Why things look bleaker than they actually are at Anfield

Liverpool Ball

Liverpool Football Club currently sit in twelfth position in the Premier League with a home draw against Newcastle United making it just one win from six games at Anfield in the division.

An interesting point raised by most this weekend is that with Brendan Rodgers’ Red Men gaining only 11 points from 10 games they have made a worse start than Liverpool did in the 2010-2011 season under Roy Hodgson's stewardship.

The difference? Liverpool this time around are playing good football, looking like they can win the games which they are currently playing and there are a considerable number of excellent young players making their way in the first team.

Their points tally may make bleak reading for fans of most teams let alone one of the gargantuan size of Liverpool. Brendan Rodgers was prized away from Swansea and  entrusted to put right an up and down spell in charge for Kenny Dalglish. 

With the majority of the steam of FSG’s takeover having run out following the expensive transfers Dalglish and Comolli gave the green light to, in particular Andy Carroll and Jordan Henderson there was little available for Brendan Rodgers to spend this summer with the 39-year-old bringing in Oussama Assaidi, Fabio Borini, Joe Allen and Samed Yeşil to strengthen his squad in the areas he deemed necessary.

The one that got away was Clint Dempsey, a player who during his time at Fulham perfected the role of the attacking midfielder with the American often supplying both goals and assists from his position just behind the forwards. This quality when you look at Liverpool’s performances this season would have been so important with Suarez often finding himself isolated up front on his own with nobody really supporting him from the midfield.

Playing iin Rodgers favoured 4-3-3 following his time learning at Chelsea and in charge at Swansea there is very little support for Suarez from midfield. A full strength Liverpool midfield with all players fully fit would consist of Lucas Leiva, Joe Allen and a directi choice between Steven Gerrard and Nuri Sahin, with Lucas positioned the furthest deep and Allen and Gerrard or Sahin sitting just in front of him dictating the distribution of the football for Liverpool just like Allen and Britton did last season for the Swans.

With Lucas injured Joe Allen has been forced to play deeper which has not adversely affected his performances at all and Sahin and Gerrard have been the further forward midfield two.

Sterling and Suso as the two wide players in the three attackers have seen Liverpool succeed in an area that fans have been clamouring for since the Benitez era and that is managing to exploit width.

Sterling has arguably been the revelation of this season’s Premier League so far with the teenager having cemented a position in Rodgers’ side following his exciting performances against champions Manchester City and Reading and the inclusion of Suso since Fabio Borini picked up his injury has given Liverpool even more flair going forward.

This flair however is rather pointless if your main centre forward is a player of exactly the same mould, Luis Suarez looks at his most comfortable when playing either just as Dempsey does behind the striker or out wide which is where he played when he first burst onto the scene in England following his January 2011 move to Liverpool from Ajax.

Whilst many will argue otherwise Luis Suarez is not a natural lone centre forward and this has been illustrated so far this season, he needs to be involved in the play all the time, he cannot play on the last defender and hold up the ball like for example a Fernando Llorente does so effortlessly.

Suarez on the ball is a menacing prospect for any defence with the Uruguayan having the quick feet of a midfielder such as Messi and the pace of a winger, he is so difficult to defend against when he is on the ball and this is why he is much more suited to playing as a false nine or a wide player cutting in on either his left or right foot or running directly into the box from a tight angle as we saw him do for his first ever assist in a Liverpool-Manchester United clash.

So far this season Luis Suarez has been asked to play as a lone striker with Borini, Sterling, Suso or Downing as his forward partners, Suarez has often cut an isolated figure at times this season with him being unable to make his mark on games due to lack of chances. His hugely impressive display in the Merseyside derby just over a week ago highlighted his quality but it also showed Liverpool’s over reliance on him this term with few others pitching up any other real attacking chances for Liverpool.

In the Newcastle fixture on Sunday Suarez had to come far too deep into the midfield just to get the ball and then when he looked up there was nobody for him to pass to.

So Liverpool’s main downfall this season has been unable to score the goals their controlling midfield play has warranted, Allen has slotted in seamlessly into the Liverpool midfield contrary to Alan Shearer’s beliefs aired on Match of the Day just under a month ago sitting just in front of the defence breaking up attacks and distributing the ball to Liverpool’s more adventurous players, Nuri Sahin has added a touch of technical class to the Liverpool midfield which has seen Liverpool in contrast to the Roy Hodgson era control possession and dominate games.

Apart from some defensive and goalkeeping errors earlier this season it is only in the forward department Liverpool need to work on, Suarez playing as a main striker whilst it is probably all Brendan Rodgers can do until January is not a viable solution if Liverpool want to break into the top four this season however unlikely that might seem at this point. Liverpool needs a main striker who can both feed off the creativity of the three S’s Suarez, Suso and Sterling, be a threat to the opposition goal and also bring others into play through holding the ball up.

People will say, What about Andy Carroll? But alas despite his obvious qualities in the air and in holding up the ball he is not the man for this job with Liverpool needing a much more technically gifted player who can score goals consistently taking pressure of Suarez and Rodgers recognised this in the summer hence the loan move to West Ham however I do suspect if Rodgers had not been so certain he would be able to eventually break down Fulham’s resolve and sign Dempsey then Carroll would not have been loaned out.

A striker must be signed in January and there are several options who would fit the requirements, first off is the more obvious choice and this is Athletic Bilbao’s Fernando Llorente, having wowed fans in the Spain for many years it was last season where many in England first caught sight of El Rey León following his impressive goal scoring performances over two legs against Manchester United in the Europa League and he would certainly be a perfect fit for Liverpool in their current position.

Llorente is wonderfully gifted technically which has often set him apart from other strikers of a similar build, he is useful in the air and boasts a scoring record worthy of any club with Llorente having registered fifty one goals for Bilbao in the last two seasons, he would undoubtedly take the pressure of Suarez and give Liverpool’s creative midfielders someone to aim for in a different sense to ‘pumping it long’ for Andy Carroll.

At 27-years-old Llorente still has a lot of football left in him, his contract with Bilbao ends this summer and he has already made it clear he would not be signing another one following the Basque club's refusal to offload him last summer and his resulting disagreement with boss Marcelo Bielsa. This then opens the door for clubs to offer him a contract from January under the Bosman ruling however Liverpool could tempt Bilbao with an offer of financial significance in the region of €10Million in order for the Spaniard to join Liverpool straight away.

Whether or not Liverpool have the financial muscle for this we cannot be sure especially with big names such as Juventus and Arsenal preparing contract offers for Llorente but they must surely try.

A further option would be the perennial goalscorer that is Darren Bent, having scored wherever he has gone he would be a huge improvement to the forward line at Anfield and with the amount of chances Liverpool are creating this season you can be sure a confident Darren Bent would have put them away.

With Bent unhappy at Aston Villa following Paul Lambert’s continual decision to leave him on the bench coupled with the fact Villa may want to cash in on one of their star assets in the event the worst should happen and they get relegated from the Premier League, January may well be an opportune time for Liverpool to test Villa’s resolve with a bid for the capped England striker with goals a certainty should they sign him.

It has been argued that Bent should have been signed by Benitez rather than Robbie Keane for the 2008-2009 season with Bent costing much less back then following a disappointing time with Spurs.

Until then without a recognised main striker Rodgers may be forced to take a gamble on the youth of Samed Yeşil.

Yeşil has impressed wherever he has gone in youth football and has received rave reviews following his time at Bayer Leverkusen in particular from Nuri Sahin. It would certainly be a gamble to thrust the eighteen year old into first team action but with Suarez one yellow card away from a suspension and the Uruguayan’s on field frustrations going it may well be a stroke of genius for Rodgers to put Yeşil into the starting eleven for the Chelsea fixture this weekend.

Yes it would be a gamble and it may not pay off but Yeşil has a natural eye for goal and should a chance fall to him against Chelsea he may well put it away, Liverpool need forward options and until January at least Yeşil is all they have unless they continue to put too much pressure and responsibility on the shoulders of Suarez.

What is interesting to note however is that Robbie Fowler made his Liverpool debut at the tender age of 18 and made such an impact in his first season scoring 18 goals and this is too much pressure to put on Yeşil there could be little harm done in giving him a run in the first team.

Come January Brendan Rodgers must look to strengthen his forward line or Liverpool may well find themselves in a worse league position than their performances deserve come the end of May, but there is no reason why fans should not be positive when all the pieces of the puzzle fit into place.

Who should Liverpool sign up front?

image: © banoootah_qtr

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