Cahill 34, Arteta 50
Things might have improved off the field for Liverpool Football Club this week, but they certainly didn’t get any better on it. Having slumped to a deflating defeat against local rivals Everton, the Reds now sit nineteenth in the table, saved from assuming the bottom spot only by West Ham United’s inferior goal difference. It was a rude awakening for many fans, who following the long-overdue departure of Tom Hicks and George Gillett. had let themselves fill with optimism. Debts may have been cleared, and come January there may be something of a transfer kitty to work with, but there is far more urgent work to attend to at Anfield. Liverpool need to find some on-field quality from somewhere if they want to prevent this from becoming their worst season in recent memory.
In essence, this was the most worrying aspect of Liverpool’s game yesterday; the sheer lack of quality. The Reds’ loss didn’t come about through lack of trying – indeed, they had the lion’s share of the possession and spent a good amount of the second period camped in Everton’s half. However, despite this, not once did Liverpool look like a real match for their rivals, and not once did they really look like coming back into the game. In fact, they looked tactically incoherent and technically inferior for virtually the whole of the 90 minutes.
There were problems all over the pitch (not least another display that makes it hard to believe this Fernando Torres is the same Fernando Torres that scored 33 goals in his first season in England), but perhaps the most evident one yesterday was the almost complete lack of width. Carragher and Konchesky offered virtually nothing going forward, and Maxi was as poor as Joe Cole was invisible. As a result, the Reds were forced to play a narrow game, and with their only attacking outlet snuffed out by Everton’s imperious centre-back pairing for most of the match their attack was rendered woefully impotent.
This dearth in real footballing quality is a deep concern for Liverpool. Admittedly, Glen Johnson and Kuyt were missing yesterday, and Torres is profoundly off-colour, but they still look short in many areas of the pitch. There are Reds fans now calling for Hodgson’s head on a plate (and new owner John W Henry fired the Boston Red Sox’s General Manager and Team manager within weeks of taking over the baseball club), but even if you set aside the question of who would actually take Hodgson’s place, it’s hard to say exactly how a new figure would change the Reds’ fortunes with the squad available to him. There are those who think a simple injection of enthusiasm and spirit is all the team need, but when players like Kyrgiakos and Maxi Rodriguez continue to warrant a first team place it’s hard to believe the rot doesn’t run deeper than this.
The new owners have promised the manager money to spend in January, but things have to change quicker than that. This collection of players is what Liverpool have to work with for the next twelve weeks; everyone else has fled the coop (in a somewhat cruel twist of fate, at the other end of Europe yesterday, Alberto Aquilani scored a brilliant strike for Juventus). Hodgson needs to get them together and find some footballing quality from somewhere if he wants to save both his job and his club’s season.
23 Carragher – 16 Kyrgiakos – 37 Skrtel – 3 Konchesky
17 Maxi – 4 Raul Meireles – 21 Lucas Leiva – 10 J. Cole
71 min 24 N’Gog on for 21 Lucas Leiva, 79 min 19 Babel on for 10 J. Cole, 84 min 14 Jovanovic on for 17 Maxi