Liverpool: 10 Things That Have to Change at Anfield Next Season

Vince Siu@vincetalksfootyFeatured ColumnistMarch 27, 2012

Liverpool: 10 Things That Have to Change at Anfield Next Season

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    Five losses in six matches.

    Thus stands the dismal recent record of Liverpool Football Club.

    By all accounts, it’s been a weird—schizophrenic—season for the Reds.

    Kenny Dalglish’s first full season in charge has seen eye-bulging fees paid for homegrown English players, an aesthetically pleasing pass-and-move football style, an infuriating lack of goals, off-field controversies involving his star striker, and so on.

    He has silverware to show for his efforts, but his team continues to falter in the Premier League at the last hurdle.

    The question that Liverpool should be asking themselves now is: What needs to be changed next season to avoid a repeat of this season’s troubles?

    Here are 10 suggestions as food for thought—and, as usual, feel free to have your say in the comments below.

Off-Field Controversies

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    Otherwise known as: Luis Suarez must stop getting himself and Liverpool into trouble.

    Whether or not you belong to the Suarez-innocent camp or the Suarez-guilty group, the fact remains that Suarez has attracted lots of unwanted attention to himself and to the club this season.

    Liverpool have always preferred the focus to be on the pitch, and Suarez needs to ensure that this tradition will continue next season.

Overreliance on Key Men

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    Of course, the other reason for a cleaner Suarez is because Liverpool simply count on him too much than to have him go through another prolonged absence again.

    Add to that Steven Gerrard’s waning years and declining ability to drag his team with his shoulders, and we see the importance of Liverpool having to wean themselves off their star duo.

    While most of the squad is usually both mentally and physically reliable, Liverpool don’t possess too many true star players with that X-factor to unlock any match.

    Kenny Dalglish will have to find a way to address this—the summer transfer window might be a good start.

Overpaying for Overhyped Players

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    But just because there’s a summer transfer window doesn’t mean splurging of last year’s proportions can ever be justified.

    Especially on players who aren’t worth the price tag.

    There’s an argument to be made for the signings of Jordan Henderson, Stewart Downing and Charlie Adam: British players are always at a premium, and building a squad capable of filling the homegrown quotas was always important.

    But that was last season, and now the backbone of a British-based Liverpool squad has been constructed.

    It’s time to fish out bargains, free transfers, loan signings, and perhaps the odd big name or two to add that much-needed quality in the final third.

    It’s not like Dalglish hasn’t done it before: Last summer’s best signings, Jose Enrique and Craig Bellamy, have been his cheapest acquisitions so far.

Persisting with off-Form Players

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    Some of Kenny Dalglish’s personnel choices this season have been confusing, to say the least.

    When Stewart Downing hit a rough patch earlier this season, he kept featuring in the first 11 and putting in mediocre (at best) performances week in, week out. When he then found some form after the turn of the year, he was benched.

    Jordan Henderson has strangely found lots of favor from Dalglish—but has not justified his selection with any sort of concrete contributions at all.

    So too Charlie Adam, but his potentially season-ending injury might finally put any undeserved chance of prolonged first-team chances to bed.

    The great mystery of the Liverpool season has been Maxi Rodriguez’s non-selection. He did everything he was asked to (and more) when he has featured this season, but still hasn’t found favor from the coaching staff. And when Andy Carroll showed an improvement in form in 2012, he was rewarded with more bench time.

    Dalglish’s persistence with off-form players and penchant for rotating on-form players need to change.

Reluctance to Blood Youngsters

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    A side effect of this persistence with off-form players is that promising youngsters haven’t gotten a look in to the first team.

    Martin Kelly aside, there haven’t been any youngsters who have been able to find any sort of consistent game time—and even then, Kelly has only been featuring because Glen Johnson has been out injured.

    But there is no telling what kind of effect a promising prospect might have on the team—just look at how Dani Pacheco electrified Anfield in his first few appearances. Where has he gone now?

    And just look at how the introduction of Raheem Sterling pumped up the home crowd against Wigan.

    All the talk is about Liverpool’s youth squad and their latest batch of youngsters. It’s time to give them a shot.

Long Ball over the Top

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    And now we get to the football side of it.

    The long ball over the top, trademarked by Jamie Carragher, has actually been on the wane this season, especially given the vice-captain’s slow but inevitable exit from the first team.

    But with a striker like Carroll, the temptation to play it long for him to head it on remains.

    It works, of course—just look at Dirk Kuyt’s last-gasp winner against Manchester United in the FA Cup.

    But by going long and simple, a squad capable of playing such delightful flowing football is simply just wasting their ability on the ground.

    Not to mention that the long balls are played when Luis Suarez is charged with being the lone frontman. Wonder what the tactical justification of that play is.

Inability to Get into the Box

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    Speaking of tactics, where’s the justification in not getting yourself into the box?

    That’s a question many Liverpool fans have been asking this season, and yet, while the management team continues to look forward to a change of luck in Liverpool’s scoring fortunes, that isn’t going to happen unless the Liverpool players try to make it happen.

    They might want to start with their attacking positioning.

    Andy Carroll’s slowness in getting into the opposition box is almost legendary by this point, but he isn’t the only culprit. Suarez often comes too deep looking for possession and prefers to create rather than finish. So too Downing and Henderson.

    In fact, when the ball is crossed into the box, Gerrard, normally the onrushing midfielder, often finds himself the only Red shirt in or around the target area.

    What happens when it’s Gerrard doing the crossing then?

Abysmal Conversion Rate

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    Here we are. The Holy Grail of Liverpool’s problems this season.

    If the Premier League table were calculated based on chances created, Liverpool would finish in a Champions League spot, easy.

    But if it were based on chance conversion, Liverpool would be nailed on for relegation.

    It’s this infuriating balance that currently leaves Liverpool lying in seventh place and dangerously close to its pretenders.

    It would be unfair to say that Liverpool’s problems would all be solved if their chance-conversion ratio improved dramatically, but it’d be enough to bring them a top-four spot.

    That’s all the justification anyone needs to call for a change to the jaw-dropping profligacy.

Defensive Lapses

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    Sure, Liverpool might be third place in the goals-conceded table, but it’s always about the kind of goals let in than how many.

    In Liverpool’s case, given their goals scored this season, any kind of goal conceded already poses a huge threat to the potential number of points on board.

    While the Liverpool defence has performed well as a unit in general, they have been prone to terrible lapses in concentration—in tracking their man, in clearing a loose ball—that have cost them valuable points in the league.

    There’s no use dominating in the possession charts if you don’t make that possession count.

    And the teams that have taken points off Liverpool have sent that message loud and clear. Sometimes, a chance is all they’ve needed.

Failing to Break Down “Smaller” Teams

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    It’s the curious paradox that consistently haunts Liverpool: They beat the big teams with stunning efficiency, but suffer badly at the hands of teams that, on paper, they shouldn’t be losing to.

    Perhaps it’s a mental problem, in that they simply can’t match the hunger of their opponents.

    Or maybe it’s a technical problem, in that they don’t have the required dribbling and flair to unlock a tightly-knit defence.

    Either way, this needs to be changed if Liverpool are to take more points next season.

    Otherwise, they’ll find themselves permanently amongst the ranks of clubs they should be beating more often.

    If you liked this article, you might also be interested in Why Liverpool Should Go with a 4-2-3-1 and 5 Positions the Reds Should Strengthen this Summer. For more Liverpool match reactions and opinions, check out and subscribe to my blog, The Red Amchair, where I also host live match-day chats during select Liverpool games.

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