Liverpool's draw with Wigan today at the DW Stadium showed why the Reds aren't deserving of a spot to play in Europe next year. This result was the fourth time this year Liverpool have drawn against a side of lesser quality (the others being Sunderland, Norwich, and Swansea). Aside from the simple fact that Liverpool can't find the cutting edge to beat teams they ought to, the match displayed several of the Reds recurring problems.
First and foremost was the inability to score. Today marked the 10th premier league match that Liverpool have failed to score two or more goals. Their 20 goals on the season is only good enough to put them in the middle of the pack and relegation contenders Bolton and Blackburn have scored more.
There are a few reasons for this that were on display against Wigan.
Luis Suarez has undoubtedly been the creative fulcrum for the side, but there hasn't been anyone to consistently put away his created chances. He is not a great finisher himself, yet he leads the team in league goals with five. No one else on the side has more than two.
For Liverpool to truly have a chance of competing for a top four spot, someone will need to step up and be the poacher that the side needs.
With Suarez potentially out for a couple of months pending the racism ban appeal, this will become even more important. If not, it's imperative that someone is brought in during the January transfer window that can hit the back of the net with some consistency.
Another offensive problem for Liverpool that reared its ugly head at the DW was poor set-piece play. Liverpool have put in a few goals from headed corner kicks, but free kicks and penalties have been simply bad. Charlie Adam was brought in, among other reasons, to be an important player on set-pieces and he hasn't been up to par. He had his penalty saved, a shot very close to Wigan keeper Ali Al-Habsi.
It would be wrong to only criticize Adam though, as Liverpool have yet to find a penalty taker that can consistently hit the back of the net.
Free kicks were and have been equally poor, aside from one chipped kick—but Dirk Kuyt missed badly with his shot. Most of the free kicks went straight into the wall, a recurring theme for a side that needs set piece goals since finishing in open play has proved so difficult.
These problems translate into difficulties in defense as well. While Liverpool have the best goals against record in the Premier League at 13, their defending on the counter-attack is nerve-wracking at best and Pepe Reina has had to be on top form to make crucial saves.
During the match against Wigan, Liverpool were pressing forward, and, as could be expected, failed to finish. As the Latics countered, there were no defenders on the left side of the pitch and a long ball was headed for a wide open Wigan attacker.
If it weren't for Reina's ability to play as a sweeper, I very well could be discussing a Liverpool loss. Reina has had to do this on multiple occasions throughout the year and these situations would be much less harrowing if the Reds could put away chances, both to prevent counter-attacks from happening so frequently and to have a cushion should they let a goal slip in.
As the first half of the Premier League fixture list comes to a close, it's evident that Liverpool, despite their position only a few points away from Europe on the table, aren't able to take the leap into the top tier of English football. They've yet to find another galvanizing force like Steven Gerrard to lead the team when a late goal is needed, and it's evident in their results.
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