There seem to be three types of analysis you can write about Liverpool at the moment:
- 1) An abject display littered with goalkeeping and defensive errors saw the Reds torn apart by inferior opposition
- 2) A performance in which everything.works, all parts of the team seem to click and Liverpool run out easy winners against a team that on paper should probably have won quite easily
- 3) A game that the Reds dominate but struggle to create any clear cut chances in, inevitably drawing or losing in frustrating fashion
Sometimes, like versus Norwich, they take a little from pot 1 and a sprinkle from pot 2; whilst they can also do what they did against United and combine pot 2 and pot 3 to gloriously irritating effect. Mostly, though, it’s one of those three results that we can expect when we go to watch Liverpool play.
West Ham rolled up to Anfield confident of victory on the back of two wins against Liverpool so far this season, the win at our place being their first since the 1960s. Even if their pre-kick off confidence was slightly tempered by a fear that there was no way they could do a hat-trick against us, it would have been buoyed when they saw Jurgen Klopp’s youth-filled line-up.
Other than a replay, though, what else did the manager get out of the evening? Was there much for him to write home to Germany about, or was it another damp squib to add to the list of the dampest squibs in town?
Benteke Struggles Once More As Firepower Becomes A Must
I’m more than happy for people to try to convince me that they know all about Alex Teixeira and have been watching the Ukrainian league for years. I’ll listen to all-comers on the idea of him being the most talented player we haven’t signed since Konoplyanka. I’ll even be reasonably easy to persuade that he’ll do for us what Suarez did if we’re able to bring him in. On this occasion, though, my sympathies lie with Ian Ayre and the crazy kids in the transfer committee.
However much we might like to slag off the Harley-riding Exec with a penchant for hitting up the town’s nightclubs, you don’t fly out to Florida to negotiate with a club over a player unless you’ve been given reasonably good assurances that a deal can be struck. Assurances are all well and good, of course, but how are you expected to play ball if the selling club decide to keep moving the goalposts?
No right-minded Liverpool fan would suggest that the club should be paying as much as £50 million for a player that has yet to prove his worth in the English game. Granted even players who have proven their worth in the English game aren’t guaranteed to be a success, and a ratio of a goal a game is impressive no matter what league you play in. But £50 million? No thanks, let’s not play silly buggers.
There have been 52 shots at Anfield this week, with only one offside goal to show for it.
9 goals from 19 shots at Norwich last Saturday.
— Andrew Beasley (@BassTunedToRed) January 30, 2016
Every time Liverpool draw a blank, however, the temptation to add another million or two to the kitty for him seems to grow. As we head into deadline day with the news that Liverpool are unlikely to add anyone before the summer, eyes will surely roll around Merseyside in much the same way that heads should roll on the transfer committee. Despite Roberto Firmino’s improvements in front of goal in recent weeks the Reds still aren’t threatening enough in the final third, and that must be a real worry for Klopp and his team.
Of course everyone associated with LFC can point to the signings of Danny Ings and Divock Origi, to say nothing of Benteke himself. Yet the absence of the former pair through injury and the ineffectiveness of the latter one mean that Liverpool’s ‘goals for’ tally remains remarkably, worryingly low. This isn’t just a Jurgen Klopp problem, either. The Reds have been goal shy under two different managers this season and the seeming dependency on Daniel Sturridge to provide the stardust is terrifying.
Against West Ham, much like against Exeter in both matches, Christian Benteke was asked to lead the line and failed to produce the goods. He is a striker who can’t score but who also doesn’t add a huge amount to the rest of Liverpool’s play without a quick and intelligent forward alongside him. Given that we have to completely change our style of play to fit him in to the team, is that what we should be doing? Yes he’s scored a couple of goals in 1-0 wins, but most of the time he never looks like threatening the opposition in our general play.
Cant fault the effort of the lads there controlled the game and gave a very good account. With a decent striker leading the line we win that
— Stephen Evans (@StephenEvans75) January 30, 2016
Christian Benteke was as successful as he was at Aston Villa for a number of reasons, not least of which is the fact that expectations were so much lower there. Another reason, though, is the fact that he had Gabby Agbonlahor near him, creating space and dragging defenders out of position as well as running past him and giving him an option. Against West Ham our youngsters couldn’t do that as successfully as he needed so he once again looked like a big target man who our players didn’t know what to do with.
Alex Teixeira’s price may be going up with every game we don’t manage to score in, but the flip side of that is that Benteke’s price is going down. It’s now fair to say that he will never look like a £32.5 million striker for Liverpool Football Club. The question is, will there come a point at which we’ll be able to recoup even half that amount if he keeps drawing blanks?
Fake It ’TIl You Make It
In both legs against Exeter the kids performed about as well as you could have asked them to, with the senior pros letting the side down more than the inexperienced youngsters could ever have done. For many, though, the question about whether or not they have what it takes to step up to the senior squad went unanswered considering the level of opposition they were testing themselves against.
It was interesting, then, to see so many heads fall off Liverpool fans on Twitter when the two teams were announced for this FA Cup fourth round match. Having suggested that he was going to make numerous changes Slaven Bilic surprised a few people by opting for quite a strong squad. Klopp, on the other hand, surprised virtually nobody by making ten changes from the team that lost to Stoke in 90 minutes but won through to the League Cup final in the end.
It seemed like it would be a genuinely tough fixture for the youngsters, with the first team having already lost to West Ham twice this season. Why, then, were so many Liverpool fans angry that Klopp had opted for a weakened team against the Hammers? It would be understandable if the manager’s first-choice side had been running riot week-in, week-out, but they haven’t. With the likes of Can, Milner, Lallana and Lucas failing to pull up any trees in recent times was it really so preposterous that the kids might be able to approach things a little differently?
I’d be happy for this lot to start a league game or two. Teixeira & Smith really shining, but collective effort also hugely impressive.
— Tom Cullimore (@tom_cullimore) January 30, 2016
Not only did the younger players hold their own but they actually gave a better account for themselves than most of the more seasoned pros have managed when up against Bilic’s West Ham. Liverpool dominated the game, controlling play and never really looking any serious trouble apart from when He Who Shall Not Be Named picked up a back-pass, kicked the ball into touch and inexplicably tried to catch a cross that was already on the attacking player’s head.
Perhaps it is unlikely that players like Brannagan, Teixeira or Stewart will make it as Liverpool regulars, but they did their cause of becoming Premier League players no harm at all with a spirited display against a West Ham team that were stifled and silenced with relative ease. Stewart in particular grew into the game and will have done his hopes of getting a new contract in the summer the world of good with a performance that suggested he could be the club’s defensive midfielder for less important games in the future.
Teixeira, meanwhile, suggested that he could yet be a stand-in for the likes of Lallana and Coutinho in the coming weeks. With the latter still not recovered from his hamstring injury and the former not quite having the legs to pull of a 90 minute display, Teixeira could fill in games against teams when youthful running and intelligence could make all the difference.
I love how Joao Teixeira always wants the ball. We need more of that.
— Trevinho (@Trevski_LFC) January 30, 2016
The only youthful player who might have left the pitch feeling a little disappointed with himself, in fact, was Jordon Ibe. For many, Ibe was the obvious solution to the Sterling problem when the talented winger decided to swap Merseyside for Manchester in the summer. The very idea that he was an ideal replacement is looking more and more laughable with each passing week.
Ibe is not a bad player; in fact he’s an obviously talented young lad who could come on leaps and bounds in the next few years if Klopp decides to take him under his wing. The problem is that his relative inexperience combined with a lack of coaching time means that he keeps making the same mistakes time and again. The games may be coming thick and fast, but Ibe just seems to becoming thicker.
If Joe Allen adds intelligence to any side he plays in then Ibe is his opposite number, running into blind alleys or straight out of play with reckless abandon. In a match in which he was supposed to be one of the more experienced players it was actually his inexperienced counterparts that made a better impression. With Sheyi Ojo once again impressing from the bench it might be worth Jordon Ibe looking over his shoulder or else, before too long, he’ll have fallen too far down the pecking order to find his way back to the top.