Heading into this season, the majority of people were laughing off comments that Liverpool could return to Champions League football or even win the title whilst some were quietly ushering the words “They can do it.”
The Reds have enjoyed playing football at the top end of the table this season, something that has hindered Liverpool’s bid to reach the top four in the past. Many times in the past few years, Liverpool have been sluggish at the start and pushed on in the second half of the season. This time it’s different, the start has been great and Liverpool sit in 2nd place after 11 games, leading some people to believe the giants may return to the top.
However, the recent defeat at the hands of Arsenal has been the cause for many to write off Liverpool’s title credentials, but the defeat doesn’t forclose Liverpool’s hopes of achieving top four, or the league title. It is my unequivocal believe that the tactics were the key factor in our defeat at The Emirates, not necessarily our ability. Not only that, but the fact is Arsenal are a top team on fantastic form, and any team is capable of losing to them so the defeat is far from dreadful.
The major issue with the side is the lack of depth. This is something Brendan Rodgers will look to work on in January.
“We can’t worry about it [players opting to join Champions League clubs], we just need to find players who can make the difference for us.” The Northern Irishman said.
If you watch Liverpool play, the first thing you will notice is that they’re found wanting on the left hand side of defence. Jose Enrique has come on leaps and bounds, but has left a lot to be desired at times. This being said, Enrique has been solid defensively, but his back up Aly Cissokho has been far from that.
The French signing from Valencia CF doesn’t seem to suit the LWB role that he has been forced to play under the 3-5-2 regime, but that doesn’t excuse his poor defensive showing.
Cissokho is seemingly clueless when a winger runs at him, and has a tackles won percentage of 66.70%. This is far from good enough regardless of whether you are a back up player or not. And for all the duels he wins, he loses nearly just as much, which is shown in the fact he has won 19 of his duels, but has lost 14.
The Reds should look to sign a solid left back, who will do a stellar job week in week out, that or switch from the 3-5-2 when Cissokho plays as he doesn’t suit the role.
Liverpool are a defensive midfielder short. The Brazilian Lucas Leiva has improved drastically since his start on Merseyside, but the 26-year-old needs to improve on his decision making. The guy can tackle, contrary to popular belief, but he is too eager to win the ball back and gives away too many fouls in dangerous areas and also picks up a terrible amount of yellow cards, which is a huge problem due to the heavy reliance on Lucas to do the defending infront of the defence.
Lucas’ ability isn’t in question, it’s a matter of improving on what he already has in his game, something he is already beginning to do. Lucas has improved his passing accuracy by 1.7% compared to last season, and his passing accuracy in the opposition half is up a whopping 4.9%. He also wins 5.2% more of his duels compared to last season. I am fully aware that Lucas has only played seven games compared to 26 last season, but it’s a sign of improvement early on.
Rodgers should look to bring in an experienced defensive midfielder in January, who can aid Lucas’ development to lead the line of midfield in the future, and can show him the ropes, learning when it’s the right time to go in for a challenge and when it’s best to leave the player to be challenged by someone else.
There’s also the need to improve in wide areas, with Sterling and Ibe being too young to carry the weight of expectations and also lacking the ability currently to assist Liverpool to the top, and the same goes for the not-so-young Stoke City loanee Oussama Assaidi, nor does it bode well for Jordan Henderson to be out of position (whom I believe will adopt a more central position once Steven Gerrard steps down).
Liverpool are strong in almost every aspect, but need the depth if they are to push for the title.
January is make or break for Liverpool this season. Losing Luis Suarez would be devastating, and the need to add depth is blatant. If the Reds lose the Uruguayan, or manage to keep him but don’t add the essential players, the season could deviate from its current course and leave the Merseyside club in disarray.