Four observations from our 0-0 draw with Hull: Steven Gerrard must play in a more advanced position in midfield. Philippe Coutinho, Adam Lallana and Raheem Sterling must get a chance together. Mario Balotelli was unlucky. 30 minutes of decent football is too little.
Liverpool is trudging along the bumpy and holefilled road called Premier League season. Yesterday another pothole named Hull City disturbed the rhythm. The Reds only managed a 0-0 draw and a hope of a move up the table became the opposite. Right now we are seventh and could be on a position two places further down at the end of the day, pending how Manchester United and Tottenham fare this afternoon.
The performance gainst Hull finally made it clear, Liverpool won´t challenge for the title this season. If there ever was such a notion in any quarter it surely is wiped out now.
Because the effort versus the Tigers was once more below par. Liverpool has only once this season played really well, and that was in August against Tottenham. All other twelve games in the league, Champions League and League Cup has been far from what we can demand from the team. One wonder if the display aginst Spurs was a fluke or even happened. Perhaps our memory is playing with us or maybe it looked good because of a lousy effort from Tottenham. How is it otherwise possible to explain why none of the other twelve matches has been of the same standard.
The performance against Hull was however a wee bit better than the one against QPR. In the first half it was the same old story with a depressing lack of tempo, energy, running and moving. In the second half Liverpool raised their game, started to play faster and create some chances. But it was hardly vintage. Only decent forward play. And it was too little too late.
It was extremely odd that Philippe Coutinho didn´t start. He was the best perfomer versus Real Madrid and wasn´t tired since he only played for an hour in that game. Now he came on after an hour and in both matches the attacking play was far better with the Brazilian playmaker on the pitch. He must always start! Period!
Another observation is that the attack has not been sharp for a couple of months. It has coincided with Daniel Sturridge being away and could his absence be the simple answer to why have struggled to create chances and score. If that is the case then we are in trouble if we rely so heavily on one player. And this raises the question, again, why we didn´t sign another striker during the summer. A huge mistake by the persons in charge.
Another thing in attack can be taken care of immediately. Yesterday Steven Gerrard started in his nowadays common deep midfield position but when he moved further up the field later in the game Liverpool became much more dangerous. He must play in an advanced role in midfield. Gerrard is an attacking player, not a deeplying playmaker with defensive responsibilities.
Liverpool could be even more lethal if Adam Lallana, Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling starts. These guys could combine well and use all their tricks, speed and creativity to make any defence crack. And if Mario Balotelli can break his duck in the league he can be another important part in that set-up. He was unlucky yesterday but also a bit clumsy when he got his chances. But when the first goal arrives, probably a lucky deflected strike, then more will follow. I´m sure of that. He showed a lot more will to pass the ball and move against Hull than he has before. Maybe the penny has finally dropped.
And finally. In the last half hour Liverpool showed urgency and really chased the winning goal and was close to make it happen. Had we played like that from the off then it would have said Liverpool 2 Hull 0 at the end and not the painful 0-0 screaming from the Anfield scoreboard. Hopefully a lesson was learned.
Here are my ratings for the Reds that participated in the ninth league match of the season (on a scale from 1 to 10):
GK Simon Mignolet 4.
Was hardly tested but handled everything that came his way he handled pretty well. Still too clumsy with his feet.
RB Javier Manquillo 4.
A decent effort with few mistakes in defence. He was eager going forward but almost nothing came of it.
CB Martin Skrtel 4.
He had nothing paricularly difficult to take care of defensively. Was totally harmless at Liverpool corners.
CB Dejan Lovren 3.
Was lucky not to face better opposition since he is a nervous wreck right now. No big mistakes but is too often wrongly placed.
LB Alberto Moreno 4.
His display was similar to Manquillo´s. No major flaws defensively but no end product in the attack.
DM Emre Can 4.
Played a simple game, passed the ball to the nearest red shirt and won the ball now and then. Tried to take part in attack but without success.
DM Steven Gerrard 5.
Out of work in the beginning as a sitting midfield but came to life when ordered to attack more. Hit some fine passes, crosses, corners and free-kicks.
RM Raheem Sterling 3.
His form dipped once more after being on the up lately. Lost the ball too often when trying to dribble in tight situations. Didn´t use his speed.
CM Joe Allen 1.
Seemed to have lost all his ball skills, lost possession, was outmuscled and missed easy passes. Should have come off much earlier.
LM Adam Lallana 3.
Mixed some creative attacking moves with sloppy handling of the ball and getting dispossessed. Not one of his best efforts.
CF Mario Balotelli 5.
Was involved a lot in attack and could and should have scored at least once. Wasn´t so selfish as of late and tried to find teammates with passes.
CM Philippe Coutinho 5. (Replaced Joe Allen after 61 minutes).
Made an instant impact on the attack with nice moves and tricks.
CF Rickie Lambert 2. (Replaced Adam Lallana after 61 minutes).
Did get more minutes than normal and showed some promise, if not much.
RM Jordan Henderson 1. (Replaced Emre Can after 75 minutes).
Was on for 15 minutes but had no effect on the game.
Once more my optimism was shattered. I really believed that Liverpool had decided to fly out of the blocks and pressure Hull into submission. Instead it was a pedestrian and lazy effort. A late rally didn´t make any difference. This game was probably the evidence we don´t want to hear about, Liverpool is at best a candidate for a top four battle. Whether that is the truth or not:
We Go Again.