Half Term Report at Anfield: Ratings, Highs & Lows of Liverpool's Season So Far

Karl Matchett@@karlmatchettFeatured ColumnistDecember 31, 2010

Half Term Report at Anfield: Ratings, Highs & Lows of Liverpool's Season So Far

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    LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 07:  Fernando Torres (L) of Liverpool  is congratulated by his team mates after scoring the opening goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Chelsea at Anfield on November 7, 2010 in Liverpool, Engl
    Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

    Liverpool are 18 games through their Premiership season, one off the midway point. Of course, if not for the two postponed games due to adverse weather, we would have reached the half way point by now.

    But as we approach the end of 2010, it seems a fitting moment to judge how the new signings, old heads, fan favorites and of course, the new manager have done over the first part of the season.

    All in all, it's fair to say that the season has been a crushing disappointment until now.

    The Reds were dumped out of the League Cup at the first hurdle against lowly Northampton and are currently sitting in a less-than-acceptable 12th position in the league, just three points above the relegation zone and a massive twelve points off the Champions League places.

    But in every season, no matter how bad, there are always those who shine, those who offer some small crumb of comfort and reason to look ahead and believe that better times are just around the corner.

    Aren't there?

Goalkeepers

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    Reina is the undisputed number 1 at Anfield
    Reina is the undisputed number 1 at AnfieldClive Brunskill/Getty Images

    25. Pepe Reina

    Reina is the king of the goalposts at Anfield and there's no doubting it. Along with Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres, he makes up a third of Liverpool's true world-class talents.

    This season has seen Pepe achieve yet another milestone in his already-bulging book of LFC records, as he became the fastest goalkeeper to reach 100 league clean sheets for the club, easily outstripping the likes of Bruce Grobbelaar and Ray Clemence.

    However, it hasn't all been plain sailing for our Spanish custodian this season—uncharacteristic gaffes against Arsenal on the opening day and against Steaua Bucharest in Europe have let leads slip and cost Liverpool points.

    In addition, his distribution, normally one of his best assets, has been rather disappointing this term —though that is certainly not all of his own making, given the switch in emphasis and tactics of the team.

    Despite this, Reina is still one of the finest 'keepers in world football and the club is lucky to have him —so many more points would have been lost this season if not for him. The 0-0 draw against Birmingham in particular springs to mind. He was deservedly given the club captaincy while regular skipper Gerrard and his second in command Carragher were out injured.

    8/10 - One of our best performers this season, but still room to improve back to his usual level.

    1. Brad Jones

    In his debut season after his £2.5 million switch from Middlesbrough in the summer, Jones has featured on just two occasions so far for his new club. His debut, the dreadful penalty shoot-out defeat against League Two opposition Northampton Town, was one to forget, as he was beaten twice by the fourth-tier side.  

    However, in his second outing Jones recorded a clean sheet in the 0-0 stalemate with FC Utrecht in the Europa League.

    Undoubtedly brought in as a backup for Reina, Jones is unlikely to feature in more than perhaps half a dozen games this season for Liverpool, if even that many. The early exit from the League Cup and a tough draw in the FA Cup third round against Manchester United have limited the number of games Liverpool might field a weakened side in.

    5/10 - Not much to go on in fairness to Brad, but he is unlikely to put serious pressure on Reina for the No.1 spot. More importantly, he will be away for a while with Australia in the Asia Cup, leaving a spot on the Reds' bench.

    Others:

    Peter Gulacsi and Martin Hansen have both featured on the bench for Liverpool and are arguably the "third choices" at the club. However, neither have featured competitively for the first team yet.

    Gulacsi is currently on loan at Tranmere Rovers. Dean Bouzanis is the other reserve goalkeeper, but appears to have been overtaken by Hansen this season. All three (should Gulacsi, the most experienced, be recalled) will vie for the sub goalkeeper spot while Jones is on International duty with Australia.

    Diego Cavalieri also played in a couple of Liverpool's early Europa League qualifiers, but moved in the summer transfer window to Italy. Disgraced stopper Charles Itandje was released from his contract.

Central Defenders

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    BOLTON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 31:  (L-R) Sotiros Kyrgiakos , Jamie Carragher, Fernando Torres and Martin Skrtel of Liverpool hold hands to defend a Bolton free kick during the Barclays Premier League match between Bolton Wanderers and Liverpool at the Reebok
    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    23. Jamie Carragher

    'Carra' has been derided at times this season for being too old, too slow, too angry and more suited to playing right-back than center-back.

    First of all, for those who think he should be at full back, do me a favor, hop into your time-machines and whizz off back twenty or more years, to the era of sturdy full backs of the ilk of Justin Edinburgh, Ian Culverhouse and Julian Dicks.

    Those were the type who got to the halfway line and were blocked by a mental image of Gandalf shouting "you shall not pass".

    Carragher is still one of the finest center-backs around. In terms of reliability, consistency and ability, he is Liverpool's best central defender. The shoulder injury currently keeping him out is one of a handful of long term absences his career has suffered from, but rarely will he miss three games out of ten because of a muscle strain or because he's taken a knock.

    He is the one who gives his all, the organizer, the talker, the one who will willingly bleed for the cause. And because of this, when others go missing, when teammates' failings become apparent, Carragher is the one who comes across to cover, Carragher is the one who makes the last ditch attempt at blocking or the desperate lunge to win the aerial ball.

    And because he can't always get there first, as he's the last defender to the opposition's goalscorer, he's derided for all the reasons above.

    And it's wrong.

    Because before the goals there are, almost always, two, three or even four occasions when other people should have done their job better, cleared the ball, made a stronger challenge, been in a better position.

    I'm not saying Carragher is perfect and never makes a mistake of his own; far from it. But he does care more, and does work harder, and therefore is in the 'goalscoring area' more often than not when the opposition take their chance.

    But he's not past it. Far from it. We'll miss him when he's gone, believe me.

    7/10 - Without him, the defense is a shambles. Even with him it hasn't been good this season, but he's been about the best of a rather mediocre bunch.

    37. Martin Skrtel

    Well, what to say about Skrtel? Is it the arrival of a new manager, the change in defensive tactics? Is it a World Cup hangover, similar to so many others who toiled away in South Africa in the summer? Or is simply that Skrtel's failings have been exposed time and time again this season in a team playing well below their normal level?

    I know which one I'd pick.

    Skrtel should, to be brutally honest, be nothing more than a third or fourth choice defender for Liverpool.

    Strong in the tackle, yes, but reckless at times also and horribly mis-timed much of it. Skrtel's apparently uncontrollable desire to bounce around the front of the forward and try to slide the ball away the instant before it reaches his feet, no matter what area of the pitch he's in, is about as helpful to Liverpool defending as Rob Jones was to Liverpool's goalscoring exploits.

    Free kick after free kick are given away by this needless jumping-in technique, which Martin has far from perfected. It gives set-piece opportunities away, when on occasions there is nothing more on for the forward than holding the ball up on his own, thirty yards away from goal.

    Skrtel also has failings with marking players, something which was not so apparent under the zonal system of Benitez, but has been highlighted often with the man-to-man system currently employed.

    Sooner or later an eagle-eyed referee—if such exist—will give a penalty for his constant grappling of opponents in the Liverpool box at corners and crosses.

    3/10 - Skrtel is not good enough to be first choice for Liverpool. In form, he's a capable player, no doubt about it, but out of form, as he has been for far too many games this season, he is nothing more than a liability. Were a clear-out to be had in the summer, Martin would unfortunately be on my list.

    5. Daniel Agger

    As is so often the case, Agger's season has been interrupted by injury. His abilities are perhaps not fully appreciated outside of Anfield, which is not surprising due to the amount of games he has missed. However, Agger in top form can become one of the stand-out central defenders in Europe, of that I have no doubt.

    Early on this season he was deployed on the left side of the defense, at which he battled gamely, but of course it is not his forte.

    Now back from injury, he must come back into the side at the earliest opportunity, given Carragher's injury and Skrtel and Kyrgiakos making too many mistakes together.

    We have not seen enough of the Dane this season, but hopefully Dr. Bruckner and co. can keep him fit—if they do, Agger can be a big part of getting Liverpool back up the table.

    5/10 - Average score, as he hasn't played enough to warrant anything higher.

    16. Soto Kyrgiakos

    The big Greek is an absolute monster for Liverpool. He has made his mistakes, yes, and he will do so because he's not the world's best defender.

    But what Kyrgiakos does give you is absolute 100 percent commitment, aggression, strength and—something which has been sorely missed at times—a real aerial presence in both penalty boxes.

    Regarded by both Benitez and Hodgson as pretty much the number four centre back until now, he has made a surprising number of appearances due to injuries to the other three over the past season and a half.

    If Agger comes back into the side for the Bolton clash, it will be interesting to see if Skrtel or Soto make way.

    7/10 - Certainly not the classiest defender Anfield has ever seen, but his rugged outlook on the game has certainly been a welcome addition to Liverpool's back line. Suffered in recent games against Newcastle and Wolves, as have the whole team, but a plus point for me during this poor season.

    Others:

    Andre Wisdom has been on the substitutes' bench for Liverpool, but has yet to make his debut. Danny Wilson has played three times since his summer switch from Rangers, the third of which, like Brad Jones, was certainly more impressive than his debut (also against Northampton). Daniel Ayala has just returned to the club following a loan spell at Hull City.

Full Backs

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    LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 06:   Glen Johnson of Liverpool in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Aston Villa at Anfield on December 6, 2010 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
    Mark Thompson/Getty Images

    2. Glen Johnson

    Johnson has had a bit of a strange season so far.

    In the early part he suffered with an injury and, presumably like the rest of the team, an indifferent spell as the team got to grips with Hodgson's new methods of defending.

    He was criticized by the boss for not performing at his true level and was rumored to be heading for the exit—thankfully, that talk seems to have stopped now.

    In certain games since all that nonsense, we have seen the true Glen Johnson at Liverpool, attacking runs from deep, causing panic in the opposition's defense and creating chances for his teammates. His goal against West Ham and his reaction after it showed just how important it was, and is, to him to get back to his best form.

    Liverpool needs creative, attacking players like Johnson to be at their best to get out of this patchy form. Unfortunately, the tactics being employed at the club do not currently let them express themselves fully, nor indeed anywhere often enough.

    6/10 - Not the best player by a long way this term, but has shown flashes of his ability. He's an attacking full-back, that's how he should be used.

    3. Paul Konchesky

    It's fair to say it's not been the easiest of seasons for Konchesky.

    Not exactly someone the fans were pleased to see the club sign in the first place, he was also subject to scrutiny because of (aside from his ability) his age, his price and the fact two promising youngsters (Lauri Dalla Valle and Alex Kacaniklic) were also included in the swap deal.

    Add to that the fact that he's clearly not a top defender who continually gets exposed when wide players make moves infield, his lack of pace in dealing with wingers, his rather consistently poor crosses and shots, plus his mother's recent outburst on Facebook and it's clear to see why Konchesky is about as far from being a crowd favourite as El-Hadji Diouf was.

    Although for very different reasons.

    I will say one thing—it's not really Paul's fault. So he's not good enough for Liverpool—what was he supposed to do, turn down the move from Fulham? He was joining his old manager, who he knew would play him, of course he was always going to join.

    However, Konchesky's Liverpool career has not taken off and is highly likely to only last as long as Roy Hodgson does.

    4/10 - Not in the slightest an improvement on Insua or Aurelio (or Dossena?) and has been at fault for many goals this season. Lennon vs. Spurs and Berbatov vs. United spring to mind.

    34. Martin Kelly

    The academy graduate has really been a bright spot this season for Liverpool.

    While it's always pleasing to see a local lad make their debut, it is often the case that they fade from the scene quickly and end up being released or sold on for a small amount to a low league side. That certainly won't be the case with Kelly.

    While the long term will surely see him mature into a top draw center-back, this season he has been used on the right side, mainly as back up for Glen Johnson. He has put in some very assured performances in the Europa League—not to mention his superb display against Chelsea, when he kept the likes of Zhirkov and Malouda quiet.

    With a new long-term deal now signed, Kelly's next task is to make himself a regular in the match day squad and continue to learn and improve.

    6/10 - Let's be clear—it is a "comparative" six out of ten. He has been very good in the games he has played, certainly a seven or eight in most games. But in terms of league appearances, just the three so far this season. More displays of a similar nature will surely land him a regular spot in the side over the next year or so.

    6. Fabio Aurelio

    Aurelio suddenly re-signed for Liverpool this summer after originally running down his contract and leaving the club. However, the same old problems have surfaced, as injuries have restricted him to just four league outings thus far.

    He is far and away a better defender and attacker than Paul Konchesky and it will surely only be a matter of time before he displaces him in the starting eleven.

    However, for just how long he holds onto that place will be determined only by how long it takes the Brazilian to pick up his next strain, knock or pull—and sadly, this means that he will likely never become the undisputed first choice left back for Liverpool, which his undoubted talent should have ensured.

    4/10 - 119 games in four and a half years tells its own story, one which has continued this year. Aurelio misses out continually on chances to impress because of his disastrous injury record. Here's to hoping for an injury free 2011 for Fabio.

    Others:

    Stephen Darby was named in the Premiership squad for the club and made appearances early on at left back, but has surely missed his chance to make the grade at Anfield now. On loan at Notts County at present and highly likely to move on in the summer, if not before.

    John Flanagan and Jack Robinson have been on the bench this season; Emiliano Insua and Philipp Degen have been out on loan the entire season. One has perhaps been missed, the other decidedly not.

Central Midfielders

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    LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 04:  Steven Gerrard of Liverpool celebrates scoring his team's third goal and his hat trick with team mate Lucas (R) during the UEFA Europa League Group K match beteween Liverpool and SSC Napoli at Anfield on November 4, 2010
    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    8. Steven Gerrard

    Gerrard—not much new can really be said about him, can it? He is still Liverpool's best player and their talisman, who they look to to make things happen.

    His hat-trick against Napoli after coming on as a substitute provides ample proof of his ability. Unfortunately, Liverpool have been up against it too often for even Gerrard's powers of pulling one out the bag to make much of a difference.

    There was a swap in position for some of this season, as he has moved back to a central midfield position for many games—a move I am in agreement with, by the way—but he still isn't being utilized to his best.

    There were many average games for Stevie this season, but his average is still as good as other players' good form.

    There's nothing special, given what he's capable of, but I can't say he's been bad either. He's a welcome return from injury.

    6/10 - Gerrard is the difference between Liverpool being a very good team and a great one—but while we are terribly poor, there is not too much he can do about it.

    21. Lucas Levia

    Along with Pepe Reina, Levia has been Liverpool's most consistent performer by some distance. He really has had to step up to the plate with the exit of Mascherano and has come up trumps—as pointed out in many articles and media outlets recently, his partnership over the past month with Raul Meireles in the center of midfield has really been one of the best points of the season for Liverpool.

    The two dovetail effortlessly, as both are capable of doing both the defensive and attacking sides of the game.

    Lucas has made (and won) more tackles than any other player at Liverpool this season and his pass completion rate over five games at one point stood at over 90 percent—that's Xavi and Iniesta level.

    Blots on his copy book are the red card against Stoke and a habit of misplacing passes at awkward times outside his penalty box, but all in all, he is one of Liverpool's best performers this season—and in all of 2010.

    8/10 - Couldn't have asked for anything more from the Brazilian; he has really upped his game over the last eighteen months and is arguably one of Liverpool's few undroppable players at present.

    4. Raul Meireles

    He has alternated between very good and anonymous during his time at Anfield so far—mostly when he's alternated between the center of midfield and the right flank, respectively.

    A fine passer of the ball and a very good all-rounder, Meireles' real talent lies in finding the space for himself between the opposition's midfield players.

    As mentioned above, he has linked well with Lucas and provides both the vision and physical prowess to do both sides of the midfield job.

    He has a great strike on him from distance and will surely net a blockbuster soon. That's probably the one area he could certainly improve on in the second half of the season. The straight forward chances against Blackburn and Wolves should have been finished, but outside the box he is a real menace when on the ball.

    7/10 - A complete half-season playing in the center would doubtless have increased this to an eight, as he has been very good when playing there. He is obviously not set up to be a wide midfielder and is rendered ineffective when forced to play there. There are very good signs all in all, and he has laid foundations for a good future at Liverpool.

    28. Christian Poulsen

    As with Konchesky—it's not his fault he's not up to the task. You don't turn down Liverpool when they come asking—the fault there lies with the man who signed him alone.

    Poulsen is nowhere near good enough for a place in the Liverpool squad. He is off the pace in every game, commits needless fouls, cannot pass accurately or quickly and makes foolish, unnecessary mistakes with exceptional regularity.

    He should be moved on in January without any shadow of a doubt, but it probably won't be until a change of manager occurs. He is really pushing Salif Diao hard for the title of worst midfielder of the 2000's.

    2/10 - Quite simply not good enough. Over priced, brings nothing new to the table, poor signing.

    26. Jay Spearing

    Jay has made much more of a mark this season than previously, though he could have missed his biggest chance to make an impression after he picked up a bad injury in the last training session before the West Ham game, a match he was likely to start in after injuries to other midfielders.

    He has made just one league appearance this season—last minute against Chelsea—and will look to build on that in the second half of the season, though his performances in Europe have impressed and he has made several starts in that competition.

    He has tough tackling but also good at organizing, is a good passer of the ball and not afraid to have a shot at goal. I still have hopes for Spearing to make the grade and I believe he can become one of Liverpool's four central midfielders.

    5/10 - He would have had a great chance to stake his claim in the League but for his current injury. He must press hard again in the second half of the season and is comfortably better on and off the ball than Poulsen.

    Others:

    Alberto Aquilani is out on loan at Juventus.

Attacking Midfielders

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    LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 14: Dirk Kuyt and Joe Cole of Liverpool in action during a training session ahead of their UEFA Europa League Group K match against Utrecht at Melwood Training Ground on December 14, 2010 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Cli
    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    10. Joe Cole

    I'm sure I was not the only one who was very pleased with the signing of Joe Cole on a free transfer back in the summer.

    Likewise, I'm sure I'm not the only one who is rather disappointed with what we've seen of him so far.

    Cole is a naturally gifted footballer who thrives on receiving possession in good areas and creating chances for others with a few touches and steps—basically, with the type of football Liverpool plays right now, he is going to get next to no opportunities to showcase those talents in the right way.

    He started off the season in the hole behind a forward, but has been quickly shunted out to the left side of midfield before picking up an injury and now being on the bench.

    Not the start to his Liverpool career Cole would have envisaged at all and unfortunately, until a change of formation or mentality comes about, I don't see Joe Cole making a huge improvement on his efforts at Anfield—he is just not suited to the style currently on offer.

    4/10 - He didn't get a great start, what with missed penalties and red cards, but since then he has failed to pick up the pieces and kick start his time at L4. Not entirely his fault, as above the system is far from suiting him, but it is what it is right now and Cole needs to adapt or face a longer spell on the bench.

    18. Dirk Kuyt

    Kuyt got a brief run of games up front with Torres and it looked like he may revert to playing up front under Hodgson, but it was soon back to the norm as he has reverted to the right side of midfield again.

    He is hard working and full of endeavour as always, but Kuyt has always been reliable to pop up with ten or so important goals each season and this year we have missed that so far. In his defense, he has suffered with an abnormal (for Dirk) amount of injuries but still, three goals at the midway point isn't enough for a team in desperate need of attacking variety.

    5/10 - It's not just the goals that have been missing. Kuyt hasn't been quite as creative as in previous seasons and at times the rigidity of the Liverpool formation has done him no favors. His ability to drift infield or make up the extra numbers in the box is part of what made Dirk so good. Without it, he is just another under performing player this season.

    14. Milan Jovanovic

    This is a hugely frustrating period for Jovanovic, who started the season in fine form and looked like he could quickly establish himself as something of a cult hero on the Kop—his bustling and energetic displays against the likes of Arsenal marked him out as something of a wild card for Liverpool this term.

    Another free transfer (arranged under Benitez), Milan provided some good pace down the left early on this season.

    However, he has barely had a look in over the past few months, named on the bench most weeks in the league. He was unable to even muster a solitary minute's performance between coming on in the 86th minute against Everton on 17th October and coming on in the 85th minute against Newcastle on the 11th December.

    4/10 - He just hasn't been in favor with Hodgson. Whether it's because he didn't sign him or just because the manager doesn't fancy him as a player, there's no denying that Roy has blatantly got some issue with Jovanovic. He has been linked with a move away, but he is surely a better option on the left than playing people out of position all over midfield, isn't he?

    17. Maxi Rodriguez

    Maxi had failed to make too much of an impact at Anfield until recently, but a month of decent performances yielded a couple of goals against Bolton and Aston Villa, and he looked to have started to nail down a place in the side until he made way for Gerrard's return from injury.

    He still has plenty to do to convince all areas of the Kop, but a more effective return on his possession in attack recently is a starting point.

    He tends to still get bypassed in matches at times and is still not seen as a regular, but is arguably a better fit for Hodgson's preferred prototype wide midfielder than the likes of Dirk Kuyt.

    6/10 - I'm not convinced by his quality for Liverpool, but there's no denying that his improved performances around November/December were a contributing factor to Liverpool's improved league showing. More improvement required for 2011 though.

    33. Jonjo Shelvey

    Used in a variety of positions this season, Shelvey has made something of a name for himself already at Anfield after several bright showings. He has good vision and passing ability and long-term is seen as more of a box-to-box midfielder. But he will doubtless have plenty of work to do on the defensive side of his game before he can become a true central midfielder at the top level.

    He will keep building on his performances and will settle on one position a bit more regularly, hopefully sooner rather than later.

    5/10 - He has done well for his first season in the Premiership and has made appearances in all competitions so far. Clearly not an "impact" player yet, but he has shown promise and will get plenty of time to develop into a better player at Anfield.

    12. Dani Pacheco

    Much sought-after Pacheco is tipped for a loan move in January after signing a new deal at Liverpool.

    A talented and live wire player, Pacheco has been moved around too often and is seen by the current management as a right-sided midfield player, despite shining at International youth level and in the Liverpool reserve team as a forward playing off the main striker.

    He is certainly capable of playing, for example, on either flank with license to roam inside and create opportunities for others, but he is anything but a wide midfielder.

    Whether this absurd positional change is reversed in time is something only time will tell, but at the moment his opportunities are limited at Anfield and a loan spell may be the best option for him in the short term.

    He has shown flashes of ability in substitute appearances, but is yet to have a lasting impact on a game.

    4/10 - Fans expected more from Pacheco this season and with his new squad number, it was thought he might have a real impact on the first team, but it hasn't quite happened yet. The decision to switch his position is well-intentioned at best but absurd and short-sighted at worst, and again, Dani's skills are not suited in the slightest to the role he is being asked to play. Here's hoping for a better 2011 for one of Liverpool's brightest talents.

    Others:

    Nabil El Zhar is out on loan and likely to leave either in January or the summer on a permanent deal. Tom Ince is at Notts County on loan under ex-Red and father Paul Ince, and has been involved with the first team this season.

    David Amoo made his debut in the Europa League qualifiers and is another one who will look to press on over the next year to make an impact at senior level.

Forwards

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    LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 29:  Fernando Torres of Liverpool looks dejected during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Anfield on December 29, 2010 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty I
    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    9. Fernando Torres

    Nando has looked out of sorts, short of confidence and bereft of ideas this term. There's no two ways about it.

    The way he's being asked to play for the team is nothing short of ridiculous, akin to asking a stately limousine to take part in a fast paced banger car race: wasting the obvious talents and specialization.

    His performance and goals against Chelsea gave a brief respite to the gossip column inches, but five goals at the turn of the year says it all: Torres is far from the player we know and is not likely to return to it until the style of play changes significantly.

    4/10 - Not enough goals, not enough creation, not enough confidence. Poor link up play and too much hesitation at vital moments. Torres is a shadow of his former self, and is in serious need of a confidence boost. The Liverpool game-plan, such as there is one, makes a mockery of this man's abilities and is robbing him of the chance to fire Liverpool to anything resembling glory.

    24. David Ngog

    Ngog started the season in prolific form and currently leads the Liverpool goalscoring charts with eight strikes this season. Although most have come in the Europa League, goals against Aston Villa and Arsenal have been added and Ngog has put in some impressive performances.

    In Hodgson's favoured 4:4:2, Ngog is the usual starter now alongside Fernando Torres.

    He has developed a lot, both mentally and physically, over the past year and a half and doubtless all these games will do him the world of good in the long run. But Ngog is not quite at the level we need him to be yet.

    He is much improved in his holding up play and running at defenders, though he tends to lose concentration sometimes.

    7/10 - I don't think anything more could really have been asked of Ngog this season—he has contributed goals and good play at times, and is still learning his game. He is more of a like-for-like than a good foil for Torres, but needs-must at the moment and I'm happy with what David has produced.

    19. Ryan Babel

    The great enigma—in one game he looks full of life and vitality, sharp and skilful; in the next he looks disinterested, lazy and selfish.

    Babel has talent and it is best utilized up front—no doubt about that. And what he says is right—he has yet to get so much as five starts in a row in all his time at Liverpool, so how can he be expected to shine consistently?

    The problem is, (most) people have to earn their place in the team and Babel doesn't do that on a consistent enough basis. His game against Villa was good, he deserved his goal and, in all fairness, did not deserve to be left out of the team against Newcastle in the following game.

    When that happens, it can become easy to understand his frustrations. But he needs to really push himself over the final half of this season—he needs it, and Liverpool need it.

    Babel should be a 15 goals a season man, no problem. Whether he attains anything like that level or not remains, I am convinced, more up to him than anyone else.

    5/10 - Sometimes good, sometimes bad. He is too average overall to get anything other than a five, though Ryan is capable of so, so, so much more. Here's hoping he steps up to the plate over the congested January fixture list.

    Others:

    Nathan Eccleston has made strides towards the first team picture this season and has performed well when called upon as substitute. He still has time to make the grade and looks a good prospect. It would do him good to get more time as a forward rather than a wide player though.

Manager

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    LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 29:  Liverpool Manager Roy Hodgson looks dejected during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Anfield on December 29, 2010 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty
    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    Roy Hodgson is in no way, shape or form suited to Liverpool Football Club.

    I was against his appointment in the beginning based on the argument for bringing him to the club—stabilization.

    I didn't want stabilization. Stabilizing the club meant we finished seventh again in 2010/11.

    As it happens, even that seems like heady heights right now, as Liverpool languish in the bottom half of the league table, three points above the relegation zone.

    Hodgson has made far too many errors in judgement to recount them all in a short roundup here, but the main bones of contention for me are:

    His lack of substitutions. The game isn't going Liverpool's way, but Roy does nothing about it. There have been a number of games when the Reds have been drawing or losing, with substitutes to spare and available to make and yet Hodgson does precisely nothing. This is incredibly infuriating to me.

    Match-day mentality. Hoping to get a draw away from home, being satisfied with a narrow defeat, sitting back when in front and inviting the losing team on to us and hoping to keep them out, the awful, awful method of getting the ball forward from the back—all of it is just so anti-Liverpool it makes me not want to watch any more. It has to stop.

    Poor team selections. I don't even know where to begin here. Raul Meireles on the right flank seems as good a place as any. Formations should be fluid, creative, tactical elements which aid the team's cause to win the game, not stodgy, stubborn, mind-numbing blocks of players who move sideways at all costs.

    Interviews and press conferences. His latest will do to sum up Hodgson's ineptitude at dealing with matters on Liverpool Football Club. Following the defeat at home to Wolves: "I hope the fans start to become supporters." Today, two days later: "I didn't mention the fans". Dear me.

    Positives for Hodgson—well, let's be honest, plenty of us thought the arrivals of Joe Cole and Raul Meireles would be. One has, one not so much.

    He also had mitigating circumstances with the board takeover, Mascherano leaving late in August and not having reams of money to spend.

    Persuading Gerrard and Torres to stay—I'd love to know what was said there, by the way. The defeat of Chelsea at Anfield and guiding us through top of the Europa League group without defeat were also accomplishments.

    That said, Liverpool's style of play in Europe was in need of a new set of adjectives for boring: the Napoli home game aside, two 0-0's with Utrecht and another in Naples did nothing to elevate the standing of Europe's second most prestigious tournament.

    The away performances in the league leave everything to be desired—the fact that Liverpool have failed to score in a massive 44 percent of away games this season says absolutely everything about the shambolic attempts to "win" games that Roy has enforced upon the players—and the less said about the League Cup defeat against Northampton, the better.

    For the future—the January transfer window is upon us and many fans are hoping Hodgson is not around to oversee it. Damien Comolli's appointment gives hope to fans that gems will be brought to the club, but in all honesty, until a new manager is appointed and Liverpool's match mentality and approach to playing changes dramatically, little will alter in on-field results.

    2/10 - Hodgson has to go.

Final Verdict

8 of 8

    LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 29:  David Ngog, Lucas, Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard (R) of Liverpool look dejected after Wolverhampton Wanderers opened the scoring during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Wolverhampton Wanderers
    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    Liverpool are in the midst of a terrible season, no two ways about it.

    League Cup and the Premiership are without doubt out of reach, as is the top four by the looks of things. Even a Europa League spot is looking unlikely, and with Manchester United away in the FA Cup third round, Liverpool are looking at a disaster of a season.

    Hodgson is the current boss but, simply put, until he goes there is no way out of this mess for Liverpool.

    The current players are under performing—but they are also being utilized badly, are not fighting for each other and are certainly not looking happy at playing the way they are being asked to.

    A vast change in team mentality and shape is needed to get the best out of the best players at the club: Reina, Agger, Torres, Gerrard and the like.

    Should a clear out be required in the summer, players like Babel, Skrtel, Kuyt and Aurelio are likely to be included judging on their performances, even though some may have been a mainstay of the team for some time until now.

    A big improvement is needed from the entire squad, especially the biggest players like Torres.

    Highs: The win over Chelsea in November, the signing of Raul Meireles—and the high court victory leading to NESV (FSG) taking over the club from Gillett and Hicks.

    Lows: Konchesky and Poulsen signing; the poor form of Fernando Torres; defeats at home to Blackpool, Northampton and Wolves; dreadful performances during defeats to Manchester United and Everton and, above all else (or perhaps leading to all else) the signing as new club manager of Roy Hodgson.

    3/10 - At the half-way stage, we have to say this season has been a truly terrible one. Here's hoping for a vast improvement in fortunes for 2011, whoever is in charge, and that Liverpool are once again soon challenging for trophies.

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