Following Liverpool’s 1-0 defeat to Real Madrid, Liam Cairns looks at the reasons why the Anfield club have found it so difficult to recapture the form they managed last season.
Few, if any Liverpool fans across the globe will feel euphoric with the current state the club finds itself in. Still within touching distance of the top 4 but overall the team as a whole have gravely underperformed this season.
The irreplaceability it so evidently seems that was the selling of the talented Uruguayan Luis Suarez and the injury to Daniel Sturridge has had the club in free-fall and light years away from their blistering best form of last season.
Already three league games without a goal so far this season after going only four games throughout the whole of last season compounds matters. Interestingly since Daniel Sturridge signed for the club in January 2013, without him the team has lost almost one in every three games with, on average, two goals a game – thanks it has to be said to Luis Suarez. Whereas with Sturridge in the team, they averaged 2.5 goals and two points a game.
After Brendan Rodgers was acclaimed to be the saviour of the club’s dire fortunes following last season, he will most definitely feel the pressure due to the club’s current plight and the buck most definitely stops with him, especially with the majority of the signings he has made so far.
After all the current lot of signings have not fitted in well with the current side as time is still very much needed. Talisman and captain Steven Gerrard has been the only positive note thus far and a rapid turnaround in fortunes will surely come through his experience and expertise.
As Mario Balotelli continues to be torn to shreds in the press, it’s the team as a whole that has underperformed and any football fan or Liverpool fan can see right through this over saturation of his media coverage.
After the sale of Suarez during the summer Brendan Rodgers’ instant comment that the purchase of Mario Balotelli was a gamble and a risk worth taking shows naivety before Mario had even kicked a ball.
This is obviously true, but this should not have been made public considering the volatile personality that Balotelli has. Since then, all of Liverpool’s fraternity from the bottom up would most definitely consider a bid for the Italian if one appeared during the next transfer window after his performances thus far for the club.
After the signing of Mario Balotelli, the acquisition should have been glorified almost instantly but Brendan Rogers undermined his own judgement and was almost subconsciously apologising for any future lacklustre display from the ex-Milan forward. It painted an unfortunate image of his time ahead at Anfield before he had even played his first official competitive game.
Also, the Raheem Sterling incident; where Roy Hodgson told the press quite candidly that Raheem asked not to be considered through fatigue for the Estonia game was another error of judgment by a seasoned professional where the England manager, again, should have kept his comments ‘in-house’ but this ultimately undermined the young starlet, undermined Liverpool, and his form has plummeted since. “Excuse me for being human.” Sterling was quoted as saying later.
Since Daniel Sturridge’s injury on international duty, the club has had to rely on Mario Balotelli to no avail. He must have felt unwanted or slightly annoyed at Rodgers’ comments in the summer and may have in some way doubted his own ability when all poor Mario needs is constant reassurance and guidance.
As the media frenzy took hold and the player’s confidence slowly whittled away it was used an excuse to paper over the cracks of all the other issues currently affecting the club. As with any striker – confidence is key; look at Southampton striker Graziano Pelle’s current form, but a goal soon could open up the flood gates for Mario, and every ‘Pool fan must be praying for this.
When Daniel Sturridge returns from injury it will inject much needed life into the attacking line of the Merseyside club, but even his return cannot take away from the somewhat tepid purchases made by Rodgers since he took over.
However, this issue, the current failings of a lot of the summer signings, and on recent history since his managerial reign began, it has been grim viewing.
Daniel Sturridge and arguably Philippe Couthino have been a success at the club and with Adam Lallana still finding his feet, a multitude of others have failed and have either left or are languishing within the confines of the club.
With many signings during the summer more time is again needed for them to properly blend in but with the likes of Simon Mignolet and Mamadou Sakho underperforming, the fans must feel rightly nervous at Brendan Rodgers’ eye for signing players.
Dejan Lovern is another player who was brought in to shore up the defence that leaked goals last season. Where last season they outscored teams despite conceding, now the defence is still as leaky but considerably less goals are being scored.
Over £200 million has been spent since the summer of 2012 and only two players it can be argued have ultimately shined. Champions League football has returned but after the trip to Madrid on Tuesday; a 1-0 loss with a weakened side it told its own tale.
Real Madrid have now won 12 games on the trot and as Michel Platini stated after the match he thought the side put out by Liverpool was their best team despite the obvious absentees – a backhanded compliment, or was he looking to punish Liverpool for giving up, apparently, just as the game kicked off. In any case Platini instantly backed away from adding any further comments.
For the new signings to cement and prove their place in the team, the most recent history at the club has showed that even loan signings and peripheral players, signed since 2012, are following a current uninspiring trend.
However, football being the fickle sport that it is shows that a much needed run can just as easily be put together. Newcastle United are a perfect example and with the current new lot of players suddenly clicking together this could turn their fortunes around.
Maybe the much-needed ascendency is one game away and as the Premier League resumes next weekend a positive result or performance at full time and the club can build from there.
One aspect that is abundantly clear is another lengthy injury to Daniel Sturridge after he returns, could prove fatal and further derail their season. Languishing outside the Champions League places unable to mathematically reach the coveted prize before it’s too late will be a far cry from the much-improved season of 2013/14.
Liam Cairns, Pundit Arena