Dear oh dear, Brendan Rodgers. How wrong could your team selection be? First off, it was evident that Jon Flanagan had to be included after his fine display against Everton last weekend, but here’s the thing, he’s a predominantly right footed full-back playing on the left. This results in two things: one, he’s never going to foray down the left flank and provide width as he’ll always be looking to come in; two, the back line is thus imbalanced, with Glen Johnson hugging the touchline on one side and Flanagan narrow on the left.
This comes to the second point, why no left-legged centre back then? You have two left-footed defenders in club vice-captain Daniel Agger – who admittedly had a poor game last weekend – and the club’s record fee paid for a defender in Mamadou Sakho. Rodgers instead chose right-footed Kolo Toure to partner right-footed Martin Skrtel in defence, meaning one of them had to play uncomfortably on the left-side of central defence.
Thirdly, this game at Hull is the typical tough away game that Liverpool have struggled for the past few seasons, yet Rodgers decided to play inexperienced players. Granted the form of the aforementioned Flanagan, regardless of how inexperienced he is, meant he merited a start, but Raheem Sterling’s first start in two months certainly did not. This was not a game to experiment, especially when you bring in the less inexperienced Victor Moses into the side as well. Too many changes against a tough Hull side.
So presumable Liverpool were already hamstrung coming into this game with these changes, not to mention adding on the fact that Daniel Sturridge lost his fitness gamble by playing that full, meaningless 90 minutes for England when he shouldn’t. Rodgers left Liverpool even more short up front with Philipp Coutinho on the bench.
Terrible All Around
Seriously, where should criticism start. Toure had a poor game, mis-controlling passes, failing to keep check of Yannick Sagbo. Skrtel and Flanagan did fine, Johnson went forward a lot with little effect, which was made worse since Robbie Brady kept exploiting the space he left behind. Lucas and Steven Gerrard were below par, and questions should be asked upon either one now.
Moses had a terrible game. He was at fault for the first goal by Jake Livermore, after he tried to pop the ball over the head of the full-back he was attacking at and failed. Then he got the chance to put Liverpool 2-1 ahead – much like Joe Allen last week for 3-1 – but a seemingly easy chance he fluffed and allowed Allan McGregor to save. Sterling was too weak throughout his 65 minutes, constantly getting outmuscled and losing the ball. Luis Suarez, stripped of his SAS partner, looked out of form and found no space – credit to Steve Bruce’s tactics – hence could not pose any danger to the Hull back line.
How Liverpool bounce back will be key, as usual. During a week of three games in which they had aimed for the full nine points, they start it with none. Now the pressure is on for them to win the next two home games before their three big away games against Tottenham, Manchester City and Chelsea, with a home game against Cardiff amongst that lot.
Rodgers’ side has to bounce back with all three points against Norwich. Moses, for all his talk about regular game time and 20-goal target, surely let Rodgers down and he will almost certainly be back on the bench for the visit of Chris Hughton’s side. Coutinho must be drafted back in, and one of either Sakho or Agger back in the side ahead of the very poor Toure. Being a home game, I would not be surprised to see Lucas given the rest he needs to rediscover some form, and give Allen a chance to make amends for his big Merseyside miss.
Alternatively, Henderson drops back alongside Gerrard and Liverpool go more offensive, with Coutinho, Luis Alberto and one of Sterling or Moses – with either looking to redeem themselves as well.
Either way, if Liverpool don’t go on to finish this week with six out of nine points, the December festive slump could well and truly be on, and the Reds could find themselves out of the top four in January, especially when you see how tight 2nd to 9th is, three points separating them while Arsenal break away with a seven point lead.