The festive period was being targeted by Rodgers as the time where they would be making up for the lost points over the season where they have been sub-par. Rodgers and the team will look at this as a lost opportunity to capitalize on the dropped points by Manchester United and Arsenal and climb further up the table. This would be especially disappointing for the hosts since they handed Swansea a 4-1 thrashing just two days back and would have thought they could carry some momentum into the game. Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be and they conceded a 2-0 lead (which were both controversial in the first place). Leicester deserved the point they took back from Anfield.
Here are three things we learnt from the game:
The Gerrard conundrum- why fix what’s not broken?
Liverpool totally outplayed Swansea two days back and convincingly won 4-1 courtesy some brilliant performances all round the park. Brendan Rodgers has tinkered formations throughout this season to find his ideal formation and team, and did it against Swansea. The scoreline showed the dominance, and every player was comfortable in what he was doing. There wasn’t a single person who was awkward playing where he was. There was Emre Can playing as a right sided centre back, but the player has been employed as a defender on various occasions in his career and was solid. Jordan Henderson put on a captain’s performance and dominated things from the middle of the park. Lucas nicely shielded his defence. Lallana, Sterling and Coutinho continued to thrive in their blossoming partnership. They won 4-1.
And yet, Rodgers decides to bring in Gerrard, which results in a lot of things getting tinkered (if this, for a second sounds like “its just one man, how much of a difference can he make?”). Lucas and Gerrard have never worked in an effective holding/defensive midfielder partnership. The inclusion of the club captain means Jordan Henderson is shifted to the right wing back role, where he is far less effective, if effective at all. The England midfielder hardly contributed to creating any good chances and looked out of position. Even though Gerrard scored two great penalties, he was one of the weak performers for the Reds. If Rodgers wanted to bring him in, Lucas should have been dropped instead of Manquillo and the club captain and vice-captain should have formed the midfield partnership. Gerrard doesn’t have the legs in him to be what he was in his 20s. He doesn’t have Suarez and Sturridge in front of him to play the deep lying playmaker role with ease and efficiency. He looks like a fish out of water, Brendan Rodgers should ideally use him sparingly, or in a Frank Lampard way. The City man is proving to be a key man for City being managed the way Pellegrini is. In fact, Lampard is probably as key to victories as David Silva and Yaya Toure are. Just because he makes difference with lesser minutes doesn’t make his contribution less significant. Brendan Rodgers should look to do that with Gerrard, because he does have perhaps another two years of football at the highest level left in him, but only if he is managed ‘correctly’, and not the ‘correctly’ Rodgers has believed ‘correctly’ to be.
But it seems like Liverpool won’t have this problem for long. With his contract expiring in the summer, it seems the player will finally stop wearing the red colours as its been revealed that he will be leaving the club and signing somewhere else in the summer.
Complacency for the Reds…again
It is not the first time in the last few months that the Reds have been found out for being complacent. Despite not creating enough chances and having the most emphatic displays, the hosts were still leading 2-0. To give up that lead at their home to the bottom placed team is simply unacceptable. The Liverpool team has seemed to improve over the last few matches but is usually caught snoozing in the middle and it was the same case again. If Liverpool want to end the season in the top 4 spots, they need to pick up all points in these games- against lower teams; at home; and when they’re leading with a two goal margin at half-time.
Emre Can gives a calming presence at the back
The 20 year old German is as versatile and ‘multi functional’ as anyone can be. Rodgers decided to take Toure off at half-time against Burnley and decided to put Emre Can there instead. The German gave a fine performance then and ensured Liverpool didn’t concede in a silly fashion. Against Swansea, Rodgers decided to stick with Can at the back and he partnered Skrtel and Sakho. For the first time this season, Liverpool looked assured in the back (barring a two minute snooze right after the half-time interval. Emre Can gives a certain calmness at the back. He chests the ball in his own box and kick to away, with the opposition attackers putting pressure. This is something so different to what Liverpool fans are used to seeing in their defence. Since he is primarily a midfielder, at the back, he becomes a ball-playing defender and contributes with long range passes to start attacks and thrusting forward himself. Against Leicester, he was troubled by Schlupp, but he still had a good day at the back and is making a case in this new position.
Consistent Coutinho can prove to be the key man
After Luis Suarez left, a lot was expected out of Philippe Coutinho. Rodgers called him the brain of the team and the player performed superbly in the pre-season. But as the season kicked out, the Brazilian looked out of touch and was majorly inconsistent. However, over the last three or four games, he has been playing supremely well. Its not only his amazing tricks and skills on the balls and those deft flicks and backheels which have created goals, it is his workrate as well. The former Inter man was always considered a magician because of his skills, but his major problems were inconsistency and laziness. Of late, both seem to have gone. His work rate has been brilliant in the last few games- he is contributing with the defence, regularly tracking back and is ensuring the attack keeps ticking. The fact that he has been able to string a run of three-four good games answers the inconsistency question. Coutinho now, has to ensure that he continues this form for the remainder of the season as he can be the key man for Liverpool’s top 4 quest.