Good Kop – Bad Kop: Which Liverpool can we expect this season?
November 17, 2010 3 Comments
The last few years have left me pretty confused as to which Liverpool I’m going to get this season. There’s the Good Kop; Title challengers, consistency, incredible goal scoring form from ‘Nando and Stevie and impenetrable at the back. But there’s also the Bad Kop; Negative football, dire in front of goal, shaky at the back and no ambition or creativity from midfield. The other week’s win over Chelsea (following a nice little unbeaten run) left some journos reaching for the ‘Liverpool on the up’ Headlines, but then a dodgy draw with Wigan last Wednesday and a dire 2-0 defeat to Stoke begs the question: which Liverpool can we really expect this season? Lawro said on 5Live at the weekend that he can’t see Liverpool making the top 6 this year. Pessimistic or Realistic?
Let’s start with the gaffa. Last season, Roy Hodgson was everyone’s favourite manager. He took a small, cheap Fulham squad and stretched them to about 60 games in a season – including an incredible Europa League Final against Athletico Madrid and a decent upper-mid-table finish, (following top 7 the year before). It was an obvious promotion to get the Liverpool job, which he rightly described as one of the biggest jobs in football, but it’s also left a bit of a dent in Hodgson’s reputation, going by performances and results so far. There are times when I think his Fulham squad last year were better than this Liverpool lot, and I’ll come back to that, but it’s also tactics, creativity and even managerial swagger that seem to have deserted Roy on his move from South West London to Merseyside.
The squad will play a massive part in the way ‘pool play their footy, but I do wonder what the ex-Fulham boss is bringing to the table tactically. Liverpool seem so negative on the ball, especially away from Anfield: Steven Gerrard’s had to drop deeper than David Seaman’s voice box to try and run the play, ‘Nando’s been injured, inconsistent, or uninterested, David Ngog is a poor man’s Solomon Kalou, the midfield seem to only see sideways or backwards, and their best defender has been a giant Greek with a dodgy pony tail and a face like a Victorian brick wall.
In that infamous 2008/9 season where they should’ve won the league, Liverpool were near enough impenetrable. Pepe Reina was unreal, Jamie Carragher was magnificent and you could bet your house on Daniel Agger most games with his consistency. Mistakes at the back have characterised this season though, with Skrtel, Carragher, Johnson, Agger and Krygiakos all culprits. Roy also just doesn’t seem to know what to do to change a game with his squad. Bereft of ideas is a term often used after dour nil-nils, but it’s something you could say after most Liverpool games apart from the few where Gerrard and Torres have shown up. I’ll come on to the player’s in and out of the club, but sticking with Roy, what was he thinking playing Poulsen, Lucas and Mereiles in a midfield 3 the other week? It was about as positive as Portsmouth’s bank balance.
People quickly point the finger at Rafa for the state Roy found the club in, which is a fair statement to an extent, but at the same time, Hodgson’s purchases have hardly been inspired either. I don’t know what to make of Joe Cole first off: There’ve been times when I think he’s quality, and he’s shown that, but he looks like a player with minus confidence, a player who’s trying too hard to fit in and impress. Poulson still thinks he’s playing Serie A; everything takes 5 touches, is super slow and goes sideways or backwards. Mereiles is small enough to vanish on a pitch, and seems to get swallowed up in games more often than not. Konchesky was only ever good enough for Fulham. He’s so far out of his depth and can easily be targeted by opposing teams as a weak link. As you can see, I don’t think Roy’s helped himself with his selections. Oh, and Maxi is dire, period. (Although he was a Rafa purchase to be fair).
The players Liverpool lost before Hodgson have also played a huge part in Liverpool’s demise this year. Losing Xabi Alonso (who orchestrated Spain’s World Cup win from the holding midfield position), as well as Javier Mascherano (the pit-bull in the middle that every top class team needs), was a real blow. Both players would actually walk in to any team in the PL, and have proven to walk in to the starting line ups at Real Madrid and Inter – two of the world’s biggest clubs. Replacing these two with the Muppets aforementioned, has not worked well.
Add to this the sometimes invisible Torres, and it’s no wonder Liverpool have wrestled with lower mid table all year. We all know how good Fernando Torres is, we’ve seen it. He’s made Ferdinand and Vidic look like kids in one game and he’s shown he’s got all the attributes of a world class striker. When he’s unfit, Liverpool freeze though. How much longer can Gerrard’s shoulders carry the weight of his team mates’ lack of quality and desire? Dirk Kuyt being out hasn’t helped either, despite his early questionable performances after his move, most Liverpool fans would agree they couldn’t live without him this season.
So Good Kop or Bad Kop? Which Liverpool should we expect this season? The fact that Lucas and Kyrigiakos have been their stand-out performers – and they have to be fair been quality, probably Bad Kop. I’m not necessarily writing Liverpool off here, especially with a PL table as tight as this one, but something seriously needs to change or click for them to reach the heights of a few seasons ago. The newbies desperately need to step up and earn their place in this team.
No-one outside of Everton and Manchester actually wants to see Liverpool really fail. They belong in the top 4 and in the Champions League, there’s no doubt of that, mid table betrays a glorious history but also serious investment from seasons gone by. I don’t know how much impact the new owners will bring, but I hope stability and then upward mobility will be on their achievements list by the end of the season.
Contrary to Lawro, I think Liverpool could finish top 6, but I do actually agree that they won’t. I think 7th this year is quite a realistic prediction, but top 4/5 must come next year. Let’s be patient with Roy (maybe not as patient as his midfield) and the new owners, and let’s hope for the good of the Premier League that Liverpool can find their place as a great club in this division once again.
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