Once again we made an average side look like Barcelona. Liverpool´s performance yesterday versus midtable Stoke at Britannia can be described in many bad, and truthful, words. Here are some: rotten, pathetic, feeble, worthless, incompetent, woeful, shameful and whichever synonym you can come up with.
Liverpool needed to produce a fine effort to give Steven Gerrard an appropiate send-off, to secure a Europa League place and end the season well to wipe out recent bad memories. Did we do it? No, on the contrary, Liverpool produced the worst performance in years going down 6-1.
The defence was everywhere but in the right place, a schoolboy team or a Sunday League side has more cohesion and organization. Mistakes was as common as locusts of Egypt, the aggression non-existent, the pressing likewise and the attacking play slow, uninventive and without spark or conviction. It couldn´t have been worse, especially in the first half when Stoke had their own way for 45 minutes all over the pitch. Liverpool improved slightly in the second period but that was probably due to Stoke easing off. Thank God, otherwise it could have been double figures.
The worst thing was to see such an uninteresting approach at the start and especially the lame response in the second half. A Liverpool team trailing a midtable side 5-0 at halftime should come out as hungry wolves after the break in an effort to redeem themselves. But no one seemed to too bothered with the state of things. It was the usual huffing and puffing. On the sidelines manager Brendan Rodgers looked like he didn´t care. He should be raging mad to see Liverpool give in so easily. But he appeared detached as if he was watching paint dry. No emotions, no anger, no shouting, no armwaving, no nothing.
This season Liverpool has for some odd reason made sides we should beat look like European heavyweights. Aston Villa outplayed us in the FA Cup semifinal, Crystal Palace did it twice in the league and West Ham, Newcastle and Hull also made us look like fools. And if this was not enough, the most pitiful showing in years was produced yesterday.
It´s almost 40 years since Liverpool trailed by five goals at half-time and 50 years since we lost by that margin and the 6-1 defeat was the heaviest ever in the Premier League. I have trouble understanding how this can happen just a year after we played the most attractive football seen in the Premier League for a long time. If the downfall depends on us losing Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge this season then the other players must feel utterly ashamed aswell as Brendan Rodgers for not knowing how to replace the Uruguayan and how to form his team.
Yesterday he once more came up with a strange formation. He fielded no strikers, instead attacking midfielder Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana, winger cum midfielder, were forwards. Behind them four central midfielders were selected. At right back we had Emre Can, a defensive midfielder and perhaps central defender but in no way a fullback. That selection backfired when Can´s naive defending presented Stoke with their first three goals.
On the whole it was a peculiar line-up where it was unclear how the team should form itself. Even the players seemed to be confused and not knowing what their roles were. The manager is more and more like Gerard Houllier and Rafael Benitez at their worst when they in their stubborn ways were determined to show that they were much smarter than everyone else and picked peculiar teams and formations.
Brendan Rodgers want to look like a clever manager with his endless changing of formations and tactics. But nothing good is coming out of his tinkering, instead he should focus on figuring out his best eleven, his best formation and stick with it.
Well, that if he gets the chance to do it next season. I think he is a capable man-manager, knows his football and is not afraid of trying new things. But there are huge question marks for his ability to motivate players, to get them to believe in themselves and above all finding the right players in the transfer market. He bought eight new players last summer and none has been a success and some of them quite the opposite.
Perhaps he will get one more year to prove himself but nothing but a top four finish and even some silverware will save him in a years time. And he must do it without any large player investments this summer. The owners will not let him squander £100 M again. At the same time I wouldn´t be surprised if Brendan Rodgers´ tenure at Anfield is terminated in a few weeks or even days.
Here are my ratings for the Reds who participated in the 38th and final league match of the season (on a scale from 1 to 10):
GK Simon Mignolet 2.
Hadn´t much help from the defence but could have done better with some of the goals.
RB Emre Can 1.
Worst defensive effort from a red player in years. At fault for the first three goals.
CB Martin Skrtel 2.
Battled hard but was too often in a wrong position.
CB Mamadou Sakho 3.
Pretty solid display but was taken for a ride on a few occasions.
LB Alberto Moreno 1.
Outmuscled in defence and provided no attacking threat.
DM Lucas Leiva 1.
Couldn´t get hold of the Stoke midfield and was constantly overrun.
DM Joe Allen 1.
Passed the ball well for a while then he completely disappeared.
CM Steven Gerrard 2.
Invisible for long periods but gave it a go in the second half. Fine goal but to no avail.
CM Jordan Henderson 2.
Ran a lot to help out the defence. No contribution in attack.
LF Adam Lallana 2.
Had his moments but his finishing was poor.
RF Philippe Coutinho 1.
Passed the ball badly and his dribbles didn´t came off.
LF Jordon Ibe 4. (Replaced Alberto Moreno after 45 mins).
Best red player. Lively and beat his man all the time but the final ball never found a teammate.
RB Kolo Toure 2. (Replaced Emre Can after 45 mins).
Decent effort but was fooled once or twice.
CF Rickie Lambert 2. (Replaced Joe Allen after 69 mins).
A couple of good actions but nothing more.
This was the worst Liverpool performances in years. Well, it was no wonder as the season also was one of the more disappointing ones in recent times. We didn´t manage to fight for the title once more and not even for a Champions League place. In Europe we produced lousy displays in both Champions League and Europa League and were nowhere near any success. In the domestic cups we fell dismally at the final hurdle before the final. In a lot of matches against average opponents we made them look like world-beaters. In crucial matches we fell short again and again.
The Reds had a fine sequence when Tottenham, Southampton and Manchester City were beaten on the spin, but that was almost the only thing to be happy about during 2014/15.
It´s plain and clear that we need reinforcements in management, and all around the team and the squad. Then there can be a reason ahead of next season to believe that:
We Go Again.