Liverpool FC: 7 Questions After Opening Day
Here are a few questions that will hopefully be answered correctly in the near future. As always, agree, disagree, or just state your opinion in the comments.
1. Is John Flanagan Truly Ready to Start?
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Again, it's just the first day of the season, so we shouldn't be passing judgment on any player completely. But Flanagan's performance—much like Liverpool's—was a tale of two halves, and it remains to be seen whether or not he has the consistency to push for a starting spot.
The spot is Glen Johnson's to lose, of course, but let's look at Flanno's season debut.
In the first half he was more than adequate, playing high up the pitch and getting involved in the possession game. He did not get beaten much or even at all, and he was very dependable.
The second half, however, told a different story. As Liverpool started to lose hold of the game, Flanagan struggled. He was caught in possession a few times and lost it with some poor passes. He's young, and it should be noted that most of Liverpool were struggling at the time, but his errors were easily noticeable.
The goal was conceded on his watch as well. Though it must be said that the strike was superb, had Flanagan been a twitch quicker and more aware he might have prevented it. It is hard to say, but it does cap off a rather torrid second half display.
I don't want to be erroneous in haste, but I would probably feel more comfortable with Martin Kelly deputizing at the right back spot next time.
2. Should Jordan Henderson Start over Dirk Kuyt?
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You get the feeling that Kenny Dalglish wanted to trot out all of his summer signings—Doni excluded—the first week of the season, so maybe this isn't the starting 11 that we will be seeing in important games.
But today, at least, Jordan Henderson took Dirk Kuyt's spot on the right side of midfield. Perhaps it was because we were playing Sunderland, but there is no need to speculate; let's examine the validity of this move in hindsight.
Henderson did not have a poor showing; he was confident in possession and he really didn't make any awful mistakes or noticeably poor passes. In fact, I was more than pleasantly surprised by his efforts.
Where his play hurt Liverpool, though, was in defense. The first half of the game this was not important, because his team dominated possession.
In the second half, Kuyt's work rate would have been extremely beneficial. We struggled to maintain the ball for long periods, and I think Kuyt's even keel and dogged approach could have helped considerably. That said, he was subbed on and we didn't much improve.
For the most important of games, I'd probably rather have Kuyt out there, but I thought Henderson was a fair substitute.
3. Should Charlie Adam Start at All?
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I must say that the Scot did not impress me one bit. He was slow in possession, didn't hold onto the ball well, and seemed to be playing his own brand of football at times.
There are positives to him being on the field. He is a superb corner kick taker, and indeed Liverpool scored off of his kick. He is also an excellent penalty taker, which begs the question: why didn't he take the penalty? But that is another debate.
What he does not do well is play in a flowing eleven. Too many times he played long instead of short or took a speculative shot instead of maintaining the ball.
I understand he has a penchant for the fantastic, and one of his long shots was certainly well struck. But it was easily saved as well, and there are better things to do than show off your willingness to take long shots in the season opener.
He is not a great tackler, and it showed. A silly challenge or two combined with his lack of pace meant that Liverpool were overrun in midfield during the second half. Lucas had too much ground to cover, and that is when they lost their hold on the game.
To me, Charlie Adam had the most disappointing debut. When Steven Gerrard is healthy, the spot should be his, and I wouldn't mind slotting Alberto Aquilani or Raul Meireles into the spot in the meantime. Hopefully, Adam will adapt his playing style a bit.
EDIT: The consensus is that Adam's debut was actually pretty good, and in hindsight I am inclined to agree that it was better than I originally stated. I believe he will start against Arsenal and provide a nice boost offensively, and after that game I will reassess his inclusion in the squad. I do still have slight misgivings, but he did well enough in the opener to at least earn a few more chances.
4. Can Andy Carroll Lead the Line?
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A goal is all it takes to go from having a terrible day to a fantastic one; such is the life of a striker. Carroll did a decent job at hold-up play, though his headers fell to empty space too often for my liking.
In the first half, he had a goal disallowed for a shove that didn't appear to create too much space, so he was unlucky in that regard.
But past that, though his presence was definitely felt, he couldn't quite impact the game in the way we would have liked to see.
He got his head to a few crosses but could do little with them. The service wasn't stellar, but all it takes is one, after all.
I do think Carroll will be good for Liverpool, but after today I am slightly tempering my expectations.
5. Did Jose Enrique Finally Fix Our Left Back Problem?
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For my money, I say yes. He had a moment or two in the back that scared me a bit, but I think overall he did well.
He did not get forward often, and I really only remember one cross that he played into the box. But it was a good one, and had Carroll been a bit more active it very well could have been a goal.
Defensively, we weren't really troubled on his side. To be honest, that's all I want out of him. If he can get forward, that is an added luxury, but considering how the second half went, I think his defensive ability will be more important than his attacking ability.
I liked Enrique and thought he was valuable. It remains to be seen if he will be a stalwart in the weeks to come, but I would no longer count left back as a weakness in this side.
6. How Disappointed Should We Be?
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That we let this game away from us for a draw is simply unacceptable. The lead should have been at least two goals at halftime, with Stewart Downing being particularly unlucky to strike the crossbar on a wonderful run.
There were two Liverpool teams out there. The first half team played confidently, owning the ball and wreaking havoc on Sunderland's half of the field. There was perhaps just one chance for Steve Bruce's side in the first 45 minutes compared to six or seven clear cut ones for the boys in red.
The second half team lost its shape, left huge gaps in the midfield to be exploited by a lesser Sunderland team, and had trouble linking defense to attack without losing the ball. Conditioning certainly played a part, as did unfamiliarity between the new signings and the rest of the team.
Still, there is no excuse for drawing a game in which the first half was so wholly dominated. Kenny Dalglish will have to do a better job preventing letdowns and the players on the pitch will need to do more with the chances that they create.
7. What Does This Mean Looking Forward?
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I don't think we will see the same starting eleven in London that we did today, though I could be wrong.
I think Kuyt will take Henderson's place to provide an added defensive presence.
I am not wholly sure of Glen Johnson's status, but if he's healthy you'd have to peg him for the start. If not, Dalglish obviously prefers John Flanagan to Martin Kelly, but perhaps he will go with the more experienced defender.
Adam will probably get another run out, and I do think he will be better. That said, I'm not sure if having him out there helps us as much as Meireles would.
The rest of the squad should look much the same. With Luis Suarez still getting fit, he should be able to play at least 80 minutes, and I think we should put up a good fight against Wenger's men.
All in all, today was a bittersweet performance that showed we are not quite ready to challenge, at least not today. The problems are not huge, though, and the answers can be found within the squad, so there is no reason to despair.
Let's just put this game behind us and put in a more convincing 90 minutes at Arsenal.