Liverpool were always expected to win against Exeter, but the relief of not having slipped up where we have in the past makes it all the more satisfying. There were a few main points. Most notably that Luis Suarez and Raul Meireles proved they are our strongest attacking partnership, and that we may not be as effective without him. The biggest point for me though, is poor old Andy Carroll, who despite hitting a sweet left footed drive, looks no less lost than he did when he first signed for the club.
First thing's first. Luis Suarez has now scored in every game this season, and got two assists in this game. His importance to our club cannot be understated and I can't bear to think how we might cope if he got injured.
Without Andy Carroll in the starting lineup, Liverpool lined up in a 4-2-3-1, with a front four of Maxi, Henderson, Meireles and Suarez providing plenty of creativity and problems for Exeter's defense.
With Adam and Spearing behind them, it allowed for plenty of attack without sacrificing defensive solidity at the back.
Maxi Rodriguez played very well and is a very good player. He proved it with his late cameo last season and he proved it again last night with his intelligent runs, getting a well deserved goal for his troubles. Perhaps he shouldn't be starting ahead of the excellent Stewart Downing but certainly, it does us no harm to have him in our squad, and who knows, if he keeps playing like he has been he could force his way back into the starting line up.
Jordan Henderson looked tidy in possession and I don't understand the negativity surrounding him. He provided the assist for Luis Suarez's volley and was heavily involved in the build up for many of Liverpool's attacks. Even if he does mis-control occasionally and sometimes leaves the right back exposed in defense, he definitely looks promising for the future.
As for Charlie Adam, he sometimes tried to do too much but I like him in the deep playmaker role.
As you would expect, Liverpool dominated the possession stats with 59 per cent. However, when Meireles was forced off and replaced with Carroll, the use of the ball became increasingly less constructive. When Suarez was substituted, that became even more obvious.
There are a few sides to the Carroll argument. The people who can't stand him and want him out of the club, the loyal supporters who continually stand behind him and the "inbetweeners," who want him to succeed but can't help but recognize the simple fact that he's not doing well. I find myself in the third side.
You have to feel for a player who's been weighed down by expectations and a hefty price tag. The honest truth though, is that Andy Carroll, from what we've seen so far is a limited player.
Yes, he's tall and strong, yes, he can head the ball and yes, he's got a great left foot but at the moment that doesn't make up for the significant deficiencies in his game.
His goal yesterday was a terrific strike, there's no denying that. However, pretend that didn't happen for a moment and ask yourself what else did he contribute to the game?
The ball was quite literally teed up for him by Suarez for the goal. The worry is, can he create his own chances or will he solely rely on others creating them for him?
It's not just because he's tall. You only have to look at Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Dimitar Berbatov to see that just because your tall doesn't mean you're not a skillful player.
Andy Carroll needs to bring more to Liverpool in terms of build up play. That means he needs to drop deep and get involved in passing moves rather than just waiting in the middle for someone else to provide him with the service.
The success of the club in the 70's and 80's was founded on a philosophy of pass and move football. The reality is, without Andy Carroll, we're not that far off it, but with him we're unrecognizable from the great teams of the past.
I really want the big man to succeed here. The question is, can he change the entire way he approaches his game and adapt to the Liverpool way of playing the game?
Dalglish has a significant investment in the player, and if anyone can get the best out of him, he can. But, at this moment in time Carroll has a significant amount of catching up to do, and he if doesn't adjust to a different style of football soon, he might never.
The problem is not just Carroll's fault. As one of the commentators put it last night,
"If Andy Carroll's not on the pitch there, John Flanagan does not put that ball in like that does he?"
Obviously, it's not just Carroll who is responsible for the complete lack of creativity whenever Suarez is off the pitch. However, just by being there his team mates are tempted to aim for his head.
Instead of waiting predictably in the centre for those crosses and long balls though, Carroll could bring a little variety into his game. That might involve: dropping deeper to help out in the build up play and/or making late runs into the box rather than wrestling with the opposition centre backs for 90 minutes. Whatever he does, less predictability is the key.
With all that said and done, Luis Suarez once again proved his importance to the club with a goal and two assists, while the absence of Raul Meireles could leave Liverpool lacking a little bit of creative spark against Bolton and beyond. Question marks continue to linger over Andy Carroll's performances but hopefully he can turn it all around in the next few weeks. I guess we'll find out what's in store starting with Bolton this weekend.
Image: Daily Mail