Both teams having come off good results meant this was expected to be an exciting game that never really got going. From a Liverpool stand point the game could not have gotten off to a worse start with our main man at the back Martin Skrtel being knocked unconscious by an aerial battle with Rudy Gestede that ended with Skrtel landing awkwardly. As you would expect the necessary safety precautions were taken to ensure that any head or spinal injuries were avoided. Kolo Toure then was forced on earlier than expected and put in a good effort at restricting Gestede to a number of chances.
From the off Liverpool dominated possession as you would expect being the premier league and form side in Europe, disappointingly there was no penetration or tempo to the game making the job even simpler for Rovers. There were a few occasions where you felt that something might come from this but, due to either a lack of supply or poor supply the forward players did not really get a look in. The closest Liverpool even got to scoring was a Kolo Toure goal that was deemed offside from a free kick played in by Coutinho who was amongst a list of frustrated players.
As the game drew on you could sense that it would be the one goal that decided it and Rovers looked intent on sitting back and going for the draw to take them back to Ewood Park. Surprisingly Mario Balotelli made a late entry to the game, which, will have come as a shock to some pundits due to the very limited game time since the return of Sturridge. Balotelli did cause some havoc in the box creating space for Daniel Sturridge who had several penalty appeals all dismissed by Andre Marriner.
Some would say this was a lacklustre performance from Liverpool who lacked tempo for the whole game and others would say this was an excellent defensive display from Rovers who defended their lines from attack right through to the goalkeeper
Surprisingly Liverpool lost 1-0 to Aston Villa at Anfield on Saturday which will have come as a big shock to all those watching the game. Liverpool assuredly had the best part of the possession which adds to the confusion of the result, Rodgers will have been pleased how we controlled the game, change the tempo and knowing when to speed the play up.
As always Liverpool were weak at the back and until this is resolved we will leak goals and lose games we are in control of. Aston Villa with no disrespect should be a straight six points bearing in mind how much Liverpool have spent on signings this year. Balotelli, Coutinho and Raheem sterling to name a few, are capable enough to win a game single handed, so why when Daniel Sturridge is injured do we lose with no explanation.
Not taking away any plaudits from Aston Villa they have played very well this season, could this possible be one of the final rungs on the development ladder and see a mature Villa side. The start to the season will give great hope and encouragement for the year to Paul Lambert who did have some job concerns the previous campaign.
Overall, I would categories this as a missed opportunity for Liverpool to push on and show the form which saw them achieve Champions League football last season.
All the rumours are pointing towards quite a youthful attacking force to feature against Italy possible because of the age of the Italian defenders who are ageing. Cheillini will not have the legs to match one of several players; Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling, Adam Lallana, Oxlade Chamberlain and Ross Barkley to name a few who would render the Italian defence cuckoo. The list of players previous are examples of the youthful nature of the squad proving England’s reliance on the old faithful is dissolving which can only benefit English football for the future. Realistically I can’t see any changes to the England back five including; Joe Hart in net, Glen Johnson at Right Back, Leighton Baines at Left Back and pairing at the back Phil Jagielka and Gary Cahill. This back five has been very solid and has built up a good understanding so hopefully this will stand us in good stead in our defensive duties.
Now for the holding midfield, we obviously have the certainty of Steven Gerrard captaining the side hoping to overtake David Beckham’s record appearances for an outfield player for England. Now the difficulty comes when deciding his partner, Lampard could add an attacking threat with his good goal scoring record for England or the more likely Jordan Henderson with his box to box antics causing more havoc for Prandelli’s side to contend with.
In front of the Liverpool pair I have really struggled with deciding who should play and in what position wide or central, another issue that came to mind is does Rooney actually deserve a spot on merit. My decision is as so; Rooney through the middle because the boys alongside him will need his composure and experience to help guide them through a game of this magnitude and importance. I have been a big critic of Rooney this year saying he should be the man to step and lead United through this tough time but actually looking at his record he has come up with 15 goals mainly playing as a CAM which can only be commended. If Rooney is to ever put to rest the whispers of his national team record then Brazil would be the time to put it behind him. Alongside him Raheem Sterling but despite his age and lack of game time in an England shirt he can really, really frighten the Italy Right Back into making numerous mistakes leading to England scoring. On the other side it would be difficult to say no to Adam Lallana as he has been consistently good throughout his England career, stepping into the centre of the field running at the defence causing them to back track and lose attention of the on running players. Inevitable Daniel Sturridge must start he has shown he is an out and out scoring, creating chances at will for example Peru where he curled the ball majestically into the top corner from a unlikely position.
It has been on all of our minds what does Liverpool need to do to take the clubs first ever premier league title ending the drought of 24 years without a league title. Interview afetr interview with Liverpool players and manager alike have all said they are taking one game at a time a cliche in world football. Often we hear managers and players saying this as an excuse not to loom forward as not too put pressure on themselves relieving it from those competing against them.
This mantra has seen Liverpool regain the top spot in the premier league where they rightfully deserve to be since the turn of the year being undeafted in the league. In that time they have faced many a good team namely; Arsenal, Southampton, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspurs winning them all convincingly but before and after each game the mantra remained one game at a time which is becoming quite the footballing philosophy around Anfield. What this mantra means for the players; they really have one thing to look forward to not “oh we have Spurs next week” but ” we are paying Sunderland today and our main priority is the 3 points here today” this philosophy has seen the side look a lot more convincing against the smaller league side and most importantly the recently promoted sides that in previous years we have struggled greatly against. Liverpool have dispatched the majority of the smaller sides a part from the obvious hiccup against Hull City (a newlty promoted side).
Looking at only the immediate future and focussing on the next game has ensured that anything else going on outside of the club is not a distraction like the dubious claims of Jose Mourinho. Without the distractions of last years incident involving Luis’ and his ban we have remained quite quiet in terms of on and off field antics meaning there has been no particular emphasis on our players. Surprisingly the media have left Liverpool to their own devise this season without the usual speculation of our best players leaving and ownership changes. The stability of the side and club could stem from the calmness of the backroom staff who work with the players everday on and off the pitch ensuring happiness in all aspects of their life. Raheem Sterling is one who springs to mind when talking of a calming factor, as he has thanked and praised Rodgers for his help settling hiom into the side this season allowing him to express himself more freely.
For my future blogs I’ve decided based upon feedback on twitter to make the blogs shorter and brief. This will be the first of the new format.
It’s a Red New Year
Since the turn of the new year Liverpool are undefeated excluding the loss in the cup against Arsenal at the Emirates following up the 5-0 thrashing of them in the previous week at Anfield which was more than embarrassing for the Gunners. That game was a prime example of the ever improving side under the stewardship of Rodgers showing the arsenal of attacking options available to the red men. Liverpool have been superb home and away with great displays like the Arsenal victory, the Merseyside derby and most recently showing how the squad can adapt to swift formation changes the 3-0 victor at St. Mary’s.
With the mentioning of the Southampton victory previously and also it being the most recent, it would be more appropriate to talk about that with regards to Liverpool’s rich vein of form this year. Liverpool as they have done throughout BR reign pushed high and forced Southampton into mistakes and a faster tempo which meant passing errors would be more frequent allowing Liverpool to capitalise with the unbelievably fast attack they have on the counter. The story of the first half was with both team not having much luck in front of goal.
The second half got under way with another one of Liverpool’s explosive moves going forward with the usual end result a Luis Suarez premier league goal which left Southampton stunned like it has other previous red’s opposition. Normally after the first goal it becomes an onslaught on the opposition teams goal leading to further key chances being created by the little Brazilian and his majestic jinking in and out of defenders waiting for the ideal time to slide in a delicious pass to a member of the SAS. Strangely this time at St. Mary’s it took slightly longer than expected to double the lead, it took the introduction of the dynamic flair Raheem Sterling with his first touch to help the red men put real separation between them and the The Saints. As the game was about to come to an end Suarez ran his man down into the ground with a final cut back in side on to his left foot forcing the Saints defender to take him down and the leaving the ref with no choice but to point to the spot where Gerard ended any hope of a dream come back.