Liverpool getting there, though Kop Idols lacking killer instinct
Liverpool’s narrow 1-0 win over Sunderland extended their unbeaten run to seven in all competitions. They were perhaps unlucky not score more.
After a turbulent first half of the season, the Reds have steadily started to grind out results, are four points off fourth place Manchester United and 5/1 with Coral to finish in a Champions League place (top four) this season.
Summer signings which were deemed a waste of money a couple of months into the campaign have started to showcase their talent.
Emre Can, a 21-year-old German defensive midfielder signed from Bayer Leverkusen is demonstrating that he can be a mainstay in the first team after some composed performances at centre half, while 20-year-old Serbian attacker Lazar Markovic had his best game yet against the Black Cats.
Adapting to any professional league as a youngster is hard, though doing it in the English top flight is a totally different ball game. Couple that with trying to justify a high transfer fee, and psychologically that can be a tough task.
Markovic arrived for a fee of £20m in the summer with a big reputation. Having been sent off at Anfield in the Champions League against Real Madrid, he was the subject of much ridicule; however, against Gus Poyet’s Sunderland. the Serb showed another side of his game.
He not only took his goal well, combining with Philippe Coutinho, but also hit the angle of post and crossbar with a fantastic, improvised effort from the edge of the area. However, Markovic’s defensive contribution was also equally impressive.
Deployed at wing back in another of boss Brendan Rodgers’ experimental systems, he identified with the need to track back.
One major criticism of Liverpool this season, though, is their inability to effectively replace the injured Daniel Sturridge. Mario Balotelli has quite simply failed to fit in, while veteran striker Rickie Lambert works hard, though is no replacement for the England striker’s goals.
The 25-year-old is close to a return, and this could bring back that killer instinct the Reds have been missing. Sturridge’s link-up play with prodigy Raheem Sterling may be the formula to pushing on for the rest of the season. Adam Lallana, who was proving to be an effective selection as one part of the Rodgers’ offensive triumvirate in a 3-4-3 system, is due back in the next month, though will make a considerable difference.
It is a teething process right now for Rodgers. What’s clear is that the diamond system they utilised to great effect last term was in place to accommodate and get the best out of Luis Suarez, Sturridge and Sterling, also allowing Jordan Henderson, Steven Gerrard and Coutinho to fit in nicely further back.
Whether he reverts back to this when Sturridge returns remains to be seen, though if Rodgers has learned anything over the last 18 months at the helm, it’s old adage that, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’.