It will be broken, honest, this baffling trail of defeat and winless gloom that confounds the optimism of ‘it’s going to be this year isn’t it’, but then seemingly never is. But this record that no-one in Blue wants, will be changed, just because eventually, records are broken. But based on what we saw yesterday, the overriding question in my mind is: “How?”
Will it be by youth being given it’s opportunity? The sheer joy and elation on Pennington’s first goal for the Club, and at the Kop end as well, soon negated by naive defending at the other end, showing Coutinho on to his right, for him to score the replica goal he seems to score about ten times a season. Resulting in…..
….the glum face of a more seasoned campaigner, who knows another opportunity has passed him by, and in all likelihood, his last one in this fixture. Based on the resources we have at our disposal, the attempt to balance youth with a sprinkling of experience, was probably just a bit awry as the young ‘uns looked rather out of their depth, and the old fellas chosen looked to have no legs whatsoever. That said, I’m one of those that would have chosen Barry in CM instead of Davies given the formation chosen, or more likely instead of Calvert-Lewin who, despite being one of the brighter performers on the day, was probably superfluous in the event, with three players pressing up on a vulnerable Red back line, but then affording the Liverpool midfield the freedom of Stanley Park, let alone Anfield. I’m not convinced that Barry as the anchor, pushing Davies a little further forward, with Gueye left to scurry where he needed to scurry, wouldn’t have been the better tactical option, but hey, this is wonderful hindsight from a fan not a manager, let alone someone who has endless international caps and performances at the highest levels for some of the best Club sides in Europe. Koeman probably got it wrong yesterday; but whilst he may not be in the first flush of youth as an actual human, he is still a relatively inexperienced manager, and what we do know is he learns, so hopefully he will have learnt more from what he saw yesterday and this will benefit the medium and longer term ‘project’ that extends beyond one away game, albeit a derby and the apparently inevitable defeat that follows.
I find it painful to write this, but we were outplayed in almost every department yesterday, with the exception of the back line at set pieces, where Liverpool’s defence closely resembled a Circus Act, and we looked reasonably solid in comparison at corners and free kicks. But on the floor, as a wave of Liverpool attacks exposed our weak core in the absence of Schneiderlin, let alone a Barry, and a rather mystifyingly ineffectual Gueye, we were much poorer than Liverpool as total defensive unit, not much getting past Lucas or Can, and if it did, Matip and Lovren soon mopped up. Davies did his best, and again, not a bad performance from him, but we just didn’t set up right and that cost us. And no point having the insight that Liverpool’s defence isn’t that much, if the team you support doesn’t test it enough. OK, a few ifs, buts and maybes might have made things different, had deflections gone our way, or Williams outstretched boot taken a ball squarer, but in the end we got out of this game precisely what we deserved. Nothing. And that hurts. Again. What will it take to transform our performances and get a decent win at Anfield?
It isn’t using the personnel we fielded yesterday, that’s for certain. Hardly anyone emerged from that defeat with any credit. Lukaku ineffectual and disinterested; Barkley reverting to type at when he chose to release the ball (or rather, didn’t), Calvert-Lewin ok, but on scraps and I’d rather have had Mirallas on from the start or even Valencia; Gueye out of position too often and not at his harrying best; Davies ok, but just looked a half decent squad player; Holgate frequently exposed and vulnerable, and gave the ball away too much, but a lad still learning his craft; Pennington showing he needs a season at a Championship or lower PL Club to develop his positional nous; Williams and Jags solid enough if the ball was aimed at them, but exposed for lack of pace and quick feet; Baines probably the best on the day, but the best of a bad bunch; and Joel, ships three, saved a couple more, but only at fault for the Origi goal which he would probably have saved if he’d stayed in his box rather than giving it the Charge of the Light Brigade.
So, as we all know, it’s going to take a significant move in the transfer market this summer, as well as developing the obvious talent the youth has got, and the tactical awareness of the manager which is not always the best, but I still believe is part of his learning and probably gets a 7/10 so far this season.
On to OT, not exactly a happy hunting ground, to face a United side smarting at not being able to turn 75% possession and 18 shots in to anything other than a 0-0 draw; we won’t set up or defend anything like West Brom, and we must go in to the game intent on winning it. I’d rather win; then I’d rather lose by playing a winning-style game but losing and learning from it; than a stale 0-0 draw that only proved we can stop sides scoring if every man is behind the ball. And then bring on Leicester.