Liverpool’s Kenny Dalglish blamed his side’s embarrassing defeat – both in result and manner – to Wigan at the weekend on fatigue. With only three players in the line-up having made more than 25 starts in the League, it points to another terrible excuse for an Anfield failure.
If he looks closer to his own tactics, he’ll find a lot of reasons to blame himself. The Liverpool manager played right into Wigan’s hands with an ineffective 4-1-4-1 formation with Dirk Kuyt starting on the left and Stewart Downing starting on the right, before switching the two wingers mid-way through the first half.
Unsurprisingly, Wigan had little trouble negating the home side’s attacks with Luis Suarez fighting a lone battle upfront, expecting Henderson and Gerrard to bombard the box from midfield – something that failed to materialize throughout the match.
Although Dalglish made an early change by his standards, taking off Henderson for Carroll at half-time, by the end of the match, the red shirts spread across Anfield were an absolute mess. They had neither a defined pattern in their play, nor the commitment befitting the jerseys they were wearing.
Liverpool ended the match with Shelvey and Spearing in the middle, Gerrard on the right and Sterling on the left. At 17 years and 107 days, winger Raheem Sterling became the third youngest player to play for Liverpool football club and was perhaps, the only positive any Red could hang onto.
While the club has often been labeled a ‘one-man team’ with either Gerrard or Suarez being that one man at different times, a particular stat about Lucas Leiva’s season might shed more light on why the club’s season has collapsed.
Even after over four months out, Lucas remains the Liverpool player with most number of tackles (68) this season. This explains why the likes of Bolton, QPR and now, Wigan have been allowed to play so freely against Dalglish’s side, who are now set to miss out on a Champions League spot by a significant margin.
Roberto Martinez, on the other hand, finally found vindication for a string of press conferences over the past few weeks, where he has praised the effort and display of his players and claimed they were deserving of a few wins at least.
The Spanish manager deserves a lot of credit, unlike his counterpart on the day, for setting up in a fairly attacking manner (4-3-3 while attacking) for an away match. Wigan confidently passed the ball around at Anfield in a style of play that Roberto Martinez has been praised for, but seldom yields results. Midfielder Shaun Maloney – also the scorer of the penalty – impressed in midfield with the highest number of tackles (5), highest number of interceptions (5) and a significantly high number of successful passes for a player pushing forward in the final third.
While Martinez’s side pick up their 2nd win in six matches, (which also includes 3 draws) and are only a point away from safety, Kenny Dalglish’s team have picked up only 3 points out of a possible 18 to leave them a massive 13 points from a Champions League spot. The FA Cup semi-final, and a subsequent final perhaps, could become Liverpool’s biggest game, and Dalglish’s make-or-break game, of the season.
Terrible and unadventurous Chelsea
Did anybody at Chelsea football club know they are five points behind their Saturday opponents? An utterly insipid performance at home, devoid of any creativity or attacking desire, blew away their chances of closing the gap to a mere two points. Their opponents, who were low on confidence and on a run of no wins in four league matches, were unlucky to return with only one point.
Tottenham’s Emmanuel Adebayor completely outshone Didier Drogba, who looked like he is only waiting for another Champions League night to produce some brilliance. In a game dominated by a crowded midfield battle, Chelsea had the onus of setting the pace early on but the home sided decided to go with a slower approach (somewhere inside Fernando Torres was smiling), perhaps fearing Tottenham’s pace upfront.
Tottenham, the away side, ended the game with 55% possession in comparison to Chelsea’s 45%. The away side also completed 85% of their passes, in comparison to Chelsea’s only 78%. And to sum up Tottenham’s dominance, Redknapp’s side produced 20 shots as compared to 11 by Chelsea and should’ve won the game when Adebayor rounded the goalkeeper only to see Cahill make a wonderful last ditch block.
Brilliant David Moyes
Brendan Rodgers’ Swansea have been nothing short of stunning at the Liberty stadium. Murmurs of Rodgers being the best young manager in England have good foundations to be true, especially when you consider that Swansea’s average possession of 56.8% is only bettered by Arsenal’s 58.7% in the league. Swansea’s success principle is: ‘If you have the ball, you are unlikely to be beaten’. But Brendan Rodgers admitted that David Moyes taught him a lesson in football.
Moyes realised that battling Swansea for possession isn’t the way to beat the newly-promoted side. He setup his midfield to not fear Swansea’s passing and instead of playing the game on the backfoot, Everton pushed higher up the field to force Swansea into extra passes in their own half. The result was that although Swansea completely dominated Everton in the passing stats (554 to 323), they were virtually equal in the number of passes in the opponent’s half. In addition to this, Everton had more numbers forward in the Swansea half when they did gain possession, making them deadly on the counter. Everton finished with 15 shot attempts compared to Swansea’s 11.
Peter Crouch and Hatim Ben Arfa
Any wrap of the major talking points of this weekend’s action cannot go without mentioning Stoke striker Peter Crouch’s wonder goal. The mysterious forward, once again, showed that he can produce moments of jaw-dropping brilliance when his audacious volley beat not just any goalkeeper, but arguably the keeper that is hardest to beat in the Premier League. Crouch is well known for his ability to produce something out of the ordinary – two bicycle kicks in his time at Liverpool – but make heavy weather of ordinary chances.
Reminiscent of Harry Kewell’s brilliant long range effort that beat David Seaman at Highbury to seal another title for United in 2003, Crouch’s goal means that Manchester City could now face a three-point gap at the top when United finish proceedings against Fulham tonight.
Finally, over at The Hawthorns, Hatim Ben Arfa produced a performance that has earned him a nickname of Newcastle’s Messi. Unstoppable at the weekend, Ben Arfa – in tandem with strikers Cisse and Demba Ba – completely ripped West Brom to shreds in the first half. Alan Pardew set up Newcastle with the above mentioned trio to counter West Brom’s fluency at home with fluency of their own. It worked wonders and Newcastle are now level on points with Chelsea and with Tottenham’s Champions League spot in sight.
The Reebok crowd – possibly at its loudest – and the players seemed determine to get a win for Fabrice Muamba, whose return from the dead is an inspiring story in itself. However, Blackburn must have felt hard done by, by Bolton’s narrow win after the clearest of fouls on Junior Hoilett inside the penalty area was not spotted. How crucial could that decision be in the race to avoid relegation?
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