Date: 4th October 2014 at 2:13pm
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To say this season hasn’t started well would be an understatement.

The Reds have shipped goals and looked toothless in attack, we currently sit 14th in the table with no league wins in September.

Things have gotten so bad that I wouldn’t be surprised if there were plans to fly a banner over the Liberty Stadium today saying “COME HOME JONJO”.

Things might not be quite that drastic yet but improvement, is definitely needed so these are my five ideas to get the Reds back on track.

1. Lallana in, Markovic out

Both Adam Lallana and Lazar Markovic were signed during the summer for around £20 million. They both picked up injuries during pre season and both recovered to make their first start against Aston Villa.

It’s there that the similarities end.

Based on his first few games for the Reds Markovic refuses to dribble past opponents, only ever plays simple balls and only shoots when there is absolutely no alternative.

Either he’s just not very good or he’s taking a while to fit into English football.

I’m inclined to go with the latter as most young foreign players take a while to adapt to the English game.

Right now with the team struggling for form Markovic should be firmly on the bench with more battle hardened pros starting in midfield.

Lallana was omitted from the starting line-up midweek which was a surprise since he played well against Everton and Middlesbrough.

Obviously Lallana hasn’t needed time to settle into the Premier League and at 26 he is in his prime and knows his game inside and out.

The former Southampton man runs at defenders, has a good eye for a pass and has already developed a good understanding with Raheem Sterling.

More importantly than that Lallana is a leader, he was captain of the Saints for two years and as soon as he came on against Basel he was visibly trying to gee up his teammates.

We have a young team that is in poor form so we need as many leaders on the pitch as possible, that’s why Lallana should be one of the first names on the team sheet.

2. Keep Sturridge fit

Even the most biased Liverpool fan would have to admit that we have been very poor in the final third over the last six games.

During that time we have scored only six goals, managing a paltry 33 shots on target despite on average enjoying more than 60% of the possession.

It’s all a far cry from last season when the Reds plundered 101 league goals.

This slump in goal scoring has been put down to the sale of Luis Suarez and while it’s fair to say he has been missed, the loss of Danny Sturridge through injury is just as important.

Sturridge played alongside Rickie Lambert against Man City and alongside Mario Balotelli against Tottenham and both times the big target men looked a real handful causing all sorts of problems.

Since Sturridge picked up a thigh strain Lambert has struggled on the rare occasions he has featured and Balotelli has looked so pedestrian he should consider swapping names with his Italy strike partner Ciro.

Sturridge’s constant runs and good link up play have been sorely missed during his absence.

As well as being a great team player Sturridge is a prolific scorer in his own right. Last season he bagged 21 goals in 29 league games and in total he has scored 36 in 52 games for the Reds.

Given all that it is little surprise that we have struggled for goals without him.

There isn’t another striker at the club who has the attributes to play the same way as Sturridge so it is vital to our top 4 hopes that he stays fit for the rest of the season.

So far we’ve got Gerrard, Lallana and Henderson in the middle with Sterling, Balotelli and Sturridge up front.

That means we can play 4-3-3 or the diamond and we’ve also got Philippe Coutinho and the underrated Joe Allen amongst others to come off the bench.

Looks good to me but we all know the Reds’ biggest problems lie further back.

3. Get a ‘keeper to challenge Mignolet

In Goodfellas Ray Liotta playing Henry Hill memorably said: “As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.”

My dreams have been much less glamorous. As far back as I can remember, I always wanted Liverpool to have a reliable goalkeeper.

I got into football in the mid 90s when David James’s video game addiction made watching Liverpool the most effective laxative around.

If the former England number one had have sent off videos of him trying to deal with crosses to You’ve Been Framed the amount of £250 cheques he would have received from Jeremy Beadle would have kept him from going bankrupt.

Brad Friedel was signed to replace James but the American often looked nervous for the Reds before going on to perform heroics at Blackburn, Villa and Spurs.

Sander Westerveld, Jerzy Dudek, Chris Kirkland and Scott Carson have all flattered to deceive since then with only Pepe Reina providing the sort of consistency I’ve craved.

Reina was at his best in his first five seasons when working alongside Rafa Benitez with the Reds consistently getting to the latter stages of the Champions League.

From Reina’s arrival in 2005 to Rafa’s departure in 2010 the Reds conceded 142 league goals at an average of only 28 a season.

We had one of the tightest defences in Europe and Pepe’s sheets were often cleaner than Dot Cotton’s.

In the other 17 seasons of Premier League football the Reds have conceded 739 goals at an average of 43 goals a season.

This just shows what effect a solid goalkeeper can have on a back four.

Reina was never a better shot stopper than our current ‘keeper Simon Mignolet he was just much more reliable so the defence made less silly mistakes.

During the recent league cup marathon against Middlesbrough Mignolet never seemed to know whether to come off his line or not.

No wonder the defence look nervous, they never know whether he’s coming or going.

During his time at the Reds Mignolet has conceded 66 goals in 48 appearances keeping only 11 clean sheets.

Despite all that the Belgian clearly has potential, he’s big, one of the best shot stoppers in the league and also seems very level headed and confident in his own ability.

One of his biggest weaknesses seems to be concentration with bizarre positioning gifting goals to both Man City and Ludogorets already this season.

For me, the best way to stop this is to sign a goalkeeper to give him some competition.

Brad Jones has been a decent back up ‘keeper who has never made any big mistakes when called upon but the fact is he’ll never be picked ahead of Mignolet in the league.

Even the best goalies can become complacent when their place in the team isn’t under threat so I think we should snap up Victor Valdes as soon as possible.

I don’t actually rate the Spaniard that highly, it can’t be that hard to play in goal when your team has 70% possession every match.

But signing a goalkeeper who has three Champions League medals is bound to put Mignolet on his toes and I think that is the way to get the best out of him.

But what about the four in front of him?

4. Defence set pieces properly

As a team we are dreadful at the back.

Our centre backs seem to chop and change every game so never develop a partnership.

There doesn’t seem to be any trust between the back four and the goalkeeper.

We have also been guilty of the sort of errors that would make a Sunday league footballer blush.

Of course it will take time to sort out all of our defensive problems but surely defending set pieces is an easy fix.

Apparently not because the Reds have conceded 13 goals this season, 5 from dead ball situations.

The goals conceded against Basel, Aston Villa and West Ham were particularly frustrating.

There’s a running theme that our defenders don’t even concentrate on the ball they just hold their man and both Agbonlahor’s and Streller’s goals could have been avoided if Skrtel and Lovren had have focused on the ball rather than wrestling with their opponents.

When you’re not playing at your best going forward you simply need to be good at the back and the Reds are just giving away goals at the minute.

5. Play proper football

Last season was the third time since the Premier League began that the Reds finished second in the league.

But I think most fans would agree that 2014 felt different to both 2002 and 2009 purely because of our style of play.

We had bags of pace, goals coming from every position and opposition defences were terrified of us.

Obviously losing Suarez is a blow but the most frustrating thing for me so far this season is that we seem to have completely changed our style of play.

Upon arrival in 2012 Brendan promised us “Death by Football”.

For his first season that seemed to mean passing the ball around the midfield aimlessly but we saw his philosophy in full force last season.

It’s strange then that at times this season it has looked like Joe Kinnear has taken over and we’re trying to emulate the Wimbledon teams of the 80s and 90s.

Against Villa our game plan seemed to revolve around pumping an endless stream of crosses into the box playing right into the hands of Philippe Senderos and Nathan Baker.

For the last ten minutes against Basel Balotelli and Lambert played up front together with Skrtel and Gerrard hammering long balls at them.

In truth our attempts to break teams down over the past six games have been embarrassing.

I get that Suarez was a big part of how we played last season but one player leaving can’t change the style of the whole team.

The Reds are young and technically gifted, they need to play football the right way and we will see the benefits of that for years to come.

So there you have it, my five ideas to get out of this slump we are in.

But while it’s fun for me to think of ways we can improve and pretend that my opinion matters the fact is only Brendan’s opinion really counts.

I have been impressed with his honesty when talking about the team lately.

He can see the problems we face and he isn’t sticking his head in the sand.

As fans neither should we but when the team is struggling that is when we need to stand up and be counted.

Today’s game against West Brom is huge, what would usually be a home banker has taken on huge significance just before the international break.

Three points is vital but for me we really need to put in a good performance as well to take the pressure off the players.

Brendan will know that anything less than a win could lead to his first real Anfield crisis.


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