Sanjay Nair explains how inconsistency and uncertainty are hurting Liverpool over and over with it seemingly impossible for the Reds to put a run of wins together without falling apart.
The stage is set perfectly for Liverpool to achieve their number one objective – qualify for the Champions League. Matches against fellow Champions League aspirants have been dealt with and those results show Liverpool are on the right path to improvement. While the other title and top four contenders battle it out against each other, Liverpool have a seemingly easier run until the end of the season.
But we all know THAT has been Liverpool’s biggest issue this season. Liverpool once again failed to finish off a game they should have had no trouble getting through. The horrors of Dean Court in December came back to haunt Liverpool when they conceded a late equaliser and dropped two points against Bournemouth.
For a team short on bench quality, losing out on one stand-out performer can be a serious blow. Imagine when you cannot call upon three of your best players! Despite what statistics might show, Liverpool are definitely not a one-man, or as some put it a one-Mané, team… by no stretch of the imagination, they are not. What they do lack, however, is consistency of any sort. The same set of players that defend or attack brilliantly in one game, panic and commit school boy errors in the next game.
When you are playing in the most competitive league in the world, that is all it takes to drop points – one mistake. Liverpool at home to Bournemouth went one worse. Two mistakes, two goals and two dropped points.
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Wijnaldum, who is usually very confident on the ball, was never under so much pressure so as to attempt that back pass. Even if he was being harried, kicking the ball away from goal would have seemed the only logical option or even basic footballing common sense. But then, unfortunately for him and Liverpool, he took the risky path out of trouble. Though he did redeem himself with a confident display from then on and provided a wonderful assist for Origi, it proved to be a costly mistake in the final analysis.
With Matip replacing Coutinho, Liverpool had three regular center-backs and yet conceded a goal inside the box. Absolutely baffling! Though King was given too much time and space on the ball, the shot that squirmed through to him should not have been allowed in the first place. The headed clearance and the marking by the midfielders left much to be desired. Defending, of all the aspects of football, is a team function and each and every player on the team needs to execute his role well. Otherwise Liverpool are going to go home every other night in disappointment and frustration.
Away at Stoke and without the dynamic Brazilian duo to start proceedings, a draw would have been seen as a decent result considering it has always been a tough fixture. Again, one lapse in concentration was all it took for Stoke to take the lead. Lovren was nowhere near Walters who obviously loves to score against Liverpool and obliged with a thumping header.
Fortunately for us, Coutinho and Firmino with a wonder-strike along with two magnificent saves from the oft-maligned Mignolet, made sure we came out of this fixture exceeding expectations and another vital three points. Another up-and-down performance all over the field without any certainty of which way the match would turn until the final whistle.
Sure, we need a few high-quality players to ensure we have enough like-for-like replacements in each area of the playing field to afford a few injuries throughout the season. But for ambitious players to even consider moving to Liverpool, the ones present right now need to bring in consistency into their approach.
The season is still very much in their grasp and we can still dream of being amongst the elite in Europe. Just six games remain between Liverpool and either Champions League qualification or another season of regret. Six games for the current crop to prove their worth and prolong their Liverpool careers.