Well that wasn’t supposed to happen. “There will be more days like this” according to Brendan Rodgers after the game but there had better not be too many or the season will become another transitional one very quickly.
It seems as if the team has started this season in the same way it ended last. The usual bright first half; plenty of adroit movement, eager running, sharp passing to feet and no goals to show for it all. Then, a punch in the gut just before half time (albeit a worldy from Zoltan Gera) and it was downhill at an alarming clip from there.
I can’t remember a period with so many completely abject defeats so close together. There have been four or five “days like this” in the last couple of seasons (Manchester City away a couple of seasons ago, Spurs last year and that horrendous second half at Loftus Road jump to mind straight away), the type of games and performances that good teams don’t have.
Sure we can argue about the sending off and the penalties (the second one especially was a very poor decision – I don’t understand how Skrtel could foul Shane Long if he didn’t know he was even there until he made contact) but as harshly treated as they may have felt, Liverpool just did not come out in the second half and deserved to lose against a big, strong, committed team.
Agger and Skrtel were poor throughout; misdirecting free headers, not tight enough in marking and tackling on the ground and easily spooked by Long and Odemwingie (and later Lukaku and Fortune). They were not helped by their full backs on this occasion though. Perhaps it was because each was arguably playing out of position (for me, Martin Kelly remains a centre half in waiting) and they are clearly under instruction to play higher up the pitch, but too often the angle both full backs offered to the centre half with the ball were not good enough to allow the team to keep it comfortably. If the philosophy is to “rest in possession” there is a lot of work to be done to learn how to possess.
Only Joe Allen looked able to keep the ball for most of the game, and while his contribution was tidy it was largely horizontal. Steven Gerrard looked out of sorts and got progressively worse in step with the team’s overall performance, giving the ball away cheaply in the second half and mis-shaping several forward passes he can usually play in his sleep. Stuart Downing had the kind of game we have come to expect and Fabio Borini offered little from his station out wider than he should have been on the left. Luis Suarez is outstanding but he is very capable of throwing up his hands and sulking if he feels he is being harshly treated. After picking up a silly booking for a gesture to a linesman towards the end of the first half he was rarely heard from again.
Allen aside there were no real positives to take from our game, but at least Tottenham lost (2-1 away at Newcastle) and Arsenal could only draw 0-0 at home to Aston Villa.
Liverpool have Hearts in midweek and Manchester City at Anfield next Sunday and as tough as these games will be I’ll be amazed if we look as poor as we were today. Put simply, today has been the worst possible start.