“A shadow of last season’s team” is probably the most used description of the current Liverpool team. It would be easy to blame this on the integration of 10 new signings and the loss of arguably the third best player in the world but in truth the problems lay far deeper and will be far more difficult to iron out.
The problem is confidence. Watching Liverpool lumber to a very lucky victory at Loftus Road yesterday, the body language of some of the players sums up what the current mood is behind the scenes at Anfield. Confused, un-organised and lacking belief Liverpool had to rely on two own goals to grab all 3 points but in truth the bare scoreline hides the real problems for the reds.
One player in particular has been lambasted for his performance yesterday and some will say rightly so, but Mario Balotelli’s open goal howler has been blown out of all proportion by certain aspects of the media especially the social kind he is just the tip of the iceberg when we talk about confidence. True enough his work rate needs to improve, his finishing needs to improve and his all round contribution was lackluster but its very easy to blame Mario and he has now become an early target.
Lets look at this from the back to the front. Simon Mignolet is a very good shot stopper but if the ball is above ground level its a different ball game. His inability to command his area is a massive worry for Rodgers at the moment and is something that urgently needs to be addressed. His howler at Manchester City for Negredo’s winner last season underlines this fact and unless he can improve his game or he is replaced by a more solid all round keeper I do not see how the back four can have any confidence that he can deal with the ariel ball.
Since Jamie Carragher retired Liverpool have been screaming out for a “leader” at the back. I would go as far as to say that if Carragher was playing ast season Liverpool may very well have won the league. Dejan Lovren has been brought in to address the problem but so far has failed to live up to both his price tag and his reputation which was boosted by an outstanding season at Southampton last term. Some may say he needs time to gel with the squad but he looks edgy, his positioning has looked suspect and is not helped by the recent changes to the full backs. Martin Skrtel has continued his eratic form from last season. 8 Premiership goals last season masked a very patchy season for the Slovakian who was a penalty waiting to happen at times but both were bullied off the park by Zamora. Manquillo and Moreno have come in and done well, Manquillo in particular has done nothing wrong in a Liverpool shirt so far and Moreno has shown glimpses of ability but all in all the back four have a complete lack of confidence which stems from the lack of a leader. Glen Johnson looks a shadow of his former self and Enrique looks like he needs more games if he is too challenge for a place in the team. Johnson recently threw his toys out of his pram for receiving criticism from certain aspects of both the crowd and the media, this is jusified given his patchy form since Christmas 2013.
Liverpools midfield look lost…… plain and simple. With the exception of Sterling there has been no consistency in performance form the likes of Coutinho, Henderson and Lallana. All have shown glimpses of last seasons form but all so far have failed to impress. The reaction to some of the missed chances and oppertunities at yesterdays game sums it up. It seems that the midfield have no confidence in the ability of Balotelli to convert the chances they create. This is a fair point but to lumber around the pitch, miss tackles and be badly out of position is unforgivable. Emre Can was a mile and a half away from Leroy Fer when the QPR man broke from midfield into acres of space and rattled the bar. Can was playing the holding role with Gerrard pushed further forward to try and provide Balotelli with some much needed ammunition but his inability to read the danger at times yesterday was shocking.
Now on to the “taboo” subject…… Steven Gerrard. Many at anfield will not have a bad word to say about Gerrard, he is exempt from critisism form the majority of the Anfield faithful. Gerrard’s problem at the moment is not his ability, it is not his position, it is his confidence. Since the loss of Suarez he looks like a man who has now resigned himself to never winning the Premier League. He looks a broken man, maybe its a hangover from last seasons tribulations but he needs to snap out of it and sharpish. His body language is all wrong, shaking his head at team mates instead of providing the heart and the courage of the Gerrard of old to push them on. Ability wise Steven Gerrard even at his age is still one of the best midfielders in the country but until he starts to believe in his new team mates, encourage and teach them how to be Liverpool players, the clubs inconsistent start to the season will no doubt continue. More importantly he needs to believe in himself again.
Confidence is lacking at Liverpool Football Club but if your captain is lacking in confidence, what chance for the rest of the squad?
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