I wasn’t able to get in front of a screen with Saturday’s Liverpool-Sunderland match until just before halftime. At one point I saw someone on Twitter say the following (paraphrased)…
“I’d like to say something insightful about Liverpool, but it’s as simple as a need to score goals. Something we knew back in August.”
I responded: “I feel like my job as a Liverpool blogger is to find 35 different ways to say that for the rest of the season”
Many will feel optimistic about the way Liverpool dominated possession and looked to have Brendan Rodgers’ new system finally under control. Unfortunately, all the possession in the world couldn’t stop Sunderland from capitalizing on one of their few spells when Steven Fletcher got free in front of goal and redirected a cross to give the home side the early 1-0 lead in the first half. After that we saw more of the same from Liverpool: lots of possession, a couple posts nicked, and no clinical finishing. Granted, Luis Suarez managed to bring one back in the second half to ultimately save a point, but the fact of the matter is he is the only true threat to score for Liverpool.
We also saw the end (or perhaps a temporary halt) to the experiment of playing Stewart Downing at left back. Downing came on for Fabio Borini in the second half to try and steal three points. What really struck me was how much Raheem Sterling looks like a young Stewart Downing in that he’s great in one on one situations with the ball at his feet. Unfortunately, as Downing has showed us so far, that’s hardly the ideal skill for Brendan Rodgers’ new system. Passing is valued above all else and there is little room for individuals trying to dribble at the defense.
So while Liverpool certainly looked like they are finally getting the system firmly into place, it was still the same old Liverpool failing to capitalize. There is no room for error in the next seven days either. Thursday includes a trip to Switzerland for the Europa League opener against Young Boys and then it’s right back to Anfield over the weekend for a meeting with Manchester United. As improved as the Reds looked, I’m not convinced they have what it takes to earn three points against the Red Devils. Emotions will be riding crazy high with the combination of Liverpool’s first home match since the Hillsborough Report and a Manchester United on the other end of the pitch.
It’s still very early, but this week can tell us quite a bit about the direction Liverpool are headed for the rest of the season.
“Walk on with hope in your heart and you’ll never walk alone!”