Liverpool vs. Norwich: 5 Things for the Reds to Be Wary of
Liverpool will try to put their Old Trafford woes behind them in their home Premier League game against Norwich City on Saturday as the Reds will look to add to their current record of winning four of their last five home league games.
Since the defeat by Aston Villa, the Reds have won 3-0 over both Southampton and Sunderland at Anfield, and Brendan Rodgers' team will be hopeful of adding Norwich to that list, in so doing completing the double over the Canaries after a 5-2 win at Carrow Road earlier this season.
Despite the setback against Manchester United on Sunday, the Reds have been improved of late and must aim to take maximum points with a good performance versus Norwich.
With most of the top half dropping points last time out Liverpool have not lost any additional ground on those teams above them and will need to take three points to set themselves in the right direction once more with trips to the Etihad and Emirates Stadiums on the horizon.
Norwich won't be a pushover though despite the big scoreline earlier in the season; City went 10 games unbeaten in the league from October through December—but a recent dip in form has seen them lose four of the last five.
Here are five sides of the fixture that Liverpool will have to be particularly wary of come matchday.
The Return of Grant Holt
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
Norwich's joint top scorer for the season this year is Grant Holt, the burly striker who netted 15 league goals last season before being awarded a new contract in the summer.
After a change in manager Norwich struggled early on in the season, but Holt has managed four so far in the league and is the clear first choice when fit.
Fitness has been, however, something of an issue of late. He last started a game on Boxing Day in the defeat to Chelsea and missed three matches thereafter.
We've had to tread carefully with Grant over the past couple of weeks. What's far more important is that we have Grant available for next week, the week after and the week after. There was a fear that if we started him then we would be putting him a little bit at risk. We hope now he has a good week's training and will be available from next week onwards.
Even so, if he is even capable of playing for an hour or so then it is likely he will start against Liverpool at Anfield—where he scored a frustrating equaliser last season to salvage a point for Norwich after the Reds had completely dominated.
Holt also scored one of Norwich's consolation goals at Carrow Road earlier this season when Liverpool did win.
The Threat from out Wide
Christopher Lee/Getty Images
The goals are far from exclusively limited to the feet and head of Grant Holt for Norwich though, who have shared around their league strikes this season.
No less than five of their players have scored three or four league goals so far, with wide midfielders Robert Snodgrass and Anthony Pilkington both also bagging four so far.
Scotsman Snodgrass has been the Canaries' stand-out player so far this season, leading the way for the team in key passes, shots and successful dribbles per game.
He is a real threat with a fantastic left foot, cutting in from the right flank more often than not and also delivering crosses from out wide. He lacks pace so being sprung on the counter-attack shouldn't be a huge cause for concern, but Liverpool's full-backs will definitely need to get tight to Snodgrass in particular to prevent him shooting or crossing from the inside channel areas.
Not Starting with a Good Tempo
Alex Livesey/Getty Images
If Liverpool take one lesson from their past few matches it should be that when they start games on the front foot, playing at a good tempo and pressing high up the pitch, they get more success than when—as against Manchester United—they stand off more, are happy to concede possession and don't play the game with enough tenacity or aggression.
Liverpool's passing approach to matches is fine, but they have to combine that with the right physical threat. That's not to say they need to be thundering into challenges and hammering the ball into the air for big aerial battles to be won, far from it.
Instead, Liverpool's physicality should be coming in the form of agility and speed on the ball, a relentless and hard-working approach to defending high up the pitch and above all, a quick tempo in possession.
There is no issue with the Reds passing the ball around at the back, nor even when they have it in the final third and turn backward to maintain possession.
Instead, the focus should be on improving the movement off the ball so that when the defenders are basically overcrowded by one or two midfielders dropping deep to collect, spaces open up to move into—and to gradually move higher up the pitch.
Liverpool's downfall in some games has been not trying to get the ball forward aggressively enough, by way of individuals moving consistently and in not being forceful enough in winning the ball back. They'll need to do both, right from kick off, to get back to winning ways.
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images
This again involves Pilkington and Snodgrass, but not only them—Norwich City are a very dangerous team off set-pieces.
Of their 24 league goals this season, half have come from set pieces.
Snodgrass is of course a big threat direct from free kicks but defenders Seb Bassong and Russell Martin also carry a threat. If he plays, so will Grant Holt—and his potential replacement Steve Morison is a fair header of the ball too.
Liverpool's set piece marking against Manchester United was ludicrously bad, and Brendan Rodgers will need to ensure that his troops are finely tuned in this area before the weekend.
Expectations That the Attack Is "Fixed"
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Finally, Liverpool's players and supporters have to temper early expectations that the front line is done and dusted.
The return from injury of Fabio Borini, the goals and brilliance of Suarez and two goals in 100 minutes from new signing Daniel Sturridge could give the impression that the trio up front for Liverpool is finally up to scratch.
This isn't so.
The new combinations will take time, energy and effort to work out between those involved. Where Sturridge might give a more direct approach through the middle, Liverpool will lose out in Suarez's link-up play dropping deep, and the advanced midfield situation is yet to be resolved to make up for that.
If Borini plays from one flank, the consistency of Stewart Downing in recent weeks or the pace of Raheem Sterling will be lost—it's a balancing act every single match, and there is no immediate fix for this or any other part of the Liverpool team.
Come 80-odd minutes in the Norwich match on Saturday, if Liverpool still haven't scored their opening goal then it's not going to suddenly mean Suarez and Sturridge can't work together, or that money has been wasted on the latter.
It will simply show that Liverpool's attacking players need more than two weeks working with each other to become comfortable with the patterns of play in the final third, to progress what works in training onto the pitch and translate that into goals and points.
Early signs between Suarez and Sturridge have been good, and the hope is that they'll fire early on against Norwich—but there's still plenty of road left to travel down to fix this area of the team, just like the rest of it.
Statistical data from WhoScored.com