Jake Askham looks at 4 things we can deduce from Liverpool’s opening weekend win vs. Southampton.
The Reds weren’t at their fluent best but got the job done, both with positives and negatives.
1) Lucas and Gerrard partnership
The first thing that stood out from the game was how slow we passed the ball about. Everything seemed so slow and lethargic; there was no intensity to our play whatsoever which made it easy for Southampton to defend against. Playing Gerrard or Lucas is fine, but as a combination they’re far too slow on the ball. They both want to drop deep and dictate the play from there, but you don’t need two people to do that role and neither is entirely comfortable with receiving the ball close to a defender and turning away from him.
Keeping Lucas for the rest of season would be a good idea, with the added games of the champion’s league this year it will be vital to rotate players to keep everyone fit.. In games against lower league opposition, Champion’s League games when we need to defend a lead or resting Gerrard in the last 20 minutes of a game that is already won, Lucas will be an ideal replacement and Rodgers knows what he’s going to get from him.
2) Manquillo’s performance
When everyone around him seemed to be losing their heads, Manquillo remained calm and collected and put in a very impressive performance. A lot of Southampton’s attacking came down their right, with Tadic and Bertrand trying to exploit the inexperience of the young Spaniard. Last season we allowed 2.7 crosses into our area per game, but Manquillo prevented 3 deliveries into our area.
His attacking ability did leave a little to be desired if I’m honest, but at 20 years of age he has plenty of time to improve in this aspect of his game. What we do have on our hands is a very solid defender; and when we conceded far too many goals last season he is exactly the type of player we need. His tireless running and tight marking means that it he won’t let his man get past him without putting up a fight, which we’ve seen Glen Johnson do on far too many occasions.
3) Allen’s importance
Allen joined the game at around the 62nd minute, after Southampton had scored, and we looked like we were about to collapse and hand them the game. But the Welshman came on and settled us down immensely; his passing is so simple but very effective and he works tirelessly for the team. He may not get the headlines with his goals or assists, but having him in the team makes us look much more coherent.
Rodgers surely must be looking at him as a potential starter for the game vs Manchester City. Their midfield trio of Yaya Toure, Fernandinho and Fernando has incredible athleticism and power; Gerrard will need protection from that. After the 2-2 draw with Manchester City a few seasons back, Yaya Toure described it as “The hardest game I’ve played in since I’ve been in England”. On that day Joe Allen was absolutely everywhere and put in a man of the match performance, hopefully he can replicate that against the current champions next Monday.
4) The diamond isn’t dead
When Rickie Lambert came on for the disappointing Philippe Coutinho, we changed to the 4-1-2-1-2 formation that brought plenty of success towards the end of last season. Gerrard played in his deep playmaker position, Henderson and Allen played as the two central midfielders whilst Raheem Sterling found himself at the tip of the diamond behind Sturridge and Lambert. Although the introduction of Allen helped us control the game, Lambert’s arrival gave us more of a threat up front.
The arrival of Lambert was exactly what Sturridge needed; he was getting isolated up there by himself. It gave him someone to work off of and meant he could focus on getting into goal scoring positions rather than trying to bring others into play. Obviously it’s not the only reason, but with the introduction of Lambert it meant Sturridge could focus on what he does best which is scoring goals.
The new signing Alberto Moreno used to be a winger before converting into a fullback, so that suggests he’s quite good at going forward. This is brilliant for the 4-1-2-1-2 formation as it lacks width further up the field, meaning the fullbacks job is vital to provide this. If we assume Manquillo starts ahead of Johnson at RB, maybe Jordan Henderson will play on the right hand side of the diamond to provide that attacking impetus that Manquillo lacks. It’s hard to say, but after the drastic improvement that the diamond seemed to cause, Rodgers must be considering it for the Manchester City game.
We didn’t deserve to win the game and Saints fans probably felt they should have taken the three points, they certainly had the chances. But the one positive to take is that despite the below par performances from most of the team, we still managed to win the game and that’s a sign of a very good team indeed. With the arrival of another striker and a few changes to the line-up, I’m confident of a very good season.