For a Liverpool fan, this has easily been the best footballing season since 2008-09. Based on the performance so far, however, I would still rate the 2008-09 performance higher – primarily because Liverpool came back to win several games that season – something they’ve not managed this season. Here are some pertinent observations from the season so far:
- Aly Cissokho is the new Djimi Traore (for those who don’t remember, he was Liverpool’s left back in the Champions League winning team in 2005. He’s been branded as ‘the worst player ever to win the Champions League’. Among other things he played Crespo onside twice for Milan’s second and third goals in that game)
- Liverpool against Aston Villa two weekends back reminded me of Liverpool versus Milan in 2005. Back then, Rafa Benitez had dropped holding midfielder Dietmar Hamann and played Xabi Alonso and Steven Gerrard as central midfielders, and they got badly overrun.
Here, Brendan Rodgers went with a midfield of Jordan Henderson (the new Gerrard, more on that later) and Gerrard (now a wannabe Alonso), and they got similarly overrun. The only time Liverpool looked threatening was when Lucas Leiva was on the pitch for 20 minutes of the second half
- When Kenny Dalglish bought Henderson in 2011, it seemed like the Liverpool team had too many “Gerrards”. There was Gerrard himself, there was Alberto Aquilani (remember?) and there was Raul Meireles (yet another player in the traditional “Gerrard role”) when Henderson came in. And Jonjo Shelvey was coming up the ranks.
Two and a half years hence, Henderson has established himself as the Number One Gerrard, ahead of Gerrard himself, who now plays more like the 4 he wears for his country than the 8 he wears for his club. Meireles and Aquilani were sold soon after Henderson arrived, Shelvey went last season (a mistake IMHO. He should’ve been loaned out) and Gerrard has moved back.
- With Liverpool gifting West Brom a goal after not playing out properly from the back, one of the two monkeys on Liverpool’s back has bitten. Simon Mignolet is nowhere as good as Pepe Reina as a distributor (though he’s much much better as a shot stopper), and the Toure-Skrtel partnership has always looked vulnerable playing out from the back. This was bound to happen and it’s good it happened. They’ll be more careful playing out from the back henceforth.
- The other monkey on Liverpool’s back waiting to bite is Skrtel at set pieces. His natural strategy this season has been to grab the opponent’s tallest player. So far referees have overlooked it, and a penalty is waiting to be conceded. Hope that happens such that Liverpool don’t drop points on account of it
- A big issue with Aly Cissokho at left back is that when he ventures forward (typically with little success), he doesn’t track back quickly enough and leaves Liverpool short of support in case the opponent breaks on a counterattack. Hence in the game against West Brom it was pleasing to see Daniel Sturridge having moved back into a left back position to cover when Cissokho got isolated on one of his ventures forward.
- Once Jon Flanagan is fit enough to last 90 minutes (he isn’t yet, it seems), Cissokho should be dropped, Flanagan should go to left back and Kelly should play at right back. Cissokho is an abomination.
- Liverpool’s injury list currently reads: Right back: Glen Johnson, Centre backs: Mamadou Sakho and Daniel Agger, Left back: Jose Enrique, Holding midfield: Lucas Leiva. Another central midfielder Joe Allen recently came off that list. Gerrard, Sturridge and Coutinho have also been injured at some point in time this season.
- The most joyous thing about watching Liverpool in 2008-09 was their comebacks. They came back from a goal down to beat Manchester United 2-1 at Old Trafford (I still remember that Ryan Babel strike that settled that game). Then came back from 2-0 down to beat Manchester City 3-2, and repeated that effort against Wigan. They almost repeated it against Hull but could only draw 2-2. Apart from the Villa game, such comebacks have been absent this season. And Liverpool have let leads slip way too many times.
- I’m not saying anything about the Suarez-Sturridge partnership up front – the results are there to see. One thing I’ll say, though, is that I don’t like the “SAS” acronym – simply because the “A” stands for “and”. Now if only Iago Aspas could magically improve next season and become the A in SAS..
- I have this tracker going all season that tries to predict where Liverpool will end up. This is based on quality of opposition faced. Liverpool have been a consistent fifth according to this tracker. Look at the MS Score here.