Reds scrap past Stoke but questionable defence still a concern


Liverpool needed penalties to beat Stoke and enter the final of the League Cup, after a dismal night of football at Anfield. 

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Jurgen Klopp made two changes to the lineup that started at Norwich, bringing in Lallana for Jordan Ibe and Jon Flanagan coming in place for injured Clyne, for Flanagan it was his first start in a Liverpool shirt after torturous 626 days.

As far as team shape is concerned, it was a 4-3-3 false 9 system with Firmino once again persisted as a false 9 floating forward. The other personnel were pretty much the same as was against Norwich.

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Liverpool were a bit deeper in shape and in contrast with normal, the main reason behind it was presence of Crouch and Walters for Stoke City.

The presence of tall players enabled Potters to play more directly and test the Liverpool defence more often than not pushing the Reds behind. This created a huge gap between midfield line and the forward line making transition play from defence to attack be of less significance.

Lucas was most of the time found in between the center-backs helping them to mark Crouch, Walters started on the right hand side forcing Can to be with Moreno every single time ball was fed aerially in that direction.

Henderson was helping young Flanagan defend against Arnautovic, these deeper roles because of opposition’s physical forward line players created gap between the midfield and forward line about which I was talking about few moments ago.

Firmino, Lallana and Milner were pressing in tight areas but lack of support from midfield and lack of good touches from themselves just never allowed Liverpool to have dominant possession of the ball and create chances that could test Butland.

Klopp made a bold change at an hour mark, replacing captain Henderson with Benteke, this move was just because Liverpool were struggling to hold up the play in Stoke’s half and need of the hour was some presence in Stoke’s box too.

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The Belgian was alright as far as holding up the ball is concerned and allowing runners to run around him and create more threats for opposition to deal with.

Now, we directly move to the defensive section, which was again wobbly by any standard.

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We take an instance of the Stoke goal, Moreno is at fault here, he is a left-back and he’s completely out of his position on this occasion, Spaniard has the tendency to tuck in few times centrally which does not help the cause and leave Liverpool exposed in that area.

Sakho went to cover up but Kolo Toure at that moment, took a wrong decision to run straight after Arnautovic who was already a yard ahead of him, the Ivorian should have been covering that front post area and in doing so, could have stopped the ball coming in which eventually led to the goal.

This has been a key problem for Liverpool, players getting out of positions in the defensive line will never help the cause, lack of commanding figure in that back-line also not improving things as everybody seem to take their own decisions and by doing so they create a huge problem for the team.

Credit should be given to Stoke City for the way they fought back at Anfield, they first came here to take the sting out of the game with possession play and frustrating Liverpool, they were successful in doing that, presence of Crouch and Walters meant that aerial threats were always there for the Reds’ to deal.

Klopp, on the other hand must have been delighted by the fact his team are in the final, but he knows that if this kind of disjointed performance continues to behold, the silverware may not be the final destination for him and his team. Defence especially was again not good enough and serious care must be taken to rectify it.

By Mizgan Ahmed on 28th January, 2016                                                                                       @mizgans

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