Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Liverpool Self-destructs

photo by Steve Puntervia PhotoRee

It could be a long season for Scott:

It all started so well with narrow wins over Stoke City and Bournemouth, followed by a tough nil-nil away draw to Arsenal. Win the points at home against the "lesser" competition, and pick some up on the road against the Heavies, and Liverpool would survive the early season Schedule of Death. Alas, the script got torn up at Anfield this weekend after a gruesome 3-0 capitulation to West Ham, made possible by some truly asinine defensive blunders.  Sure, there was a strong scent of misfortune wafting about each of the three concessions, but that was barely noticeable due to the spectacle of self-immolation put on by Liverpool's defense. I had not yet jumped on the Joe Gomez bandwagon, nor the Dejan Lovren comeback car, and certainly won't now. 

On the first goal, Martin Skrtl was blamed by the announcers for a headed clearance that did not exit the danger area. Ok, maybe, but where were the midfielders to help gather it or at least pressure the turnover? But most concerning to me was the sight of Gomez, practically with a consoling arm around Manuel Lanzini, ushering him toward the goal and politely standing aside while the Argentine turned in the pass from the aforementioned turnover. Merely putting his foot a few inches forward would have blocked the shot. And, yes, poor Gomez is not left-footed and does not have much experience on the left but, come on, does he have to cut in to use his right every time?  He attempted only one left foot cross that I noted and that one floated into the stands behind the goal. Gomez might work better in another position, and will surely improve, but his performance is just not good enough when you have one of the best headers of the ball in the game (Christian Benteke) starving for service in the penalty area. 

While Gomez' shortcomings were technical and positional, Lovren's may be medical as he appeared to have suffered some sort of aneurysm on the second goal. Sliding over to cover on the left (Gomez' side, coincidentally), the Croat was completely in control of the situation and could have simply booted up the field or knocked out of bounds, or at least successfully escorted the ball out of touch like he tried. Instead, he failed with his intention and then, inexplicably, contrived to literally pass the ball to Lanzini in the penalty area. The ensuing cross, block, fortuitous rebound and inevitable goal could only be met by the beleaguered defender's woeful grimace, only partially hidden by hands to face. 

The third goal was not quite as shockingly fraught with ineptitude as the first two but had the glaring similarity of a fortuitous rebound for West Ham, which was followed by indecision concerning the who and when of a challenge. In any case, the game was done and dusted by then, evidenced by the shameful mass exodus of shell-shocked Liverpudlians. 

Unfortunately, it wasn’t merely defensive frailties that colluded against the Reds’ best intentions. The game was also frustratingly full of errant passes and bricked controls when it mattered in the forward third.  The 59% possession statistic was more than flattering given that most of that was defenders passing it back and forth.  We’ve seen this before and will see it again – Liverpool needs to figure out a way to break down teams that pack it in with a goal advantage.

It's only one game and these things happen in sports. And at least a couple other Champions League contenders, notably Manchester United and Chelsea, similarly stumbled this weekend.  But it won’t be easy to bounce back as we next travel to Old Trafford, sans the red-carded creator Philippe Coutinho.  Time to tweak again, Mr. Rodgers.
This is farlieonfootie making the deadline on September 1.

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