Sunday, January 01, 2012

Half-Term Analysis


So, we've reached the halfway stage of the season. The Reds sit in sixth place in the league and have reached the semi-finals of the Carling Cup, but the story of the season so far is a case of what might have been.




We've lost three times, but have only been outplayed away at Spurs. For the majority of all the other games, there hasn't been that much wrong, with us dominating possession in nearly all the matches. The one problem though, and unfortunately, the most important, is that we are unable to put the ball in the back of the net. Despite throwing everything at sides, including the kitchen sink, a combination of poor finishing, excellent goalkeeping and the woodwork (17 times!!!) means we have only scored 24 goals from 19 league games. Even Blackburn and Bolton have more! Our profligacy in front of goal means we've drawn far more games than we should have, especially at home.

The problem looks set to worsen in the New Year with our best striker, and current top scorer, Luis Suarez set to sit out 8-games after being found guilty of racism towards Man United's Patrice Evra. The least said about that the better!

But, on the bright side, we have played some brilliant stuff at times. The defence looks solid and we are able to dictate games. Although we all started the season harbouring dreams of a title challenge, it was never a realistic target. Instead, our quest for a top four finish remains on course, with us only 2 points off the Champions League spot. We've got what looks like a straight-forward home tie against Oldham Athletic in the third round of the FA Cup, then a tricky 2-legged Carling Cup semi-final to come against Man City, but we showed in the league game that we can more than match them. With the January transfer window about to open, there will no doubt be at least one arrival to boost the squad too.

Despite the disappointment of too many dropped points, there is a lot of optimism about how we are playing. If only we could find the net a bit more!

Here is my half-term analysis of how the Liverpool squad have fared:-

Pepe Reina (24 appearances, 8 clean sheets) - 7/10

Apart from a couple of errors at home to Norwich and away to Fulham, ever-present Reina has been his normal reliable self. If there is a better keeper in the league, I haven't seen him.

Alexander Doni (0 apps) - 5/10

Doni was expected to play a part in the early rounds of the domestic Cups, but so far we haven't seen him competitively. He impressed in a mid-season friendly against Glasgow Rangers and looks more than adequate backup to Reina. It's just a question of will he get a chance.

Glen Johnson (11 (1) apps, 1 goal) - 7/10

Missed most of the early weeks of the season through injury, but has impressed upon his return to fitness. Can still be wasteful in possession and sometimes switches off defensively, although his defending does look to have improved under Steve Clarke's guidance. Attacking wise, Johnson is excellent, as proven by his fantastic winner at Chelsea.

Martin Kelly (8 apps, 1 goal)- 7/10

Performed well whilst Johnson was out injured, so was unlucky to lose his place in the team. Has impressed in the Carling Cup as well as for England Under-21s. Definitely a star of the future, just needs to bide his time.

John Flanagan (2(1) apps) - 6/10

Started the first game of the season against Sunderland, but struggled. Played well in the Carling Cup victory over Exeter City, but his only other first team action was as a late sub against Brighton. Still young, another year in the reserves will do Flanagan the world of good.

Jose Enrique (20 apps) - 9/10

Signed during the week before the start of the season, Enrique was immediately thrust into the team, where he has excelled. An ever-present in the league, he is quick, assured on the ball and sound defensively. Although sometimes his decision making in the last third of the pitch is questionable, he is excellent going forward. A very good signing.

Jack Robinson (2 apps) - 6/10

Similar to Flanagan, Robinson has only featured twice in the Carlin Cup this season, impressing on both occasions. With Enrique performing so well at left-back, there is no rush to bring Robinson through, so the young defender can hone his talent in the reserves, whilst providing quality backup.

Martin Skrtel (16(3) apps, 2 goals) - 9/10


In the past I have been quick to label Skrtel as not good enough for Liverpool. But, despite a torrid time at Spurs where he was asked to play right-back against Gareth Bale, the defender has had a very impressive season to date. He looks calmer and more assured, and has realised that he doesn't need to try and wrestle attackers all the time. He has even become a threat in the opposition box, scoring twice and creating one for Maxi against Blackburn. The biggest compliment Skrtel can be given is that he is currently keeping Carragher out of the team.

Daniel Agger (16(1) apps) - 8/10

Liverpool look a much better side when Agger plays. Cool and calm with great distribution, the whole defence seems to play better when Agger is there. He has formed a strong pairing with Skrtel, with both players complimenting each other well. If Agger could stay fit for a prolonged period, it would be hard to find a better centre-half anywhere in Europe.

Jamie Carragher (12(1) apps) - 6/10

It's been a tough season so far for Carragher. When he has played he hasn't been at his best, sometimes looking slow and vulnerable. Injury meant he lost his place in the side and such has been the performances of Skrtel and Agger, he hasn't been able to force himself back in. But the break may do Carragher more good than harm and I'm sure when called upon, he won't let himself or the club down.

Sebastian Coates (3(1) apps) - 6/10

After a tough baptism to English football when he came on in the 4-0 drubbing at Spurs, Coates has impressed in the three Carling Cup games that he has played. At 6ft6, he brilliantly withstood the aerial bombardment at Stoke City, whilst he helped keep Fernando Torres quiet at Chelsea. Looks a good signing from the little we've seen.

Danny Wilson (1 app) - 5/10

Wilson has only started one game this season. Yet to hit the heights he did at Rangers, a loan move to gain some experience looks the best option for him at the moment.

Lucas Leiva (15 apps) - 8/10

Last year's player of the season has continued his fine form. An integral part to the way Liverpool play, Lucas has been the defensive lynchpin whose workrate sets the tempo for the plays ahead of him to play. He was sensational against City at home and Chelsea away twice, but injury at Stamford bridge has ruled him out for the rest of the season. Already the absence of the Brazilian has shown his worth, with Charlie Adam's form dipping dramatically since the loss of his midfield sidekick.

Charlie Adam (20(1) apps, 2 goals) - 7/10

For me, Adam has done well this season. Whilst his passing ability has never been in doubt, he seems to be fitter now than during his Blackpool days. He has surprised me at how good he is at breaking up opposition attacks, whilst he is also able to get forward and support our attacks. He looks like he is enjoying being at the club and his performances have proved that. He still gets booked too easy, Spurs being a prime example, and he hasn't been as effective recently without Lucas protecting him, but so far I'd rate his signing as a success.

Jordan Henderson (18(4) apps, 1 goal) - 7/10

In the early few games of Henderson's Liverpool career, he seemed to be in awe of the place. He did everything cautiously, making sure he didn't make a mistake. But after a brief spell on the sidelines, he has grown into the Liverpool shirt. He is good on the ball and never stops running. Following Lucas' injury, he has moved inside to his more favoured position, and whilst he doesn't offer the same protection as Lucas, he has performed well.

Stewart Downing (17(3) apps) - 6/10


Steady is the one word I would use to describe Downing. He is a good player who provides width and keeps the ball, but he is also very frustrating. He seems to lack belief in his own ability, relying too much on the overlaps of Enrique of Johnson, rather than running at defenders himself. As I say, he has been steady enough, but the fact that we are halfway through the season and he is yet to register an assist or a goal against his name is a damning statistic.

Maxi Rodriguez (8(1) apps, 4 goals) - 7/10

Despite his goalscoring exploits towards the end of last season, Maxi spent the early part of the league campaign on the bench, whilst playing in the Carling Cup. When he did get a start at Chelsea, he seized it with both hands as he scored in our 2-1 win. Since then he has been in and out the team. His movement, eye for goal and ability to link with players such as Suarez and Bellamy, means he is unlucky not to start more games.

Steven Gerrard (3(4) apps, 2 goals) - 6/10

Injury has meant we have hardly seen our skipper so far this season. After a couple of substitute appearances, he made his first start against Man United, scoring a trademark free-kick. He played the following week against Norwich City, but has been injured since, only making a comeback on Boxing Day. His half-hour cameo against Newcastle United though showed how important a fit Gerrard is to Liverpool. As has so often been the case, much of our hopes rest on the fitness and form of our talismanic captain.

Jay Spearing (6(1) apps) - 6/10

Spearing has impressed in the Carling Cup showing he is more than adequate backup. Looked set for a run in the team following Lucas' injury, but his controversial red card at Fulham forced him to miss three games, which allowed Henderson to move into a central position. Was very good in the last match against Newcastle United and will no doubt get more chances as the season goes on.

Jonjo Shelvey (1(3) apps) - 6/10

Enjoyed a successful spell on-loan at Blackpool where he won NPower Championship Player of the Month. Was recalled when Lucas got injured and was a surprise starter in the win at Aston Villa, where he impressed. Dalglish clearly rates Shelvey, so expect him to feature more in the coming months.

Luis Suarez (20(1) apps, 8 goals)- 8/10

It has been an up and down season for Suarez so far. He has continued his scintillating form of last year, giving opposition defences the run around whilst being Liverpool's focal point in attack. However, his goals tally is nowhere near what it should be, with the Uruguayan the main culprit for missed chances, although it can be argued that is because he also creates the most for himself. Throughout the season, he has also had to endure rough treatment on and off the field. As Liverpool's dangerman, he has had to withstand a number of bad challenges, whilst the press and rival supporters have labelled him a diver. He finally lost patience with the boos he is greeted with when he made a gesture to the Fulham fans, for which he was suspended for one game. On top of all this, there has been the ongoing Evra incident, where the United left-back accused Suarez of racist remarks. From the outset, despite a lack of real evidence, people labelled Suarez as guilty, and thus the FA disciplinary committee came to the same conclusion and handed our number seven an 8-game ban. The club and supporters have stuck by their man. We can only hope an appeal is successful.

Dirk Kuyt (11(8) apps, 1 goal) - 6/10

The season has been very stop-start for Kuyt so far. With the arrival of Henderson, he was pushed to the bench. He regained his place in the side, flitting between right wing and up-front, before again being named as a sub. Whilst he still offers incredible workrate, his form hasn't been up to usual standards with a return of only 1 goal so far. For me, Kuyt is a player who gets better the more he plays. Finding himself in and out of the team means he is unable to build up a head of steam and find his best form. The problem is though, if I were to name my preferred starting line-up, Kuyt wouldn't be in it.

Andy Carroll (12(8) apps, 3 goals) - 5/10


Carroll has so far been very disappointing. Because of his huge price tag, the spotlight is always on him. But even if you forget about the fee, his performances haven't been up to scratch. At Newcastle, the team were built around his strengths, but at Liverpool it's hard to see how he fits in to the side, as we tend to play better, more attractive football when he is on the bench. He has a cracking left-foot and does link the play up well, but I believe he needs to become more of a poacher in the six yard box rather than wandering about on the edge of the box. Being in and out of the team hasn't helped him either. He needs a run in the side of 10 games or so for us to form a valid assessment. Suarez' impending ban could provide the kick-start to Carroll's Liverpool career.

Craig Bellamy (7(9) apps, 5 goals) - 8/10

Bellamy has proved to be a very shrewd free signing. He seems much more mature than his last stint at Anfield. Despite his age, he hasn't lost any of his pace, and provides a genuine threat whether he plays left wing or through the middle. His injury record means he can't play every game, but I would like to see him used more than he has been.

5 comments:

Hyh. Every player has a decent mark, but team is sixth in the table. Thank You for Your opinion. I have a little different one.

on this scoring Liverpool should have won the World Cup, EPL, CL, EL, WCC, LC, FA Cup and the barsnley and district....

Liverpool have the best defensive record in the league, thus the ratings reflect this.

The problem has been in an attacking sense, with the likes of Downing, Carroll, Kuyt all performing below par.

To finish top four, everyone needs to be at least an 8 out of 10. We are sixth because too many players have not yet reached that level.

Some very valid points here and the scores are roughly about right. I would possibly have Pepe as an 8/10. I also think Downing is a 7/10 as he has supplied some good service, its not his fault we can't score for toffee.

As for the other people commenting under the anonymous heading; if you can't back up your argument, then don't comment at all. We have played some great football at times. Had we scored just 1 goal more in every home game that we drew, then we could currently be top of the league by 1 point. That is 6 goals and we would be top. We are two points off fourth place at the turn of the year. Remember we would have come second last year had we started at Christmas. We always usually have a strong second half of the season, so bring it on as we are in a good place now.

Some very valid points here and the scores are roughly about right. I would possibly have Pepe as an 8/10. I also think Downing is a 7/10 as he has supplied some good service, its not his fault we can't score for toffee.

As for the other people commenting under the anonymous heading; if you can't back up your argument, then don't comment at all. We have played some great football at times. Had we scored just 1 goal more in every home game that we drew, then we could currently be top of the league by 1 point. That is 6 goals and we would be top. We are two points off fourth place at the turn of the year. Remember we would have come second last year had we started at Christmas. We always usually have a strong second half of the season, so bring it on as we are in a good place now.

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