Where Is Liverpool Lacking On The Pitch?
Torres was a name that struck fear into opposition hearts not long after joining Liverpool. With 33 goals in all competitions in his first season at Liverpool, no one could doubt his pedigree. By the time he left for Chelsea in a big money transfer in 2011, he had scored 81 goals in 142 appearances.
However any savvy football fan will know that unless you’re playing with your mates down at the local park, it is rare that you will see one striker taking on an entire team, create his own chance and finish it.
It is not necessary to look at every season Torres played at Liverpool but looking at his first season in 2007, he was supported by a midfield that included Mascherano and Alonso holding and Gerrard playing in the hole behind him. A force no doubt. In the 2007 season, Gerrard scored 21 goals, Benayoun 11 and Babel 10: all midfielders. Kuyt was brought in as a striker but was deployed more often as a right sided midfielder by Benitez. In that season Kuyt netted 11 goals. That’s 53 goals from players other than the main striker.
The opposition will always be more wary of a team that has goals in it from a variety of positions. Midfielders feeding off of second balls, running from deep, making intelligent runs, wingers cutting in and the main striker occupying defenders and so on are some of the things that defenders have to worry about when it comes to conceding goals. Quality midfielders and quality strikers complement each other. Their impressive records whether it be assists or goals is because the team works as an effective organism working together in unison and complimenting each other around the pitch. One player’s strength is utilised fully only because another teammate’s strengths has complimented it and vice versa.
When Torres left, Liverpool made the controversial move to sign Andy Carroll. Controversial not because of the player but because of the reported £35 million price tag attached to him.
Anyone who watched Carroll before he joined Liverpool cannot doubt his quality. In his first season in the Premier League with Newcastle before falling to injury, he netted 11 goals in 19 appearances. He had a left foot that could put balls through brick walls, arguably the best aerial threat in the league. He had the strength of an ox, pushing defenders around like they were schoolboys and not grown men. His heart, drive and determination to win were unquestionable. Defenders feared him.
It is hard to see how someone who could do so well in the best league in the world can turn to muck overnight. It just doesn’t happen, not permanently anyways. After his big move to Liverpool, there were big expectations and unfortunately we have failed to see Carroll reproduce the same form that was so lethal at Newcastle.
Without surprise he has amounted his fair share of critics, Liverpool fans and otherwise, who have written him of as a mistake and a waste of money. But I would suggest that now, perhaps people are starting to see that Andy Carroll’s failures are more a reflection of the weaknesses in Liverpool’s starting 11 than in Carroll himself.
Downing was brought in by Dalglish for a reported £20 million. After 20 games in the League, he has 0 assists and 0 goals. Anyone who has watched Liverpool this season would have seen he has had more than his fair share of chances to tuck goals away. He has fantastic pace and brings natural width to the team but if Liverpool want to be chasing England and Europe’s top honors, they will want more from Downing.
Adam has shown signs of promise, though he has failed to impress over the last few games. He has good vision, a fantastic left foot and his right foot can cause harm too. However his set pieces have come nowhere near the level they were at, at Blackpool. He is by no means a lazy player and statistically covers just as much ground as any other Liverpool player but his pace and mobility are not listed among his strengths. Played alongside an out and out holding midfielder in Lucas or Spearing, Liverpool’s central midfield threatens little in terms of runs from deep into the box and goals from open play. However if Liverpool’s front two and wide players can add goals , Adam can still play a key part in a successful Liverpool side as even Alonso is not put into a starting 11 for his goal threat but his range of passing, vision and ability to start attacks from deep.
Liverpool are definitely on the ascendency but their lack of clear cut chance creation(they create a lot of chances statistically but a volley set up from the half way line will be noted as a chance and shot) and goals from players like Downing is costing them dearly and it has cast a bad light over players like Carroll. Thankfully for Liverpool Gerrard is returning at a good time and in his short cameo against Newcastle it was clear to see how midfield players can cause damage by making runs into the box made possible by the defence’s preoccupation with the strikers. Even Andy Carroll looked like a new man or should I say looked like the man he was at Newcastle when he was getting quality delivery in from Gerrard.
Unfortunately Liverpool fans are going to have to wait 7(correct at time of writing) more games before they can see Gerrard and Suarez get a run together and surely that partnership will be damaging. In the meantime people are looking to strikers as the solution for Liverpool, Bent among others being touted to solve their problems in front of goal.
However I would ask the question would an out and out striker, a player like Bent solve Liverpool’s lack of goals from the middle of the park and wide areas? Will it solve the lack of quality from wide areas? I am not saying a new striker will not improve Liverpool and give them more variety nor am I saying players like Carroll do not have to improve, all players do. However I am trying to assess where their problems truly lie on the pitch.
One thing is definite, it is going to take more than an out and out striker to make the necessary tweaks that Liverpool need to be sorted in order to achieve a top four finish and make their way towards dominance in England and Europe.
Follow Dominic Allen on Twitter @dominic_allen