When Steven Gerrard’s famous ‘We go again’ cry was belted out by Liverpool fans at the start of the season, 3 losses in the first 5 games was surely something they were not expecting. The Reds were inches away from winning the Premier League last year, their first top-division title since 1989. But unfortunately, a late slip-up meant that it wasn’t to be. The fans though, were filled with renewed hope and enthusiasm, and they expected their team to be in the race once again in the 2014/15 campaign.
Despite all the optimism, it has all gone horribly wrong for Brendan Rodgers’ men. The team looks a shadow of the side from last year, and yesterday’s loss against West Ham United subjected them to their 3rd defeat of the season (and we’re only in September).
Here, we ask the question – ‘Was the writing on the wall?’, by analysing certain aspects of Liverpool’s game last season that we feel were never going to be sustainable in the long run.
Strong Attack, Weak Defence
Liverpool’s football last season was based on trying to outscore the opposition every single time. They had Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez both in red-hot form, and as a result, they succeeded more often than not. But, this is a ploy that is high-risk, and costed the Reds the title in the end. Failure to score against Chelsea and drawing despite having a three-goal lead against Crystal Palace meant that they gifted Manchester City top-spot.
Martin Skrtel and Mamadou Sakho are extremely easy to penetrate, as the 35 goals conceded in 2014 clearly show. The capture of Dejan Lovren doesn’t seem to have done too much good, as it has only enabled Liverpool to keep 1 clean sheet so far this season.
Are Liverpool the new Tottenham?
Several comparisons have been drawn between Liverpool’s performance in this transfer window to Tottenham Hostpur’s performance in the last. Spurs sold Gareth Bale for a huge sum of money, over £80 million to be precise, and used these proceeds to bring in a host of new players. But, none of their new signings, including Roberto Soldado, Paulinho and Nacer Chadli has managed to make any significant impact so far. Spurs finished 6th last season, and are showing no signs of being major contenders for the Champions League spots this season either.
Liverpool may be facing a similar situation. After selling Luis Suarez, the best player in the whole of the Premier League last year, to Barcelona for £75 million, they brought in a large number of new faces to the club. The striking options that have come in though, haven’t delivered thus far. The absence of Daniel Sturridge on Saturday was very conspicuous, and the Reds have now lost 6 out of the last 14 games in which the Englishman has not started. Mario Balotelli has come in but has failed to score in 3 league games so far.
Absence of the Surprise Factor
Last year, nobody expected Liverpool to challenge for the title. They therefore had the surprise element to their game throughout the season. Playing a free-flowing, attacking style of football, they surprised most of the teams they faced by starting quickly and having the game won before half-time. Nobody regarded them a big threat, and this worked in the Reds’ favour.
Now, that factor of surprise is gone. Last season’s 2nd-placed finish means that Liverpool are now under-pressure to maintain that level of expectation. They are carrying the weight of expectations on their shoulders. And most importantly, teams are ready with a gameplan when they play against Rodgers’ men. The absence of Luis Suarez makes it a whole lot easier for the opposition, but teams are now wary of the threat that the likes of Sterling and Sturridge possess too.
Long Season Ahead
Liverpool need to start winning games regularly to have any chance of replicating last season’s finish. Unless they start putting together a string of good results soon, their place in the top 4 may also be in jeopardy. Brendan Rodgers needs to make some big team-selection decisions, as fitting Raheem Sterling, Philippe Coutinho, Daniel Sturridge and Mario Balotelli in the same XI is not proving to be an easy task.
The Reds have their work cut-out in trying to find the optimum combination and getting their season back on track. They very well know that in the Premier League, past reputation counts for nothing.