Saturday, 2 April 2011

West Brom 2 -1 Liverpool - Talking Points

After a promising first 15 minutes, we depressingly devolved into the familiar Neanderthal image of Hodgson-era Liverpool. Lamentable injuries to Johnson (torn hamstring) and Agger (knee strain?) forced us into extreme defensive functionality early on, and the game was never particularly exciting (despite some late scrappy goalmouth action). To be fair, we might still have won this. Skrtel scored a header from a corner early in the second half and after that we looked comfortable until Kyrgiakos clumsily gave away a penalty. The big Greek had a nightmare all in all, and was consistently embarrassed by the excellent Peter Odemwingie. As it was, West Brom deservedly won thanks to two penalties. They were more dominant in midfield and looked more dangerous in attack.

1. All in all, attempts to pass the ball out from the back were half-hearted and impatient. Without Agger, Johnson and Kelly, the link between the defence and midfield was absolutely terrible. Carragher just functions as a right-sided centre-back more or less, always getting drawn inside, closer to his own goal, forcing Kuyt to come deep to defend. His passing is very poor – his inevitable punts forward to Carroll looked more aimless than usual. Young Danny Wilson, too, is solid and shouldn’t be judged solely on his performances at left-back, but he was poor. He doesn’t possess the attacking instinct necessary for a modern full-back. Suarez looked particularly lonely when he came to find space on the left wing. As Brom's average position diagram shows (below), their right-back Steven Reid (no. 12) and for the last few minutes Gonzalo Jara (no. 36) stayed relatively deep, preferring to keep goal-side of Suarez. Chris Brunt, their right-sided midfielder (no. 11), regularly looked to move inside which would've made the presence of a quality ball-playing left-wing back all the more useful for Liverpool.

2. Lack of quality on the wings meant that Liverpool had to hope they could wrestle control of the midfield, but for various reasons they were unable to. In all honesty, Jay Spearing was pretty poor, and fairly anonymous. Meireles had one of his most peripheral games for Liverpool too. Lucas wasn’t at his best, but his positioning and closing down was good as usual, particularly in terms of his ability to show players onto their wrong foot or to quickly get goal-side when opposing players were in dangerous positions, which obviously isn’t reflected in the statistics. It was hugely disappointing that we never managed to get at the West Brom defence more, which had looked decidedly shaky for the first few minutes. Liverpool were rarely able to sustain possession in WBA’s half, and almost never managed to attack the space behind Carroll effectively. Perhaps Dalglish should’ve brought on Maxi for Spearing or Meireles early, to allow Suarez to move inside and get closer to the big Geordie who was, on the whole, pretty poor as well. He wasn’t helped by physical defending from Olsson in particular.

3. As noted above, Kyrgiakos was very poor, but Skrtel was pretty good as usual, as was Reina who, despite conceding two goals and giving away the second penalty, could lay claim to Liverpool’s man of the match by virtue of the sheer number of saves he had to make.

All in all, WBA deserved the win, but I think we would’ve taken the three points if it weren’t for the early injuries. This doesn’t bode well for the rest of the season, and we’ll have to pray that Johnson and Agger (as well as Aurelio) return sooner rather than later.


Opposition fan's view - Josh Harris (@JoshMDH)

Olsson and Meite are strong, hands-on defenders in a very literal sense, and I didn't fancy their chances against Suarez's pace and quick feet. As it turned out this didn't matter because he saw so little of the ball.

Carroll was wound up by Olsson from the beginning. This frustration led to his being given a yellow card and left him unable to exert his physical presence. Conversely, Odemwingie was excellent, as he has been all season, and several times embarrassed the very sluggish Kyrgiakos, a match-up which ultimately led to both penalties.

Mulumbu and Scharner provided toughness in central midfield, leaving their counterparts Meireles and Lucas nowhere in an attacking sense. This toughness however sacrificed creativity, and with Dorrans, Morrison and Tchoyi unavailable Brunt often drifted in from the right wing to try and make something happen. The space this freed up on Liverpool's left was thoroughly unexploited by Meireles who was anonymous throughout. In the second half Suarez moved into the left channel more regularly and looked a lot more dangerous up against Reid who is not a natural full-back.

Ultimately, Liverpool looked uninspired, and Dalglish was hampered by the two enforced substitutions leaving him little opportunity to change things up. That said, Spearing should probably have been swapped out in the second half in favour of a more creative Liverpool midfielder.

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