When Brendan Rodgers deploys his now perhaps infamous 4-2-4 setup it goes only two ways: either exhilarating victory or disappointing draws. This Sunday Liverpool FC seriously disappointed at the Hawthorns when they gave West Bromwich Albion F.C. one point and a lifeline with the score 1-1. Only five days ago, the exact same lineup had knocked the wind out of Everton with a 4-0 victory at Anfield.
The derby left all who wore Liver birds on their chest feeling elevated and on top of the world, however just as quickly as Rodgers moved on from the Konoplyanka flop, West Brom burst the Reds bubble. With a victory, Liverpool could have increased the gap between themselves and Everton who reside on fifth place. By the look of some of the players’ performances that fact had not hit them yet. For all Luis Suarez’ attempts at securing a second winning goal, and Simon Mignolet’s attempt at saving Kolo Toure’s intercepted pass, the team was not up to the task on game day.
So what went wrong? Brendan Rodgers blamed it on his players not being troublesome enough, while really it appeared that they were too worn out. After Daniel Sturridge scored the first goal, assisted by Luis Suarez, Liverpool had a hard time defending it comfortably and it seemed like it was only a matter of time before the match would tip over to the home team’s advantage.
Victor Anichebe became hero of the day for the Baggies when he started second half of with an equalizer. The Nigerian showed no mercy when Kolo Toure in a moment of blunder passed the ball straight into Anichebe’s path. From then on there was panic and little cohesion in Liverpool’s play.
Same old, same old: Squad depth
Brendan Rodgers later stated that he does not blame Kolo Toure after the howler, but even if he did, the Reds’ manager would be bound hand and foot. With Daniel Agger and Mamadou Sakho still injured, Kolo Toure is first pick by default. The same goes for Aly Cissokho who despite having a decent game Sunday still lacks confidence. Generally, Rodgers lack quality players to both rest his starting eleven and give them competition.
With Joe Allen back, the Reds are given some relief on the midfield. In Sunday’s game, he replaced Phillipe Coutinho in the 74th minute and gave the Brazilian some needed rest after having played every game since his injury in September/October. Given Lucas Leiva’s knee injury, Joe Allen is on his way to get a bigger role on the team. He will need to shake a couple of poor performances off him and grab the chance, otherwise it might be his last when summer comes.
The January transfer window was supposed to yield success and solve the midfield problem with the signing of Yevhen Konoplyanka. Since everyone knows how that went, there is hardly use for another paragraph on the subject.
Brendan Rodgers is, for better or worse, stuck with what he’s got. He has the league’s most efficient striker partnership, a captain who has found renewed energy in a holding position, and a team who on their best days make it clear why they are in the top four. On other days, his defense crumbles under pressure, and there is the undeniable reality that the top teams they encounter have the luxury of letting class players sit on the bench.
With Champions League within their reach and midtable soccer poking them on the shoulder, Liverpool is doing the only thing a team in their position can do: move on. No amount of head scratching or excuses are going to win the next two decisive games against Arsenal. Liverpool now has the intimidating opportunity of deciding where they go next.