The Real Problem with Liverpool

With this being an international week, it is perhaps unsurprising there has been such media drama surrounding Liverpool and how their current, inept owners are damaging the club and are apparently the primary reason for the side’s worst ever start to a Premier League season. Although it does look increasingly likely this is about to change in the near future.

Hicks and Gillett can be blamed but this is ultimately just an excuse for the below-par players that can be seen at Anfield this season. If one simply takes the time to run through the team it can be seen that you don’t need to be Jose Mourinho to work this out.

There are undoubtedly some top players at Liverpool. Pepe Reina, Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres are all players who would challenge for a spot in nearly any team in the world and Dirk Kuyt’s commitment, work rate and team ethic should not go unnoticed, and this was seen by the role he played in Holland’s strong FIFA World Cup campaign earlier this year.

However, you go beyond this and there are problems. Every week Ashley Cole and Patrice Evra show the importance of the modern day left back and how they can be an asset in both defending and attacking. Liverpool’s left back is Paul Konchesky. He is not a poor footballer but he will never win a Premier League, and neither will Liverpool with such an average player in their first eleven each week. He does have the athleticism of Cole, and does not even deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence when discussing quality.

On the other side of the defence is Glen Johnson, who cost Liverpool seventeen million pounds, and has not improved in the defensive department as expected. Despite a great enthusiasm going forward, Johnson often leaves gaps that wingers can effortlessly exploit, leaving them one-on-one against an ageing Jamie Carragher, whose best performances are clearly behind him.

Alongside Carragher is Martin Skrtel, who despite looking like he is as strong as Nemanja Vidic, clearly isn’t and for my money it should be Dan Agger alongside Carragher at the heart of the defence and even with Agger, three of the back four are simply not close to being good enough to be winning Premier Leagues, or even competing for them.

You look at the midfield and it’s such a different story from a couple of years ago when Mascherano and Alonso could dominate games and allow Gerrard to bomb forward. The fact that these two are now playing their football for two of the strongest sides in club football demonstrates their importance to any team. Recent signings Christian Poulsen and Portuguese international Raul Meireles have replaced them, with Lucas pitching in when necessary. None of these three are anywhere near as good as the two who have left Anfield and Liverpool are paying the price for this. Lucas is often harshly criticised, yet he has not made a huge impact at Liverpool and it wouldn’t be surprising if he moved on at the end of the season.

Arguably Liverpool’s most talented central midfielder, Alberto Aquilani, is now the forgotten man at Anfield and is on loan at Juventus. This is the same Aquilani who was bought to replace Alonso. The Italian international has been unfortunate with injuries, but simply has not been given a chance to prove himself, and this has worked out perfectly for Juventus.

If you look at the attacking side of Liverpool, you’d be forgiven for thinking the front four could get the club into the top four all by themselves. No one needs further reminding of Gerrard’s qualities and Joe Cole was a great addition, but unfortunately things have not started well for the former West Ham and Chelsea man and he is yet to show the form that made once made him a key player for Chelsea.

We all know how effective Dirk Kuyt can be for both club and country but it’s unlikely he’ll create something out of nothing in the way other Premier League right-sided players do, such as Adam Johnson of Manchester City or Aaron Lennon of Tottenham, and these players both struggle to make their respective team’s first eleven, which just shows the lack of squad depth at Liverpool, which was highlighted by their recent Carling Cup home defeat to Northampton.

Ryan Babel can also be mentioned. He is another player who has not lived up to the hype and has ultimately been disappointing since his transfer from Ajax on the back of a strong U21 European Championships. This forward has bags of potential and now he really needs to start showing it otherwise his career could fade into mediocrity.

This leaves Fernando Torres. A striker who set the world alight when he moved from Atletico Madrid and on his day can only be described as unplayable, but the Torres we are seeing this season is unrecognisable from the Torres of 2008. All signs suggest the Spanish forward no longer wants to be at Anfield, and is surely only a matter of time before he leaves the club. This attitude is influencing Torres’ performances, and now more than ever, Liverpool need him to play well.

The boardroom situation at Liverpool Football Club means this group of under-performing players can get away with playing in this manner, when even if the board was united at Anfield, the same on-field result would still occur.

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