Kenny Dalglish will be hoping Liverpool's annihilation at the hands of Tottenham on Sunday was just a one off, but the toothless manner of The Red’s capitulation (in their first test against quality opposition) suggests there are much more serious problems to address.
Needless to say, Dalglish got his team selection and tactics completely wrong against Spurs.
Liverpool essentially played three in midfield, with Suarez, Carroll and Downing ahead in attack. In theory, their numerical advantage in the middle should have allowed them to control possession, but all three midfielders were so poor that Parker and Modric were virtually able to keep the ball unopposed.
Andy Carroll’s selection ahead of Dirk Kuyt and Craig Bellamy was completely unjustifiable, as the No. 9 did nothing in his cameo at Stoke City (or indeed at any time since his arrival at the club) to warrant a place in the squad, let alone in the starting eleven.
His lethargic runs and poor ball control are testing the patience of even the most loyal supporters.
Of the four British signings Liverpool have bought, only Stewart Downing has been a good addition. Carroll, Adam and Henderson have all been let-downs.
Neither Charlie Adam and Jordan Henderson have so far justified why they deserve a starting place.
Adam was the only signing that didn’t cost an excessive amount of money, and he has proven that he’s justified his price tag—with very rare moments of quality being overshadowed by frequently inconsistent displays.
It seems as if he’s incapable of playing under pressure.
At Rangers—he crumbled, after Christmas when Liverpool’s interest became known—he crumbled and yesterday he crumbled under the pressure again, pulling off a reckless tackle that Nigel De Jong would be proud of, and putting his already beleaguered side under unimaginable pressure.
On his day, Adam can spray the ball around well, but his lack of mobility and inconsistency are what make him such a risk—and perhaps not the player Liverpool need.
Indeed, he seems to have forgotten he’s no longer the main man he was at Blackpool, evidenced by his three shots from the half way line in five premier league matches so far this season.
He has looked so out of sync with Luis Suarez in the previous two matches that the Uruguayan has taken to shouting at him when, more often than not, his pass misses its intended target.
Suarez is by far Liverpool’s best player and Dalglish should be doing everything in his power to get the best out of him but, at the moment, it’s clear that isn’t happening.
Last season, only Chelsea had a better record than Liverpool in the second half of the season.
That was largely down to a fluid front four of Kuyt, Maxi, Suarez and Meireles, who were completely unplayable at times.
Of that front four, only Luis Suarez remains. The others have either been benched or pushed out completely, and the Uruguayan is looking more and more frustrated with the completely average service he is getting from their replacements.
Why Dalglish decided to unravel a combination that was working so well remains a mystery.
His sudden loss of faith in his young players is strange too.
Surely John Flanagan could’ve done no worse at right back then Martin Skrtel, who was found completely wanting by Gareth Bale. It came as no surprise, then, when a second yellow was produced, after the Slovak could do nothing but foul the Welshman to stem the flow of Spurs’ attacks.
Playing Stewart Downing’s on the right of midfield was questionable as well.
It seems pointless having Carroll in the starting lineup most of the time, but even more so when your best crosser of the ball is forced to cross with his weaker foot. Carroll is incapable of link up play, so if he’s going to start he at least needs decent service.
After so much has been invested since January, is the manner of this 4-0 defeat really acceptable?
Liverpool were toothless in their play, allowing Tottenham the time and space to do as they pleased.
Kenny Dalglish has said that players will only be picked on merit, but the continued selection of Andy Carroll, Henderson and Adam proves that that’s just not the case.
It will become increasingly difficult for Liverpool to keep the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Chelsea and Manchester City away from Suarez if this is the kind of performance they’re going to put out against a quality (but not even top quality) opposition.
After all, only a few weeks ago Tottenham were thrashed by Manchester United, so how will Liverpool fair when they travel to Old Trafford, the Etihad Stadium or Stamford Bridge?
Dalglish needs to make changes following this second straight defeat, because supporters and owners will only be patient for so long.
Carroll should be dropped outright from the squad. Liverpool need to accept he’s not going to get better, move on, and give a spot on the bench to a promising youngster.
Henderson should be dropped to the bench as well, with Maxi replacing him. When he can prove that he deserves a starting place then he should be picked.
When Steven Gerrard is fit, Adam should be dropped straight away, but until then Dalglish should even considering recalling Jay Spearing now, because, even though he’s not the most technically gifted midfielder, he never gives the opposition a moments rest—and is not as prone to catastrophic capitulation as Adam is.
Restoring the fluid combination of Kuyt, Suarez and Maxi, and replacing Meireles with Downing is the first step that Dalglish should take to restore the supporters confidence in him.
Carragher, too, has been afforded no small amount of unjustified lenience.
His organizational skills are often harped on about, but where was that on Sunday? He failed to organize his defense, although that blame should be shared with Daglish.
Considering the circumstances, Sebastian Coates did OK when he came on, and perhaps it’s time for Dalglish to make a change to a defense that has kept a clean sheet just once in the last eight competitive fixtures.
The owners can’t be happy with the start Liverpool have had. Their side have dropped points against Sunderland and Stoke, two sides they should be beating, beat poor Arsenal and Bolton sides and now have been completely annihilated by Spurs.
Football is a business, and businesses are all about results. So far, Liverpool’s haven’t been good enough, not when you consider how much has been invested in the squad over the summer.
Dalglish deserves time to get it right, but he needs to make changes.
No matter how patient and kind John Henry appears, at the end of the day top four is his target. He knows Liverpool won’t get anywhere near that if this kind of performance is repeated, or indeed if they can’t finish off their chances against Stoke.
Henry is a fantastic owner, but he’s only been involved in football for a short amount of time.
Thus, he could not have known how bad Andy Carroll was, and equally had to put his trust in Dalglish and Commoli when they wanted to bring in Henderson and Charlie Adam, ship out Alberto Aquilani and fail to put up a fight when Raul Meireles decided to leave.
You only have to look at how well Modric played to see that it doesn’t hurt making the extra effort to keep quality players in the side, even if they might have their sights set on pastures new.
Commoli and Dalglish have to share the blame for these transfers mistakes.
Also, Dalglish and Steve Clark need to hold their hands up for persisting with Henderson and Adam, and reverting back to starting with Carroll when it had been so clear that the side play better without him.
It was a soul destroying result for the fans, the players and the manager; but the performance, more so than the result, is what hurts.
It’s not the end of the world for Liverpool, but it is an eye opener to all of those who have persisted with blind faith in Dalglish, insisting that he can do no wrong.
In their first test against a quality side, Liverpool have failed miserably.
Dalglish needs to acknowledge and fix the mistakes, which were so clearly highlighted in this game, otherwise, when Liverpool face another side of equal or greater ability, things could get very, very ugly again.