Kenny Dalglish’s top-four hopefuls Liverpool faced Europa League outfit Stoke City for the third time this season when they clashed at Anfield on Saturday. The Reds have failed to score in two of those meetings. In the only game where they did find the net, in the Carling Cup tie earlier this season, Uruguayan attacker Luis Suarez bagged both goals. Unfortunately for Dalglish, the former Ajax star was unavailable for selection this time around. Suarez was sorely missed.
While it is important to stress that Liverpool are not a one-man team, after all they have coped for much of the season without their talismanic skipper Steven Gerrard and also managed to beat table-toppers Manchester City in the Carling Cup without Suarez last week, there are certain fixtures where Suarez’s immense creativity and skill can be the difference between scoring goals or drawing blanks.
His record in front of goal this season has not been that great – Suarez has struck just five times in the Premier League so far this campaign – but he creates chances and tricks defenders. Given that the 24-year-old is currently Liverpool’s top-scorer with such a low number of goals, it is perhaps unsurprising that even struggling sides Blackburn Rovers and Bolton Wanderers have found the net on more occasions than the Reds this term.
Suarez’s obvious replacement, £35m striker Andy Carroll, did not even start against Stoke. The goalless Dirk Kuyt was instead given a chance to lead the line. And when Carroll did eventually come on – in place of the man who was bought to supply him, Stewart Downing – he was once again left frustrated, not only by a lack of service but also because referee Howard Webb failed to penalise Stoke’s Robert Huth for a headlock on the England striker in the box.
It has become obvious that for one reason or another, Liverpool are simply not finding the net often enough this season. While Dalglish’s side have been superb at the back and have shipped just 18 goals in 21 games, they have lacked the cutting edge expected of a team with ambitions of landing in the top four. Despite being unbeaten on home turf this season, the Reds have now drawn seven of their 11 games at Anfield so far this term. That they have only gained a point on so many occasions – often against lower sides – can be no fluke. Liverpool are failing to down break opposition defences.
There are two solutions to this problem. The first would be to stick with record-signing Carroll through thick and thin and give him a good run of games in order to build his confidence. In addition to this, Dalglish would need to dip into the transfer market and sign a quality winger to supply Carroll because summer signings Downing, Charlie Adam and Jordan Henderson have been unable to consistently provide him with golden opportunities.
The other option would be to bring in a reputable forward this month. Darren Bent and Jermain Defoe have both been linked with Liverpool in recent weeks. Whether there is any serious interest in either of those players remains to be seen, but for many supporters one thing is clear – new players are needed if the Reds are to achieve their goal of finishing in the top-four.
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