Lazy punditry is now the standard for televised and radio broadcast football, regardless of which channel you choose to watch football on. The days of listening to a pundit or reading an article would offer some fascinating insight or tell you something new about the game you’ve watched all your life are long gone.
Even Hansen in his early years on MOTD would dazzle you with something as mundane as his analysis of a defence’s positioning for a drop ball. Maybe pundits these days play to the mass market audiences with sloppy soundbites and sensationalism. The latter seems to be the main factor.
One of the best examples of this dire and clumsy analysis, is the universal perpetuation that Liverpool are a "two-man team", Gerrard and Torres.
We’ve heard those words so often over the last two years that it would be no surprise if the Oxford English Dictionary included it in their next edition as a colloquialism.
When it comes to Liverpool, it seems the pundits and journalists want it both ways. They want us to believe that the Anfield outfit is merely a two-man team or has been for past two-three years or so. Yet they also point out that we are missing Xabi Alonso badly. Now that, according to me, makes Liverpool a three-man team last season.
Perhaps a two-man team sounds good and it does trip off the tongue easily.
Ask any Premier League fan and he would admit that Pepe Reina is amongst the top three goalkeepers in the league. Furthermore, some would say that he is the best when you consider what he contributes to Liverpool beyond his keeping ability, coupled with the fact he has won the Golden Gloves award for three consecutive seasons. So, that makes Liverpool a three-man team at least surely?
Then ask any Liverpool fan, or any keen observer of football in fact, what would happen to the team if Carragher and Mascherano were removed from the spine behind Gerrard and Torres. Collapse and chaos at worst. A severely weakened midfield and defensive unit at best. Both Carragher and Mascherano are integral to their respective units in the team.
Carragher has, for many years, commanded and managed the defenders around him. He has done this all the while maintaining a consistently high standard against Europe’s elite attackers. He may be struggling for form this season, but remember that he has been at the heart of a defence that has been the second or third best in the league for the past four seasons. So at least a four-man team then?
Mascherano too, is now integral to the midfield with his seemingly tireless running and tackling, observed in many games like the recent Merseyside derby at Anfield. He may not be the finished article, but he has been a key player as a defensive midfielder in recent years. Really, Liverpool are a five-man team, we could conclude.
In reality, the list could go on. Glen Johnson, England’s right-back. Daniel Agger, the partner of choice for Carragher and a cultured young centre-back. And so on. Try taking Carragher, Agger, Mascherano and Johnson out the team and Liverpool would be a mess. But "Liverpool are simply a seven-man team" doesn’t really have the punchiness or impact required for modern media work.
While the current Liverpool team has acquired the standards to win trophies in many areas on the pitch, they substantially lack in the wings.
Some can go on and argue, based on recent performances, that Kuyt has been the best player on the pitch, technically on the wings.
Benitez's robust formation is in much of a talking town. The current formation is supported by only two real attackers. Yes, you guessed it, Gerard and Torres. The 4-2-3-1 or 4-5-1, whichever way you take it, is the most favoured formation for Europe's elite teams. By saying so, it accommodates the best modern midfielders such as Kaka, Ronaldo, Messi.
The key to play this formations is the three devastating attackers playing behind the line of lone striker, who offer genuine outlets and pose an unpredictable goal scoring threats. Not to mention, it allows midfielders provide adequate cover. Chelsea is doing this by piking from the likes of Ballack, Lampard, Kalou and Anelka, while Arsenal and United do so by using Arshavin, Fabregas, Walcott, Giggs, Valencia and Berbatov.
Liverpool's options are the flying Dutchman Kuyt and the Israeli international Yossi Benayoun on the wings, along with Riera occasionally, if he is fit.
They both are hardworking and disciplined. but not world class threatening attackers. Neither can score or assist day in day out. Kuyt has been scoring goals lately thanks to unfit Torres, however he has terribly poor control of the ball.
The worst thing is, for Benitez, the illusion of a two-man team stamp on Liverpool's forehead. Benitez has really done next to nothing to avoid that.
For the current team, it is easy for the defenders and midfielders to predict that a threat from wide will end up in ball being passed on to one of the two, yes Torres and Gerard.
So, playing against Liverpool has become a very predictable tactic. For Liverpool midfielders it is merely a game to find Torres or Gerard.
Imagine Liverpool's best team and replace Kuyt and Benayoun with Arshavin and Giggs. Now that is what I call a title contender!
Most of these come from the gaffer's stubborn defensive philosophy and/or the lack of funds to buy world class wingers. Until Liverpool finds a solution for Kuyt and Benayoun, they will continue wasting the talents they have in other world class players.
Liverpool is a nine-man team, in my opinion. However, when was that enough to win the toughest league in the world? Or a good soundbite for the pundits?