First and foremost, I decided to change it up a bit from The “Best and Worst” as I wrote after the Chelsea match, mainly because I would have struggled to come up with any bad points. It was an excellent performance that even a nit-picking cynic like me would struggle to pick holes in. The marking was poor for Kompany’s goal – that’s about it from a defensive point of view. And at the other end, it’s the same old Liverpool story of not making our chances count, thanks in part to some fantastic goalkeeping from the excellent Joe Hart. So, what have we learned from this week?
Starting with the defence, the last couple of weeks have shown, for me at least, that Jamie Carragher no longer has a place in Liverpool’s first choice back four. Carragher has been a fantastic servant over the years, and if you were fighting for your life he’s a man you’d love to have alongside you, but I think his time has passed. His distribution from defence has long been awful, and he is becoming more and more prone to lapses and mistakes. The defence of Jose Enrique, Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel and Glen Johnson has proven itself in two of the toughest matches The Reds will face this season. Even though I still remain unconvinced about Johnson, I would play him ahead of Martin Kelly for now, if only because of his attacking ability.
Another thing we can take from this weekend (and this season in general) is that we are more than able to mix it with the best. With the exception of being played off the park at White Hart Lane, Liverpool remain unbeaten against all the big boys, and today was the toughest test of all. Reducing a Man City side which had not failed to score at least two goals in every league game this season to a headed goal and only seven shots is an excellent achievement; to come out of the game feeling gutted that we haven’t taken all three points is even more impressive. However, this game and the one last week at Stamford Bridge just makes it even more infuriating that we failed to beat the likes of Sunderland and Norwich at home. The lesson from this last seven days is that Liverpool must play like this every week, and not just when Man City come to town.
Moving on to the business end of the pitch, I don’t think we so much learned something this week as were reminded of the importance of taking chances. It isn’t enough to create them, you have to convert them also and Liverpool still seem worryingly unable to convert multitudes of chances into goals, game after game after game. It’s slightly disappointing that in a game we played so well in, the only goal we have to show for it is an own goal from a shot that was comfortably sailing wide. Joe Hart is an outstanding goalkeeper, but he isn’t superhuman: he can’t save everything. As annoying as it is when an opposition goalkeeper comes to Anfield and has the game of his life, for me it is more indicative of our finishing not being up to standard. This is the one area I could consistently criticise The Reds for this season – the finishing has to improve. In fact few of Hart’s saves came from clear cut, on-a-plate opportunities: whilst the chances we created were good, they weren’t quite good enough.
And finally, we were shown again that Liverpool’s style these days must be about pressing, about playing at a quick tempo and not allowing opponents the time to settle. The days of Liverpool being able to park the bus in our own half against top sides and feel confident we would end the game with a clean sheet are long gone – the defenders we have now are not made for that style of play, and neither is the rest of the team. I see a bright future and a very satisfactory season ahead if we stick to the way we have played against the big teams, rather than taking our foot off the pedal when we aren’t playing a Man City or a Chelsea. Liverpool can definitely finish in the top four this season, we might be capable of the top three, but we have to stick to doing what works for the players we have, and take our chances when we get them!
By Matthew McNally
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