Joe Cole, and with Fabio Borini injured there were no other attacking options.
Cole and Shelvey had minimal impact on the match after coming on with around 15 minutes remaining, offering little going forward on the ball and not helping to change the tempo of the game.
In fact, in their quarter of an hour on the pitch, Shelvey touched the ball just a dozen times—and Cole on only four occasions.
Such a paucity of options perhaps contributed to Rodgers not making a change earlier than the 77th minute, but it also meant the game drifted rather aimlessly away from the Reds, where an earlier switch or two might have upped the tempo if not the quality.
Ending on the Positives: Raheem Sterling, Pepe Reina, Johnson, Skrtel and Agger
Despite the obvious disappointments for Liverpool against what was a technical but ultimately blunt opponent, there were individual positives for the Reds.
A fourth clean sheet in the league recently points to continued progress at the back, while Pepe Reina has made shut-outs in both of his Premiership appearances since returning from injury.
Two or three good saves, a brave block at the feet of Nathan Dyer and some extremely composed and accurate distribution—Reina totalled a 75 percent pass accuracy, up from his season average—highlighted the improvement in the Spanish goalkeeper's game after his poor start to the season.
Raheem Sterling continued to impress in spells, though he also found it hard against a quick young defender when Swansea sat deep in the first half. Sterling was unlucky to strike the bar with a shot and could have helped win the game late on for Liverpool if not for his over-hit return pass to Luis Suarez, as the Reds broke two-on-one.
Defensively Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger were once more imperious, and alongside them Glen Johnson also continued his fine form.
He certainly should have opened the scoring for his team in the first half with a one-on-one effort which Tremmel saved, but Johnson was a creative outlet for Liverpool and was one of the few brave enough to venture forward with the ball at his feet after the interval, though he noticeably tired towards the end of the game.
stats from EPLindex.com