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Liverpool 2-1 Wolves: Analysing Another Unconvincing Performance from the Reds

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Liverpool 2-1 Wolves: Analysing Another Unconvincing Performance from the Reds
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Luis Suarez looked impressive again for Liverpool

Kenny Dalglish persisted with under-performing signings as Liverpool hosted Wolves at Anfield, and although the first half performance was good, another second half deterioration proved Liverpool are nowhere near the level they need to be at.

Dalglish's team selection suggested a stubbornness for his signings to work. The likes of Andy Carroll, Charlie Adam and Jordan Henderson were preferred over those who performed so well against Brighton in midweek.

Maxi Rodriguez's key role in that game—making the tackle that led to the first goal and then providing the assist for the second—didn't even earn him a spot on the bench, while the ever anonymous Jordan Henderson was again preferred over Dirk Kuyt.

Initially, at least, it looked like Dalglish's persistence with those under-performers had payed off, as the ball dropped to Charlie Adam, who faked to shoot before striking in a deflected shot off Roger Johnson for the first goal.

Surprisingly, Andy Carroll was effective throughout the match. His laziness, poor understanding with his team mates and unintelligent movement were replaced by hunger, a decent first touch and flair that hasn't been seen since the Manchester City game last season.

His teasing cross, that fizzed straight across the face of goal and just inches away from Suarez's boot, showed that, perhaps, he has more to his game than he is given credit for.

But one good performance does not undo almost 10 months of mediocrity, and the fact that he still has a poor understanding with Suarez is worrying.

That was obvious when a beautiful no look pass from Suarez in the 39th minute caught Carroll completely unaware, when perhaps had Bellamy or Kuyt been there, it would have ended up in the back of the net.

 

While Suarez and Carroll might not be reading from the same page yet, Stewart Downing and Jose Enrique appear to have an almost telepathic understanding with the Uruguayan.

Enrique's perfectly timed chipped through ball to the number seven—who beat Wolves' offside trap with a perfectly timed run and then went on to score— provided evidence of that.

If Liverpool were proving their critics wrong in the first half, they invited them back with their second half display.

Within minutes Wolves had got a goal back, in a manner that highlighted the defensive frailties that have seen Liverpool struggle to keep a clean sheet only once in 10 competitive games.

Pepe Reina punched a cross straight to Karl Henry, who galloped towards the corner flag before laying a pass back to Steven Hunt. Charlie Adam—whose defensive deficiencies have been called into question—was caught marking nobody in particular.

He failed to pick up Steven Hunt who, with all the time in the world, was able to pick out Steven Fletcher to calmly guide the ball into the roof of Reina's net.

Another concern was Liverpool's poor finishing. Suarez was guilty of missing a gilt-edged chance when Downing found him unmarked in the box, Carroll hit the post with a free header in the box and Downing himself shot when it was so clear that a pass into the box to any of his four teammates would've much more easily resulted in a goal.

Indeed, it was that failure to kill off the game that nearly saw them fail to collect all three points again.

 

A two goal lead by half time was enough in the end, but Liverpool, like a few times already this season were left reeling under pressure in the second half.

Their 4-4-2, and the tendency to sit too deep in the second halves of games, has seen the midfield overrun consistently.

Largely, that's due to Charlie Adam's ill discipline in defense, which often sees vacant space left next to Lucas for the opposition to exploit.

Indeed, at Tottenham last Sunday, Liverpool's midfield was dominated, and Charlie Adam's dismissal left no larger hole in midfield than was already there.

It's one thing to show reckless abandon in positioning against Wolves, but to do so in a match against Spurs, or the likes of Manchester United—who the Reds face in three weeks time—is another thing entirely.

Another player who has been under fire recently is Jordan Henderson. Unlike Carroll, though, he failed to provide anything that might quieten his critics.

Again, he was completely anonymous on the right hand side, and seems more concerned with the state of his hair than who he's supposed to be marking.

When Dirk Kuyt replaced him late in the game, Liverpool instantly looked a better side. His determination in chasing down a wayward header from Carroll, that was destined for the touchline, was symptomatic of the energy he brought to the game.

With the current trend in Dalglish's team selection though, it appears that Kuyt will continue to come off from the bench in future games.

 

Wolves had more possession (51 percent to 49 percent) and more shots (17 to 16). Those statistics are not good enough considering Liverpool were playing at home, and Wolves only narrowly avoided relegation last season.

A good performance by Andy Carroll, and the continued excellence of Luis Suarez, did nothing but paper over the cracks of obvious deficiencies in Liverpool's game.

The time and space Liverpool were gifted in the first half is unlikely to be afforded to them against better sides, and the recurring second half collapses, that are becoming increasingly common, are worrying to say the least.

Luis Suarez's tantrum at the end of the game can be looked at in two ways. Frustration at not being able to play the full 90 minutes, or frustration that his team—who were playing such fluid and offensive football in the second half of last season—are looking far more rigid and unsure after significant investment over the summer.

Whatever it was, it's clear that Liverpool are by no means at the level they need to be at.

Next up is Everton away, followed by Manchester United at home. Both games will provide far bigger tests than this game has and, by the end of those two games, it will be clearer where Liverpool stand in the race for a Champions League place this season.

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