So, what next for Liverpool and Brendan Rodgers?
The Reds had started the season brightly winning the first three matches in a row. They went to the top of the table and the world looked rosy for them. After that, they suffered a draw against Swansea, a shocking defeat at home against Southampton, followed by defeat at the hands of Manchester United. And the world suddenly looks grey for them.
Here are 7 key issues Rodgers must address from now on to steady the ship again.
No Excuse in the league now
Liverpool do not have European commitments. They are out of League Cup. They now need to focus on the league, as FA Cup is not an immediate headache. They should get ample time to rest their players and plan their tactics accordingly. No excuse of failure will be acceptable from here on.
Fitness of Sturridge
Sturridge gave the impression last night that he ran out of steam after just 20 minutes. The England striker has had two injuries already (in the pre-season and before the international break) and it is evident that fatigue is slowly taking a toll on his body. Put it simply, he needs rest. At the same time, Rodgers needs him as he is the club’s leading goal scorer at the moment. Sort it out Brendan.
Lack of goals
Rodgers said early in the season that he wants at least 20 goals more from his team than last season. As it stands, the Reds are finding it hard to score at the moment. Apart from Sturridge and Moses, not a single player has contributed in the league in terms of goal scoring. And that is indeed a sign to worry about.
That brings us to Luis Suarez
Having the best player in the side is simply not enough. You also need to know how to use him perfectly. The 3-5-2 or a variation 3-4-1-2 formation Rodgers implemented last night saw Suarez and Sturridge link up well, despite both playing together for the first time this season. Rodgers needs to find a formula where Suarez can get into more goal scoring positions. The Uruguayan was the top scorer for the Reds last season and he should be looking to encore that yet again. For that to happen, Rodgers needs to implement a proper system in place, where purpose will be served without hampering the team balance.
What is happening in the second half?
Really, what has been happening with Liverpool and second halves? In most of the games this season, the Reds looked dominant in the first half (even yesterday, away to Old Trafford) and then the tempo freezes down. The Reds haven’t scored a goal in the second half in the league. Both Southampton and Swansea scored in the second half of the match against Liverpool and they got away with points.
Proper combination in defence
The injury to Daniel Agger and Glen Johnson has disrupted Rodgers’ plan A to a huge extent, but he needs to deal with it. Is he doing any good playing Kolo Toure on the right hand side? Should he try Skrtel and Toure at the centre? Should he give more chances to Martin Kelly? Or, should he keep faith on Sakho and let the Frenchman grow match-by-match? Ah, too many questions.
Getting the best out of new/squad players
So far, apart from Mignolet, no other new signings have really delivered. Iago Aspas and Victor Moses looked OK at best, but for a club like Liverpool, more is wanted than this. Likewise, Ilori and Luis Alberto are prospects for the future and little is expected of them too. Rodgers must need to find out a way to bring out the best from the new imports, especially Aspas. Likewise, players coming off the bench haven’t made a terrific impact in any of the games. Raheem Sterling looked sharp at times but again more is expected of him.