Liverpool FC were involved in a stalemate against Sunderland as both the sides failed to score anything in front of Anfield and took back a point each after the game. The Reds were looking for their third straight win, before they take on FC Basel in the all-important clash on Tuesday.
With seven points from a possible nine this week, the Merseysiders have certainly done well and lifted themselves after a shocking run of games. However, failing to get three points against Sunderland, something that wouldn’t even have been a question last season, is definitely not very pleasing for the Anfield faithful. This becomes even more disappointing as rivals Arsenal and Spurs both dropped points. A win over Sunderland would have taken Brendan Rodgers’ men above Arsenal, and if Liverpool won against Manchester United, they could have gone above them in the table next week. But it was not to be.
Here are three things we learnt from the game.
Liverpool need finishers
Rickie Lambert played his third consecutive game on Saturday. The England international has definitely done well in the previous games, and earned himself a starting spot, but the former Southampton player would surely be running on fumes by now. Rodgers’ reluctance to play Fabio Borini might end up costing his side, as they wait the return of Daniel Sturridge, and also Mario Balotelli.
The likes of Raheem Sterling, Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana do create chances, but the Reds don’t have a man who would almost definitely bury those chances, the way Suarez and Sturridge were expected to do last season. Moreover, the attacking trio needs to better their finishing. There was a moment in the match when Raheem Sterling made a fantastic run, beating four Sunderland players. He passed the ball to Coutinho, the right thing to do under the circumstances, and Coutinho didn’t do well to bury that chance. Daniel Sturridge would probably have been positioned right there, and would have definitely done better than the Brazilian.
It would be interesting to see if Rodgers makes any additions to the squad in January, and if he does, a striker/attacker would definitely be leading the list.
Defence looks better
Liverpool just can’t defend set-pieces. Sunderland’s best chances all came when Liverpool were defending set pieces. Mignolet is still not the ideal man to have between the sticks, and Skrtel shirt-pulls a lot, but Liverpool’s defence does look a lot better now. In the last three games, they’ve only conceded 1 goal, something that could not have been envisioned sometime back. Rodgers has done the right thing by dropping Dejan Lovren and opting to go for experience in the form of Kolo Toure, who has thus far, not put even a step wrong.
Playing Lucas, a player who was looking close to an exit, in place of Gerrard in the defensive midfield spot, has also been a smart, albeit late, decision by the Reds coach. Lucas certainly provides better cover to the defence than their captain, and has really stepped up in the last few days to help his side concede less.
Gerrard inspiration essential for Reds
Rodgers admitted at a press conference that there was no winning as far as Steven Gerrard was concerned. Playing him got criticism, and not playing him got more questions. While Rodgers is doing the right thing by managing the 34 year old Gerrard better- giving him regular rests, keeping him fresh for some matches- Liverpool look uninspired without him on the field.
Against Sunderland, the Reds did make a few chances before Gerrard came on, but they were really only threatening Sunderland once Gerrard came on the pitch. Sunderland were kept on the back foot throughout the dying embers of the game and most of that happened because the Liverpool captain was an inspirational figure on the field. Brendan Rodgers needs to find a leader in the youth of Liverpool. Jordan Henderson has not been performing at his best, and as vice-captain, he needs to be the one to motivate and lead the team. But the likes of Adam Lallana, Lucas and Martin Skrtel also need to be doing the same thing. Liverpool need leadership and positivity in the absence of Steven Gerrard. They need a strong figure in the team, something not present when Gerrard is absent.