As we get closer to the season’s halfway point, analyzing Liverpool’s progress has become less of an observe-and-report job and more of a dazed-and-confused stumble in the dark. The club currently sits in 11th place, which seems rather dire, but luckily 11th place on the current Premier League table means only four points from 4th place. This is a testament to how crazy the season has been, and how poor most of the league has been up to this point. But Liverpool have been extremely poor this season, best exemplified by the comparison to this point last season, when the club were flying high in second place. There’s no need to bang the Luis Suarez drum too much, though at this point last season, he had only played six matches in the Premier League. Of the five matches without Suarez, the club won three and drew one. So what’s the deal with Liverpool? They certainly punched above their weight last season, but surely with the number of signings and existing stars the club should, at the minimum, be knocking on the top four door.
I didn’t think it was possible, but I’m having a hard time coming up with any true strengths that Liverpool have shown in the season thus far. With the number of signings the club made, I think most fans thought the club would have the squad depth to handle the loss of an important player like Daniel Sturridge. The club’s lack of incisiveness in attack surely comes down to the loss of Sturridge, who I think is probably the team’s biggest strength this season. This isn’t necessarily fair, but the team simply look toothless without him.
Creativity is another strength that has been buried by the lack of players to take advantage of it. Liverpool are 6th in the league in chances created, but 17th in number of assists that result from those chances. The club are also 10th in total goals scored at 14, compared to 21 at this time last season. The chances are coming, but the utterly abysmal strikers at the club have failed to convert in the wake of Sturridge’s absence.
Where to begin? The defense is inconsistent, uncoordinated, and have conceded 15 goals so far this season. Defensive midfield is a wasteland that Brendan Rodgers changes up more than he changes his center-back pairing. Attacking midfield creates chances, but rarely helps get the ball back after losing possession. Almost every new signing has failed to gel with the team, and Mario Balotelli can’t score in the Premier League to save his life. Rodgers refuses to change his formation and tactics when they clearly aren’t working, and almost never rewards good form with further starts. Steven Gerrard is stubbornly clinging on to the fragments of his career, and Rodgers has only been courageous enough to drop him once. Raheem Sterling, who started the season as the club’s best player, has been anonymous in recent matches and seems to be played out of position quite often. I could go on, but the club’s form and standing on the table explains the team’s weaknesses more than I could.
In terms of the season so far, the club’s top goalscorer would be Raheem Sterling with three goals. As stated above, Sterling has been solid but his form definitely dropped off after the first few games. As absurd as it is, the top goalscorer in October-November so far is, own goals. I think this is a direct result of what I mentioned above about chances created versus actual scoring, and the club’s performance against Queens Park Rangers was not perfect but it at least created the chances for which QPR players put the ball in their own net.
But if we move past actual goalscoring, which obviously doesn’t really even give us much optimism, it’s still hard to pick a best player amidst the horrible form the club has been in since the beginning of October. Emre Can has looked excellent in his matches since returning from injury, nicking himself a delightful goal against Chelsea. Fabio Borini’s few appearances have been solid, and his assist for Balotelli in the League Cup was a result of his hard work. Thus, no real player has done enough in the past two months to deserve any serious accolade, and my choice would be: N/A.
Most Improved Player
Again, this is a really hard question to answer, but I’ll try. Some of the new signings have finally started to mesh with the squad and find where they fit best. Adam Lallana has improved a lot, but is still not worth the price paid. Lazar Markovic has flashes of brilliance but still looks too much like the last Serbian to play for Liverpool – Milan Jovanovic (that’s not a good thing). Dejan Lovren hasn’t looked anything close to his last season form for Southampton, but he has showed glimpses of improvement as of late. The only player to really look better in recent weeks is Emre Can, who had excellent games against Real Madrid and Chelsea. At only 20 years old, Can’s form is a sign of optimism for Liverpool fans. In my opinion, Can could and should start over Steven Gerrard when possible. Can is quick and good with the ball, and can transition from defense to offense instantly. Gerrard can barely turn without losing the ball lately, and the team needs a true box-to-box midfielder.
Sturridge is finally back in training, which is excellent news. He’ll be expected to hit the ground running to kickstart the team’s attack, but it’s likely that even he will need some time to get back to match fitness. Mamadou Sakho should also be back in contention for the match against Crystal Palace, but who knows if Brendan Rodgers will even put him in the squad. Jose Enrique announced on Twitter that his knee was healing up and that he could be back sooner rather than later. These are all good to know and it’s nice to have the players back, but the only one that truly matters right now is Sturridge.
Transfer Window Needs
Everywhere? Just kidding. It’s hard to really pinpoint where Liverpool need help the most, as every part of the team has been shockingly bad in the last two months. With Sturridge back, it’s hard to suggest that the club spend money on a 5th first-team striker, unless the club managed to offload Balotelli and Borini to recoup the cost. I’m not necessarily suggesting that, but saying it would be the most likely scenario if a striker were to be purchased. The club are flush with attacking midfielders and defenders, even though both have not been up to par lately. Even goalkeeper is a position that’s hard to argue too much for a replacement, as Simon Mignolet’s form has actually improved as of late. Rather than a replacement, the club could pick up another goalkeeper that could challenge the Belgian and take his spot if he doesn’t perform.
C-. Before any pitchforks come out, know that I’m 100% for the club keeping Rodgers. I believe that last season’s sensational run wasn’t just down to Suarez, but to Rodgers putting the best team together as often as possible. But this season, he has failed to do that. Just as he did with players like Nuri Sahin, Rodgers has been playing many of his new recruits (and existing players) in the wrong positions and in the wrong formations all season. So often he has stubbornly stuck with a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Balotelli up top and a two-man midfield of Gerrard and Jordan Henderson. There are many problems with the team in that formation, but those two are the absolute worst. Gerrard-Henderson do not make an effective midfield duo, as neither is particularly suited to the defensive midfield role. If one goes forward, the other is likely to lose the ball or attempt to go forward as well, leaving more holes in front of defense. Balotelli is an ineffective lone striker, mostly because hiw workrate is so low that he needs another striker to do all the work. This is why he plays so well with fellow Italian Fabio Borini. That combo worked against Swansea, but Rodgers has been hesitant to go with it again in the absence of Sturridge. Rodgers also seems to have no faith in some of his defenders while putting misplaced faith in others. Freezing out Sakho could cost him a potentially world-class center-back, all in the name of stubbornly sticking with the error prone Lovren. Kolo Toure had a sensational match against Real Madrid, but for some reason we didn’t see his experience and strength against Chelsea. Rodgers needs to reward good form with starts, and alter his blueprint that clearly isn’t working.
Biggest Worry About the Rest of the Season
Everything. If the team doesn’t improve its form and find a way to play together effectively, I firmly believe it will be consigned to mid-table mediocrity.
Rating (out of 5 stars)
1. This team is toothless and full of holes, and has absolutely no chance of coming close to the top four unless it improves immediately after the international break.
200+ Channels With Sports & News
- Starting price: $33/mo. for fubo Latino Package
- Watch Premier League, World Cup, Euro 2024 & more
Many Sports & ESPN Originals
- Price: $9.99/mo. (or get ESPN+, Hulu & Disney+ for $13.99/mo.)
- Features Bundesliga, LaLiga, Championship, & more
175 Premier League Games & PL TV
- Starting price: $4.99/mo. for Peacock Premium
- Watch 175 exclusive EPL games per season