Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Little Defensive: Thoughts on Liverpool

After another narrow victory, Scott has time to gather his thoughts:

o Now having scored more goals than any other Premier League team (albeit Manchester City have a game in hand), Liverpool carelessly careened to another 3 points last Sunday at Anfield by surviving an all-out shoot-out with Swansea by the whopping score of 4-3.  Twice surrendering the lead after blazing ahead 2-0, the watchword going forward will be “defense.”  As in, “please, any defense whatsoever.” 
o Simon Mignolet is reported to have lamented the team’s defensive performance and one has to wonder whether he included himself in that assessment. The Belgian, so unflappable at the beginning of the season, mostly just flaps at crosses now.  When he is not miscommunicating with defenders as to who will clear.  Fortunately, he’s an excellent shot-stopper and communication with defenders should be a relatively easy thing to improve.  And without belaboring the point or repeating too much the blogosphere chatter, we really need some Grade-A defenders.  Or at least need the ones we have to play like they are Grade-A.
o We are now at 4 games in a row without a goal from Luis Suarez, double the number of games he had previously gone this season without a goal (and then, only once).  Yet the Uruguayan continues to influence every game with his industry, racking up assists and creating spaces for his teammates.  NBC needs a sharp rebuke for erroneously informing us several times that Suarez’ assist in the match was his 9th of the season, tying him for the lead in that metric. In fact, Suarez is way ahead of the pack with 17 assists on the season compared to the second highest which is 11 (Wayne Rooney).
o The only thing that troubled me with Suarez’ performance was that, unlike in previous games where an unlucky post or a brilliant save denied him a goal, on Sunday it was a lack of concentration at the critical time leading to a miskick.  Let us hope that was a one-game thing.
o Meanwhile, Daniel Sturridge is on fire and reaping the benefit of Suarez’ selfless play and space-creation.  Raheem Sterling is certainly to be credited, too,  for tormenting the opposition and allowing his fellow Englishman to finish, seemingly at will.  And what to say of Jordan Henderson who, were it not for football, would likely be an award-winning marathoner?  Just watching the amount of terrain he covers each game is enough to have me sympathetically icing my knees.  And two goals to boot – not a bad way to come back after a quick rest.
o Glen Johnson, back in the squad for the first time since his injury, and clearly getting his start (at left back, no less) as a result of previous defensive woes, showed flashes of brilliance going forward and was average in his defending.  His offensive flashes, unfortunately, were almost always snuffed out by a poor pass or heavy touch.  Let’s hope he grows into that position.
o “Martin, Martin, Martin…”   Does it surprise anyone that Skrtl was finally punished for his penalty area wrestling?  It shouldn’t as it was a long time coming.  This particular infraction showed a particular lack of judgment in that there were not enough bodies around to shield his indiscretion (as would be on a corner, for example).  Plus, Daniel Agger was perfectly positioned to head away the danger, which he did.
o And this gets to the heart of the matter as I see it for Liverpool’s defending – poor decision making.  Aside from wretched marking at times, ill-conceived back and lateral passes have been too frequent.  This is clearly a result of Brendan Rodgers’ philosophy that demands playing the ball out of the back on the ground.  And I want to make it clear that I am a very big fan of this philosophy and believe it is one of the reasons the team is improving – more possession equals more opportunities for SAS and friends to create and score.  But the defensive unit (and the midfield unit, for that matter) needs to recognize the difference between an opportunity to work the ball out of the back and a dangerous situation requiring a clearance.

This is farlieonfootie for February 25. 

No comments:

Post a Comment