Martin Skrtel Receives His Marching Orders Against Tottenham
Following a strong start to their Premier League campaign, Liverpool first stuttered in a 1-0 loss to Stoke, then imploded in a 4-0 mauling by Tottenham.
Despite high expectations for their vastly overhauled squad, the Anfield giants have failed to find their stride this season. Their total of seven points through five games is only two more than at the same stage last season, by which point they had already faced Arsenal, Manchester United and Manchester City.
Ahead of tomorrow's Carling Cup fixture with Brighton and Saturday's critical EPL match against Wolves, let's take a look at what we've learned from Liverpool's recent losing streak.
Charlie Adam Has Struggled Recently
When Xabi Alonso departed for Madrid in the summer of 2009, Liverpool was left without a midfield maestro, someone capable of distributing the ball effectively to all areas of the pitch and controlling the pace of the game.
Charlie Adam's first few games for Liverpool included some sparkling set-piece deliveries, and a haul of two assists in his first three games had overzealous Liverpool fans atwitter with talk that he might be the answer—a Tartan Alonso.
Then reality set in.
First there was the sloppy performance that saw him misplace 24 passes against Stoke, followed immediately by the reckless immaturity he demonstrated in his sending off against Tottenham. Even if his first yellow card was harsh, at 25 years old, he should have known better than to lunge on Scott Parker and risk a second.
If that's not enough to disabuse fans of the notion that Adam is Alonso's second coming, consider this: At Blackpool in 2010/2011, Adam completed only 72 percent of his passes from open play, and only 67 percent of his total passes (including set pieces). So far this season, Adam's numbers are 76 percent and 71 percent, respectively.
By contrast, Alonso completed 85 percent from open play and nearly 83 percent of all passes in his final season at Liverpool.
Lucas Leiva and Ivan Klasnic Battle for the Ball
Wins against Arsenal and Bolton in the second and third weeks of the season were cause for great excitement among the Liverpool faithful.
While the dubious quality of the win against Arsenal was cast into stark relief by their 8-2 hammering at Old Trafford the following weekend, there was little room to question the manner of the win against Bolton.
Liverpool's passing and movement were fluid, and both Adam and Henderson scored, and the defence was stout for much of the game. But Bolton's opening day win over Queens Park Rangers was little more than a fluke—in fact, it is their only victory in 10 games dating to last season.
Bolton briefly topped the table to start the season. They currently sit in 19th.
Jamie Carragher Had an Agonizing Day at the Britannia
Jamie Carragher has been an admirable servant to Liverpool, and despite the knocks against his playing style—that he is a reckless tackler who hoofs long balls forward—he has been largely excellent as the lynchpin of Liverpool's defense for nearly a decade.
However, two moments this season have called into question whether he can continue to perform at this level.
The first was a howler against Bolton, when his failure to deal with a ball over the top allowed Martin Petrov to set up Klasnic's late consolation goal. It was a major mistake, but since it came in the closing minutes of a game that was already in the bag, it was glossed over by the media.
Unfortunately, it was a sign of things to come. The following week against Stoke he was easily outpaced and outmuscled as Jonathan Walters burst into the box, and when he wrapped his arm around Walters' waist, he effectively conceded the game's only goal.
Whether it should have been a penalty is debatable, but in hindsight it is inconsequential. What is of consequence is his loss of pace and the seeming erosion of his positional awareness.
Carragher has never been quick, but he has made up for it by being in the right place at the right time. His current problems may owe something to a backline that is constantly changing due to injuries, but they surely owe more to his advancing years.
Liverpool must hope that Sebastian Coates acclimates quickly to life in the EPL, because Carragher's time as an every day starter is surely coming to an end sooner, rather than later.
Carroll and Suarez Have Not Played Well Together
Logically, more time playing together should lead to a greater understanding between Liverpool's £60M strike duo, yet against Tottenham they weren't just on different pages, they were on different planets. Their failure to communicate may owe something to the language barrier, but their inability to read each other on the pitch must be a worrying sign for Liverpool fans.
It's easy to forget that Carroll has played only 11 EPL games since his transfer, but his performances have done little to assuage the doubts over his price tag, and while some have called for Suarez to lead the line alone, this is simply not a viable option.
Both players were purchased as investments in the future of the team, and relegating a 22-year-old striker to the bench so soon after his record-breaking transfer could have serious long-term repercussions for his future potential.
Furthermore, Suarez has yet to prove himself as a finisher in this league. The Uruguayan's performances are routinely electric, but while he scored 81 goals in 110 Eredivisie games, he has scored only six in 18 so far in the Premier League. That's not a bad haul, but as anyone who witnessed his wastefulness against Stoke can attest, he'll need to improve on it before he can be trusted to lead the line alone.
Raul Meireles and Andres Villas Boas
The public war of words between Damien Comolli and Raul Meireles following the Portugal international's shocking Deadline Day transfer, Chelsea did little to illuminate the reasons behind the move.
Meireles was seemingly aggrieved that a pay raise, apparently promised to him by the previous administration, failed to materialize, but he claimed that Liverpool officials had asked him to hand in a last minute transfer request when Chelsea came calling.
Comolli naturally denied Meireles' claims in a game of "He Said, He Said" that left fans none the wiser.
It doesn't really matter who was angling for the move, but it's clear that it was the wrong decision for Liverpool.
Charlie Adam's red card will render him ineligible for the Carling Cup match against Brighton, but on another week it could have left the team in the unenviable position of starting either Jay Spearing or Jonjo Shelvey in their next EPL match.
Even with Adam available, it's a matter of some debate as to whether he's a better option than last season's PFA Fans' Player of the Year.
Liverpool fans who watched Meireles' long-pass, which led to Daniel Sturridge's backheel against Sunderland, or his cheeky flick to Lampard against Man U will surely be cursing their luck. The strong on-field rapport he had begun to forge with Luis Suarez will only rub salt in their wounds.
With Steven Gerrard still recovering from the latest in a succession of injuries, and his long-term fitness a doubt, the team could use additional midfield depth. Meireles may have pushed for a move, but if Liverpool had rejected his request, he would surely responded professionally and played his part until January when the club could have sold him and had time to find a replacement.
For many Liverpool fans, the toughest pill to swallow will be the knowledge that Manchester United have been inspired while they have been insipid. Man U turned in an uncharacteristically poor performance against Chelsea, yet managed a 3-1 win thanks to their own ruthless finishing and Chelsea’s … ahem … lack thereof.
The form of both Manchester clubs means that a Champion’s League spot may be the best Liverpool can hope for, but they can certainly help their cause over the next few weeks.
A home game against Wolves and a trip to Everton are all that remain prior to a visit from the champions.
If Liverpool enter the game high on confidence, with two consecutive wins under their belt, it could be a mesmerizing match. However, if they play like they have the last two weeks, their fans will once again be parroting that too-familiar line, “Next year will be our year.”