Liverpool have scored just 24 league goals this season, barely more than a goal a game. This low goal scoring total means that Bolton, Norwich and an effectively striker-less Sunderland have all scored more than Liverpool, a side who spent almost £60 million since last January bringing in forwards in the shape of Bellamy, Carroll and Luis Suarez.
Dalglish has pointed at bad luck being the main factor behind Liverpool’s attacking impotence. Liverpool do have the fourth highest shots per game in the league, but out of their 18 chances a game they only manage 5.7 efforts on target. Liverpool’s lack of attacking potency has led to them drawing 8 games, only Villa have drawn more this season.
In the context of their big spend on forwards as well as on midfielders, Adam, Downing and Henderson, there is surely no excuse for their sides inability to convert chances into goals. It is surprising to read that of their 24 goals, only 11 of them have been from open play, with 8 being from free kicks, 1 a penalty and 3 own goals.
The 0-0 draw played out with Stoke was a clear example of the problems facing Liverpool right now. Suarez has been a dynamic presence and of course will be missed whilst suspended but in reality he has been nowhere near as good as some would have you believe. Suarez in 18 appearances in the league he has only scored 5 goals, hardly prolific, and contributed a meager 1 assist. There are 31 players in the EPL who have scored more than him this season.
The main problem with his ban is that Carroll is not firing either. With him forming the base of the attacks he needs to find form. Funnily enough Liverpool seems like the ideal place for Carroll to play as they adopt a direct approach playing more crosses per game than any other side. Against Stoke Kuyt was picked instead of Carroll to lead the line which implies Dalglish is losing patience with Carroll.
In essence the signings made by Dalglish just haven’t hit form. Stuart Downing, a £20 million winger, has yet to score a goal, compare that with England rival Adam Johnson, playing less regularly, who has scored 5. Downing’s record makes dismal reading, lauded by many, but he has scored zero goals and got zero assists from 21 league games this season.
Downings form is indicative of a wider problem at Liverpool a real lack of goal scoring midfielders. Although the return of Steven Gerrard has certainly been timely. Think Football have previously noted how Gerrard’s return may cause a tactical headache for Dalglish but his dynamism will be welcome for a side that lack any real flair at the moment.
One point of note is that last season a key performer was Raul Meireles who scored five goals for the club and was voted player of the season by ESPN, above the likes of Rooney and Parker. Meireles was used in a box-to-box capacity that was key to Liverpool’s survival last term. The spark he provided was most obviously displayed as the club beat Arsenal 2-0 earlier this season with Meireles coming off the bench to be involved in both goals.
Strikers are not solely to blame for the clubs inability to score goals. Dalglish must shoulder some of the blame, firstly for poor signings and secondly for tactical reasons. One factor is his inability to stick with a pairing up front. Many observers felt Suarez and Carroll were signed to complement each other but the pair rarely play together from the start of games so have yet to form a partnership.
As well as this tactics are on the face of it somewhat negative despite the chances on goal, many of which are from outside of the area. Dalglish often looks to play a more defensive 4-5-1 even with the, theoretically, expansive Charlie Adam plays a slightly more subdued holding role. His form has also not been great since his move, his pass completion is only just over 80%, and whilst he has four assists he does take set pieces.
One reason for this is that the loss of Lucas Leiva prompted Adam to play a more responsible midfield role. Perhaps if Leiva was still fit Adam would be allowed more freedom to get forward and create chances as was his role at Blackpool. Of course Dalglish could not predict the injury to Leiva but he should have hedged his bets by signing another holding player. Dalglish signed three midfielders in the summer but did not sign one holding player which means in the absence of Lucas Dalglish has to re-jig his sides formation.
For Liverpool finishing in the top four will simply not happen unless they score more goals. Buying players seems unlikely especially with the investment that has taken place under Dalglish. The answer could lie in increasing the playing time of Bellamy who has four goals in his five starts for the club (15 apps including subs) Not a natural winger but he could play wide on the right or in support of Carroll.
The tactics employed by Dalglish against Stoke were typical of this. A perplexing 3-6-1 formation with Kuyt, industrious but ineffective in front of goal, leading the line. With 6 in midfield the side dominated possession but only managed a dismal one shot on target. Even with Gerrard and Adam in the middle Liverpool failed to create real chances. The 3-6-1 could also be accused of being negative as the two wing-backs worked as a 5-4-1 at times. Changing his sides tactics to face Stoke at home has to be considered both strange and negative.
Playing a 4-4-2 would leave Liverpool a lot more open. So far they have defended well but without Lucas any midfield pairing would leave the club exposed and leave the defence without a midfield shield. One could arguably go as far as to say that the loss of Lucas, a defensive midfield destroyer, has had catastrophic effects on their attacking game due to the wider implications it has led to for the club tactically. Acting as a screen, in the same way Parker does for Spurs, Lucas allows other players to get forward more freely.
Liverpool are now 5 points behind 4th place Chelsea and although Chelsea themselves have had problems it is a big gap. They do still have to host Chelsea and Arsenal but by the time those fixtures come about Liverpool could be well out of the race for 4th.
Dalglish was brought to the club during a wave of hysteria as the club were rock bottom under Hodgson the fans relished in the return for ‘King Kenny’ but now the honeymoon period has worn off Liverpool fans must seriously question whether he is the right man for the job. Especially in the context of the huge amounts of money he has spent, in honesty, to little effect. One could argue that this is a transitional season, but as is the case for both Chelsea and Arsenal who sit above Liverpool in the Premier League. A change of manager is unlikely, but perhaps one should be considered if Liverpool do not start firing.
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