DEFEAT, self-inflicted or ruthlessly picked apart by clinical opponents? Take your pick, as the loss at Manchester City could fall into either category. There will be other days and nights like these, the next one might even arise on Sunday at White Hart Lane, but there won’t be many of them to suffer.
Impressive work continues but that work remains a project in progress, rather than the shiny finished product that City more closely resemble. There were several downs to Monday night’s 1-3 reversal, yet there were a number of ups too. Passing fluidity during defeat at the Etihad was arguably better than it was in victory against Southampton. Alberto Moreno (culpability in the opening goal aside) looked the part at left back and offered much in the way of attacking support. Once Moreno comes to terms with the reduction in time on the ball in comparison to La Liga, we might find ourselves in possession of an actual cure to the complaint which the left back birth has arguably been for the last couple of decades. Could anyone claim with a straight face that we don’t have a considerable upgrade on our left back options of just 12 months ago? This was a set of options that amounted to Aly Cissokho, or a makeshift Glen Johnson for the position.
The cameo role played out by Lazar Markovic proved to be a tempting ‘trailer’ for what could be ahead. Of all the signings we’ve made this summer the one that has screamed out ‘doomed to fail’ to me the most is that of Markovic. I have no basis other than footballing instinct on this, there is no inside track I can offer you, and it’s just a sensory feeling, a gut reaction, although I trust my gut reactions and they tend to serve me well, they can thankfully can be wrong sometimes too. Markovic linked well with Moreno once he entered the game, looks more than comfortable on the ball and doesn’t appear to shrink in the shadow of a physical presence of big menacing opponents. I’m looking forward to seeing more of him.
Evolution of this version of Liverpool FC is likely to point to the opening two games of the 2014/15 campaign as the end of the meaningful line for both Lucas Leiva and Glen Johnson. This can be claimed as a negative-positive. Javier Manquillo didn’t deserve to drop out of the line up from the Southampton game after an impressive debut at right back. Johnson did a decent job at left back in the very same game, but has struggled to operate at right back for a considerable amount of time. Common-sense should have dictated that if the time was right for Moreno to come into the side at the Etihad, then a straight swap for Johnson was the switch to make. There would have been a degree of bravery to fielding both Manquillo and Moreno away at Manchester City, but it would have been a step sooner made towards what appears to be the inevitable. Johnson and Lucas fail to offer the same levels of expediency their dynamic team mates exude. We have to move forward without them. Manquillo, Moreno and an eventually fit Jon Flanagan will all make Johnson an unnecessary selection. Joe Allen and Emre Can leaves a Lucas reunion with Rafa Benitez the best outcome for all parties.
We have a greater pool of options now as far as team selection goes, but as others have stated we have much adjusting to do before we get over the loss of Luis Suarez. Mentalist football has brought us to where we are now, and we need the fresh injection of outlandish individualism and pantomime villainy that Mario Balotelli can bring to this growing band of international bright young things. Adam Lallana is yet to fit into the conundrum and could be vital on evenings like Monday when Philippe Coutinho errs towards the ‘flatter to deceive’ area of his game.
We lost to an excellent team on Monday night, the reigning champions no less. This was just the second time we’ve lost a league game in the calendar year of 2014, Chelsea being the only other team to have taken three points off us this year, and that was a defeat that didn’t have to happen. We weren’t a million miles away from being able to class Monday’s defeat as one that didn’t have to happen either. We had our own chances to score; we controlled the first half and conceded an avoidable goal that came against the flow of the play, a goal which changed the landscape of the match, just like that Chelsea game to an extent. Things ran away from us in the second half, but even then we could have made City sweat harder for the points as we missed late opportunities to draw to within a goal of them.
We are moving in the right direction. We have adjustments to make here and there, the seeming individualism of defence needs cohesion, the right combination in midfield needs to be found, we will need to get our heads around using more squad rotation than we used last season, and Daniel Sturridge needs chemistry to fizz with Balotelli as soon as possible. The empire being built by Brendan Rodgers is looking impressive, but the scaffolding isn’t ready to come down just yet. We are structurally sound and it’s all to do with fine touches and detail now.
Images: David Rawcliffe / Propaganda