January 21, 2010
Although we deserved nothing from the game at Anfield last night, we gave away two very poor goals.
In the sixth minute, we’re regrouping after a chance of our own. A high ball is played forward – usually Dawson’s forte.
Two things to notice – firstly, Palacios (third from the left, with a good view of play). I find it hard to be critical of Palacios‘ passing, because he wasn’t brought to us to add passing ability. However, I will continue to criticise his lack of defensive nous. Surely a defensive-minded midfielder should see that Aquilani (who he is directly up against for much of the game) is in a position to influence the game should Kuyt win this ball. He can’t just rely on Dawson winning the header.
EDIT: it has been pointed out (correctly) that Dawson slips – you can see from the still above, but more clearly from the video). This allows Kuyt to win the ball unchallenged. However, I still feel that we shouldn’t have conceded that goal, with or without the slip.
Dawson gets tight to Kuyt, and looks favourite to win the ball.
Kuyt is the master of backing into players subtly, and he uses his back-side to manoeuvre himself into a position to lay the ball off to Aquilani, who has carried on his movement (whilst Palacios has virtually stood still).
Aquilani shows good ability to feed the ball back to Kuyt (before getting clattered by Dawson). Personally at this point, I think the King of old would be a yard further forward.
Or at least would now be trying to make up a bit of ground, to give Kuyt less room to get a shot off. Admittedly he takes it early, but frankly, that’s pretty much the only way he can score from this situation, and he does.
Some may argue that it’s difficult to criticise when you’re chasing the game, but this penalty situation is a shambles. Bassong has been on for nine minutes (an utterly bizarre substitution, covered below), and has so far looked very uncomfortable (maybe his shorts are on the wrong way round?).
Darby picks the ball up in the middle of the pitch, and has plenty of room. Bale comes to close him (no wide left player at this point), which gives us a problem, as Bassong and Palacios are left with decisions to make – something they both seem to struggle with.
Darby finds Maxi with a decent ball to feet. Notice now that Bale is out of the game, that N’Gog has shown great anticipation and is pulling into a useful position. Palacios has been attracted towards the ball, and Bassong (edge of out box) is in two minds.
Looking at it from another view, you can analyse better the positioning of our players. Dawson is the deepest, getting back into position having made a clearance. The other defenders are in truly awful positions. Bassong is unable to influence the game, and Hutton is ball-watching.
Maxi slips N’Gog in with a perfectly weighted first time pass.
From above, you can see the danger. Bassong needed to go with N’Gog but hasn’t and, as a result, he’s in acres of space. Hutton is still ball-watching happily.
N’Gog’s first touch is a little heavy, which tempts Bassong into making a challenge. However, because he’s not close enough, he has no chance of getting there.
N’Gog is blessed with excellent pace and athleticism – he touches it beyond Bassong and gets cleaned out, just inside the area.
Kuyt steps up at the second time of asking and sends Gomes the wrong way.
Some general points about the game:
- Redknapp’s team selection was predictable, but that doesn’t make it right. With Kranjcar and Modric on the flanks, we lack width, and it asks a lot of our full-backs. Kranjcar has been in terrific form, and Modric is probably our best player, so it’s hard not to include both. However, if they are to play in the same side, we must ensure that it’s in a 4-2-3-1, with one striker, and at least one naturally wide player – yesterday we could have played Bale/Bentley/Giovani/Naughton/Rose in an advanced role. Yes, lesser players, but it’s about picking the right team rather than the right individuals.
- When we had possession, we were often trying to play through a crowded central area (our narrow midfield, plus Lucas, Mascherano and Aquilani), rather than exploiting their weaker flanks (although Bale had some joy).
- Liverpool have been struggling this season against teams that play at a high tempo, press high, and force them to play the long ball – we didn’t do enough of this as a team, and when we did force Liverpool to play long, we didn’t win first or second balls convincingly (see the first goal).
- I’ve not been a fan of Redknapp’s substitutions in general, but to bring Bassong on for King with 10 minutes to go at 1-0 was totally bizarre. Firstly, I don’t think King should have started – he looked half-fit, and off the pace. But if he had to come off, why not put on an attacker and ask Palacios to sit in front of Dawson? We needed to go for broke.