Monday, August 18, 2014

In the Books: SAS 2.0 deliver Reds 3 points

After a seemingly endless procession of preseason matches, culminating in a loss to Manchester United in the final of the Guinness International Champions Cup, Liverpool FC finally took the field yesterday for a match that meant something.

The good news? A win, 2-1, over Southampton. 

The bad? A few issues, some new, many old, that will need swift fixes if the team is to escape the early part of the schedule with their title dreams unblemished. 

Still, as the man who scored the winner points out, the win is the important thing.

SAS 2.0 is here.

Last year's deadly strike force of Suarez and Sturridge terrorized Premier League defenses to the tune of 52 goals in 38 matches. Of course, with Suarez off to greener pastures, the goals will fall to a variety of attacking midfielders, including incumbents such as Raheem Sterling, Jordan Henderson, and Phillippe Coutinho, as well as new signings Adam Lallana and Lazar Markovic.

We're only one game in, and two of those incumbents mentioned are acquitting themselves rather well:
That's 19-year-old Sterling showing off his blistering pace, splitting the two central defenders and dispatching Henderson's inch-perfect through ball with ease.

What that Vine doesn't show is the scrap for the ball in midfield. If Liverpool's attack is to be even remotely as toothy as it was last year, they'll need to win these types of balls. Rather than a methodical, pendulum-like possession team (Barcelona, Arsenal, any team that Pep Guardiola manages), the Reds relied upon pure pace and lethal counterattacking to get goals last season. These types of goals are easier to come by if you're consistently stripping possession from your opponents in midfield. Keep it up, Hendo.

And what can you say about Daniel Sturridge, except that he's a goalscorer's goalscorer. Some may call this soft, or padding the stats. But I call him a latter-day Dirk Kuyt - a man able to be in the perfect position at the perfect time:

With a deft touch of... um... some part of his left leg, the ball ends up in the net and Liverpool regains the lead.

And also, who won that header for the assist? None other than 5'7 inch Raheem Sterling. Granted, he won it over 5'8 Steven Davis, but still. SAS is back!

The defense rests. 

For much of last season, Liverpool's seemed to subscribe to the axiom positing that the best defense is a great offense. And it nearly won them the league.

This simply won't work with the squad as currently constituted. If you could roll Steven Gerrard's odometer back a few thousand miles, or conjure up a last-gasp signing of one of the big names that seem to be floating around (Cavani, Reus, Falcao... Eto'o?), then perhaps. But barring those two things, this team will have to defend better, and that means defending as a unit.

Suarez, when not devouring human flesh, was an absolute pest of a defender. Sturridge, to put it bluntly, is not. And for all Sterling's pace, he sometimes sprints himself out of position in an effort to win possession. It's obvious that a team can't be both a park-the-bus defensive unit and a swashbuckling goal-plunderer, but Liverpool need to realize that a little of the former will make up for their loss of the latter. Sterling's goal came from solid defensive midfield work - the type of work that Steven Gerrard (Warning: blasphemy ahead) might not be capable of on a consistent basis.

This was evident during long, listless stretches against Southampton, when the deep-lying central midfield partnership of Lucas and Gerrard looked toothless and reactionary. I often forgot that Lucas was even on the field, and Gerrard's long balls, while accurate, didn't amount to many scoring threats.

The defense performed passably, though there were lots of lost marks on Southampton's lone goal:

Glen Johnson and Martin Skrtel, Liverpool's two longest-tenured defenders, seem to be marking shadows. This type of thing will not fly against better quality opposition, both domestically and in Europe. On the positive side, we FINALLY signed a left back, which should help.

Three takeaways. 

Let's take three things away from this week's game, just as the Reds took three points.

1. Simon Mignolet's reaction time is relatively outrageous:

2.  Brendan Rodgers loves to tinker with lineups and formations, and just look at the wealth of talent he has to do it with:

  • Adam Lallana
  • Rickie Lambert
  • Raheem Sterling
  • Jordan Henderson
  • Phillippe Coutinho
  • Steven Gerrard
  • Joe Allen
  • Daniel Sturridge
  • Lazar Markovic
3. Champions League football is back. YNWA

No comments:

Post a Comment