By Abeer Sharma @abizzle1991 [email protected]_Sport
The recent serialisation of Steven Gerrard’s new autobiography has brought back memories of that unforgettable Spring in 2014 for Liverpool FC, where the bewitching pace and skill of the Raheem Sterling-Luis Suarez-Daniel Sturridge triumvirate brought the club within a fateful Gerrard slip of a first league title since 1990.
Fast-forward to today and after a mildly promising start, Liverpool have suffered two painful league defeats on the spin. The position of manager Brendan Rodgers is under intense scrutiny and if he is to save his job, it is time for Rodgers to take action.
Shore up the defence
The single biggest failing of the Rodgers reign to date has been his failure to construct anything resembling a decent defence. This season started with three clean sheets but has been followed by the concession of six goals in the last two games. Simon Mignolet is again spreading nervousness in goal, Dejan Lovren looks utterly hapless and the promising youngster Joe Gomez is too inexperienced at left back given the current problems. Rodgers should consider dropping Lovren for the superior Mamadou Sakho and perhaps replace Gomez with Alberto Moreno who also gives the team more going forward.
Start passing the ball again
During his time at Liverpool, Rodgers has shown himself more of a pragmatist than first thought. His initial “death by football” philosophy predicated on wearing down the opponent with possession gave way to a fast counter-attacking approach in the previous two seasons. This season has seen the lowest rate of ball possession in years and a loose strategy of aimlessly and negatively launching long balls in the vague direction of Christian Benteke. In the 3-1 defeat to Manchester Utd, the team played like they had forgotten the concept of stringing more than 2-3 passes together. Rodgers should go back to basics and remind the team about the value of keeping the ball in both a defensive and attacking respect.
Round pegs in round holes
We had waited to see Danny Ings make his competitive debut for Liverpool and when it came against Manchester Utd, the striker was played in the left inverted winger position, rendering him completely ineffective. Expensive summer signing Roberto Firmino, purchased for his technical skill, vision and scoring ability, found himself pinned back on the right side of a midfield five. Due to erratic, haphazard recruitment over the last two summers, Liverpool have an imbalanced squad, heavy on central midfielders and lacking in real width. Nonetheless, Rodgers must pick players in the positions that will get the most out of them, especially in attacking areas given the chronic shortage of opportunities currently being created. The misuse of the likes of Ings and Firmino has left Benteke isolated and frustrated. He cannot be expected to produce moments of bicycle-kicking genius every week.
Settle on a formation and stick with it
Although Rodgers’ preferred formation is a 4-3-3, he has had success during his tenure with a 4-4-2 diamond and last season, a 3-4-3 which saw the team go on a four month unbeaten run after a wretched start. However, he has also been guilty as charged of trying to be too clever, most notably in the FA Cup semi-final defeat to Aston Villa last season where he made a number of confusing formation and tactical changes over the course of the match. The last three and a quarter years show that the best football and results under Rodgers have involved a settled formation and a clear, defined way of playing. It is possible that the Northern Irishman does not know his best team or formation right now. If so, he will have to work it out sharpish as otherwise his time in the Anfield hot-seat could soon be at an end.