Liverpool's Struggle to Overcome Oldham in the FA Cup Shows Lack of Cohesion

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Liverpool's Struggle to Overcome Oldham in the FA Cup Shows Lack of Cohesion
Clive Mason/Getty Images

For large parts of the game, Liverpool looked troubled and lacklustre in their FA Cup third-round victory over Oldham Athletic at Anfield on Sunday afternoon.

It was only when the half-time introductions of Philippe Coutinho and Lucas injected a bit more spark into the side that they went on to score twice and sink the Latics.

In the first half, Liverpool looked like a team devoid of inspiration.

Whilst their control of the ball and build-up play was good, with Luis Alberto orchestrating the pace of the game in the middle of the pitch, the Reds lacked any creativity in the final third.

Clive Mason/Getty Images

Seven corners in the opening 45 minutes resulted in nothing but wasted opportunities as Raheem Sterling, Alberto, Iago Aspas and Victor Moses all looked off the pace.

The starting 11 was a mixture of first-team regulars and fringe players, and it’s worth looking at this game in the wider context than dissecting individual poor performances.

Brad Jones, Martin Kelly, Moses, Alberto and Aspas, who have all been devoid of real first-team opportunities this season, were thrown into a team with the likes of Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson, who have 36 Premier League appearances between them this season, according to Squawka.

Even Kolo Toure, Aly Cissokho and Daniel Agger haven’t been consistent first-team starters during 2013/14.

It took some time for Aspas and Sterling to understand each other’s runs, whilst Moses’ poor touches and loose control didn’t help with the pace of attacks.

Likewise, there seemed to be little collective understanding of how to use Liverpool’s full-backs of Kelly and Cissokho going forward.

Clive Mason/Getty Images

But can such a makeshift team be expected to gel and work together off the back of little or no game time together? 

This perhaps is a downfall of Liverpool not being in Europe, rather than a sign that Brendan Rodgers should be using more players in Premier League games.

More fixtures tends to mean more squad rotation and Rodgers would be keen for the opportunity to give these fringe players match time to learn both their own games and that of other first-team and squad players.

Game time is a factor, too, with Moses, Aspas and Kelly looking far from match sharp, particularly in the first half.

The struggle to play effectively together on Sunday highlighted a slight cause for concern in that Liverpool as a squad don’t have the complete understanding of each other. Only distributed game time will help fix that. 

The January transfer window will further increase competition for places. If the Reds are to bring in first-team quality players, that in turn will enhance the talent on the bench.

Still, Liverpool got there in the end and Rodgers will be happy to see his side progress to the fourth round, where a trip to Bournemouth or Buton Albion is on the cards.

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