Brendan Rodgers’ philosophy is yet to translate into winning football at Liverpool, with the Reds situated closer to the relegation zone than a place in the Europa League. That said, it would be an act of sheer folly to suggest the Northern Irishman is under pressure when his team face Wigan tomorrow.
Patience must be afforded to a manager attempting to install his own footballing framework at the club. So where do Liverpool need to improve in order to take their place back at English football’s top table? Aside from a win on Saturday, of course…
Possession without a punch
Liverpool have averaged 55% possession this season (matching the Manchester clubs), and only on two occasions have they failed to secure a majority of the ball – at home to Man City (50%) and away to Everton (47%). There’s not a great deal wrong with the side from a creative point of view either, with Rodgers’ side fashioning 144 chances, which is 24 more than Chelsea, who are widely credited as being the most expansive team in the league thanks to the Hazard, Mata, Oscar combination. Chelsea have notched 23 times in 11 games, with Liverpool registering just 14 times across the same period.
Suarez needs to be even more prolific
Luis Suarez leads the Premier League scoring charts with eight, tied with Robin van Persie. Given that the controversial Uruguayan only managed 11 in the last campaign, credit is due for his improved productivity. However, Suarez has still failed to hit the target with disconcerting regularity (34 of his 53 shots have failed to trouble the goalkeeper) and he has only converted 15.1% of his chances.
Contrast this with the efficient van Persie, who has steered an impressive 19 of his 32 shots on target and converted 25% of his chances. Basically, if Suarez took his chances at the same rate as van Persie, he’d be on 13 league goals by now.
No one’s sharing the load
Suarez has notched 57% of Liverpool’s goals, with the remaining strikes coming from Nuri Sahin (1), Steven Gerrard (1), Martin Skrtel (1), Raheem Sterling (1) and O.Gs. (2). In comparison, six Man Utd players have weighed in with two or more goals this season, Everton boast five who can say the same, while even a struggling Arsenal side match Everton in this regard.
Before January’s transfer window, it’s hard to see who will fill the goalscoring breach, and Liverpool’s current shortage of goal getters makes the decision to allow both Dirk Kuyt and Maxi Rodriguez to depart in the summer seem rather ill-judged even if he was promised further reinforcements.
Another striker (temporarily) out of the Anfield door is Andy Carroll, currently plying his trade at West Ham, and being linked with a move back to Newcastle. Overlooking the tired discourse on whether the target man is a suitable fit for the “Rodgers Way”, he’d certainly be an excellent alternative off the bench whenever Liverpool are attempting to rescue a a point or to go on and score a winner.
Take Liverpool’s frustrating 0-0 draw at home to Stoke in October, when they pumped ten crosses into the penalty area (five of them from deep right-sided positions, the sort on which physical strikers feast on) in the closing 20 minutes – only one found a red shirt. Similarly, as they chased a winner at home to Newcastle in the final 20 minutes, they launched 16 crosses into the opposition’s penalty area, once more finding a Liverpool player just the once.
Put simply, Liverpool aren’t going to lift themselves from their current mediocrity until they perform more sharply in the final third of the pitch. They hold plenty of possession, create a myriad of openings, but ultimately disappoint in their execution. What’s more, when chasing a game in its final throes, they lack an option from the bench to enable them to alternate their style. A goalscoring centre forward to share the burden with Suarez, and also free him up to play a little deeper would be just the tonic and might be the key.
By Bobby Hare
How long will it take for Liverpool to climb back up the table? Who should they buy in January or is Borini up to the task? Let us know below…