Liverpool v Fulham - 9th November 2013

18/11/2013 22:52

Hello all Auld Reekie Reds,

As promised for a while we have decided to start a blog commenting on LFC goings on and the matches each week. As this is just starting up we'd love to hear your thoughts and hopefully it will help spark some discussion and interaction among the members. So without further ado:

 

Liverpool 4 - 0 Fulham
Saturday 9th November 2013
 
Match Report
 
This game had everything you could want as a Liverpool fan, excitement, heart, passion, constant forward momentum, an untroubled defence, and oh yeah 4 very good goals.
 
I don’t think it’s an understatement to say that this was one of our easiest games of the season and a great performance, which is something we have struggled to do against the mid-table sides in the last 3-4 years. After reverting to a flat back 4, which was almost untroubled for the whole 90+ minutes, we looked a much more solid proposition that the game against Arsenal. Fulham don’t have the same movement and attacking threat that Arsenal have, but with a flat back 4 each defender knows who he should be covering, the 2 wingbacks know when they can and can’t push forward, and overall it’s just a much more stable system, and I think we will probably be seeing it much more from Rodgers after this game.
 
This system then freed up the midfield to play the game they wanted to. With Lucas shielding the defence, Gerrard, Henderson and Coutinho passed through, and over, the Fulham midfield with ease; and with S&S upfront pulling the Fulham defence in tight to stop Suarez just running through them, Cissokho, and particularly Johnson, had all the space they could dream of on the flanks to put pressure on the Fulham defence, and the success of this was evident in all 4 goals.
 
The fact that the opener was an own goal isn’t important, it was that it came from a beautifully delivered ball from Stevie G (of which he made a number over the course of the game), and the second was from a corner ball placed at head height right on the 6 yard line. The fact is we won 9 corners and 13 free kicks during the game, all pretty much directly as a result of this pressure and constant pushing of the opposition. The problem we have had in recent seasons is that too many times we have gone 1-0 up and then sat back, afraid of losing our narrow lead. But this season has been a revelation on that front. When we grab a goal, we then look to push on and say “well boys, why don’t we get 1 or 2 more to make this safe”. Our midfield were constantly harassing the Fulham players so they had no time to think, and this created our 4th when Gerrard dispossessed and played Suarez in for another calm collected finish.
 
Liverpool Player Roundups
 
GK - Simon Mignolet (No.22) – 7/10
This was a solid performance from the Belgian International. He was rarely troubled by Fulham, which is why I can’t give him a higher rating, but he was up to the task when asked (as he has been for most of the season), and the best you can say about a performance is that you rarely noticed your own keeper, which was very much the case during this match.
 
RB – Glen Johnson (No.02) – 8/10
I’ve always liked Glen Johnson, and this game demonstrated the reason why. He was up and down the line all game, and constantly looking for the ball. Whilst there will always be questions about how wise it is for him to push so far up the field, in a game like this you want him in your team. Fulham set themselves out to defend, and with Berbatov the lone man up front, Johnson had the opportunity (and somehow the space) to pepper the penalty box with crosses in from that right side throughout the game. Whilst not being instrumental in the score line on the day, his troubling of the defenders created the space for our forward players, and won a number of corners which we capitalised on to great effect.
 
CB – Martin Skrtel (No.37) – 9/10
Text book centre back performance from the hardnosed Slovak. We will need a long term presence at the back to replace Jamie Carragher, and whilst Toure has played this role fantastically since he came in, I think Skrtel is the long term solution. He and Cissokho had Berbatov is their pockets all game (not that the lonely Fulham striker put up much of a fight), and looked comfortable in defence throughout, no signs of the errors we all remember from last season filtering into his game this time around. He is also one of our biggest threats from corners and set pieces. Time and again he uses his strength and positional awareness to lose his marker, and his capacity to time his connection with the ball on headers I think is unrivalled in the squad, as demonstrated by his goal at the weekend.
 
CB – Daniel Agger (No.05) – 7/10
Again this was a solid performance from Agger. Still trying to find his way back into the first team on a more consistent basis, he showed a little sign of rustiness with a few wayward passes, but all in all he never really looked troubled during the 90 minutes, but we will have to wait and see a run of games where he is challenged before we can make a true call.
 
LB – Aly Cissokho (No.20) – 8/10
I have been impressed by this lad since he joined the club, and it’s primarily down to his attitude. He nullified any threat in Defence when Berbatov drifted over towards the sideline, was comfortable and composed in the air and on the deck, and made a number of solid tackles through the 60-65 minutes he was on the pitch. He is a very different player from his replacement when he went off (Enrique), but he offers something very different and I think Rodgers saw that early on and brought him in because of it. Enrique is one of my favourite Liverpool players. He has the ability to bomb up the wing, pop a good ball into the box, cut inside for a shot and still usually make it back to cover his defensive duties. However, he is not an out and out defender, and I’ve often wondered if he would be more comfortable at left wing on a regular basis. Whereas Cissokho is showing all the signs of a hard old school defender. He made his way up the wing a number of times, but his final delivery was not particularly good during this game, and we ended up getting far more penetration from the right hand side through Johnson. But he gives Rodgers the option of playing a solid back 4 that will allow Johnson to venture up the park and still have cover at the back, and in some of the tighter games I think that will be key.
 
DM – Lucas Leiva (No.21) – 8/10
Those of you who have spent much time with me will know that I believe Lucas is one of the most underrated players in the Premiership, and I’m sure a number of you at this stage will think I’m nuts at saying that, but I have seen magical moments from him, and he is consistently rated by the squad (and manager) as one of the best players on the training pitch. In the 2 seasons before joining Liverpool he won the Brazilian League player of the year and his highly rated in his homeland by most football fans, so why not so much in England? That is because he won those accolades as an Attacking Midfielder. Unfortunately since we lost Alonso and Mascherano, we have not had a full time Defensive Midfielder, and with the need for players like Gerrard, Adam (as was), Coutinho etc to push forward, it is Lucas’s responsibility to hold the line and protect the back 4. Now he does this job very well, puts a good hard challenge in and is overall a very solid DM, and he was again this weekend. But you can see from those forward penetrating passes that he does make, that he has much more of an attacking ability and instinct that he is given credit for. I look forward to the day we sign a proper out and out DM, so that Lucas will be released to roam forward, and then I think we will truly see what this lad can do.
 
MF – Jordan Henderson (No.14) – 7/10
This was a game that illustrated both sides of Jordan Henderson. I’ve probably seen Henderson play more than all of the other Liverpool players when I used to go with my old man to watch the Sunderland games, and he is without doubt a good player, but we are still waiting him to become the finished product. His work rate can’t be questioned, and his ability to pick a pass, well Suarez’s first goal is says it all, but given his attacking midfield role I still have doubts over his finishing ability. He grabs a great goal or two over the course of a season, but I just wonder if he still doubts himself when taking a shot and it’s more of a hit and hope than a clean determined strike. Time will tell how he develops in the team, and it’s still early days, but I think as time goes by we will start to see him drop deeper and act as more of a feeder to the forward guys with that passing ability of his. But all in all a solid performance against Fulham, he worked hard, created some opportunities, and that pass to Suarez makes him worthy of a 7 this week.
 
MF – Steven Gerrard (No.8) – 10/10
A top, top player! – nothing more needed here
 
MF – Philippe Coutinho (No.10) – 7/10
A good first game back for the little Brazilian. He showed his rustiness with a few off the mark passes during the game, but also showed some of that awesome pace and ball control that has made him a quick favourite of the Anfield crowd. He was desperate to get in on the goal scoring act, and it was a shame he didn’t, but his drive and motivation to push forward and look to pick a pass for his fellow teammates is unrivalled in the squad except by maybe Stevie. Overall, he showed glimpses throughout the game of his quality, and I have no doubt some more match time will get him right back up there.
 
ST – Daniel Sturridge (No.15) – 8/10
The S&S partnership this season has worked wonders, and perhaps sparks a return to the only English Stike Partnership of the old days. One thing you can count on is that they will trouble defenders and create chances for each other. Against Fulham most of those opportunities just happened to fall to Suarez (although Suarez’s abilities to create something out of nothing played no small part in this), but this was a “for the team” performance from our No.10. He ran inside, in and out of the channels, lifted his head and looked for his team mates; all things that he never did whilst at Chelsea. He is in a team that plays to his strengths and in which he is respected, and that has made him arguably England’s first choice XI alongside Rooney. Like any good striker, Sturridge’s frustration at not being able to get on the score sheet was obvious when Rodgers took him off, but I think that was clever from the manager. The game was won, and this way Sturridge can say to himself that he would have scored if he had stayed on, rather than the alternative of him not scoring when the team scores a handful and maybe knocking his confidence just that little bit. I have no doubt he will get goals throughout this season, and we will need him if we are to maintain our challenge for Top 4.
 
ST – Luis Suarez (No.07) – 9/10
There is very little I can do to comment on Suarez besides telling you to watch the highlights of the game. Once again he chased every ball, tore apart another Premiership Defence, linked well with his strike partner and grabbed a brace to boot. In my own opinion he is in the top 3 strikers in the world at the moment (alongside Messi and Ronaldo), and defences seem petrified every time they see him come near, which creates the acres of space we seemed to have against a defensive minded Fulham even after reverting to a flat back 4. He forced the Fulham defence to play tight just to try and stop him, which left Johnson and Cissokho to run up and down the wings at will. For me what typifies Luis is that at 4-0, with already having 2 goals behind him, he looked almost inconsolable when he missed a moderately easy rebound on the edge of the 6 yard box. He didn’t notice the score line, or that the game was wrapped up, all he cared about was that he missed an easy shot, and that is the kind of passion we need back at Anfield on a regular basis.
 
Substitutes
 
LB – Jose Enrique (No.03)
Good to see Enrique get half an hour back on the pitch. He has been missed for parts of this season (see my Cissokho review previously), but fortunately we now have the squad depth and variety of players to cover him when this happens, which we haven’t had for the last few seasons. He showed a fair bit of rust, and he will need some time to get back up to fitness, but we will need him this season, and he remains one of my favourite players on the park.
 
MF – Joe Allen (No.24)
I liked Allen as a player before we brought him over to Anfield, and I think he still remains a good player. But he will always provide a wayward pass or two, and I don’t think he has yet fully adapted to the pace needed to play in the Liverpool side. Players need game time, and Joe has not had much this season. He had a decent time for the time he was on the pitch, but by that stage of the match it was easy for us, and he didn’t do anything that particularly stood out for me in that time, but only game time will tell whether he shows the quality required to play regularly in a team that is improving leaps and bounds under Rodgers.
 
ST – Victor Moses (No.12)
Moses is a good player to have on our bench to bring on as a late substitute, or to play when Rodgers wants a 3 man strike force with Suarez in a free role, but his finishing ability this season has not been at its best. He has great positional awareness and certainly troubles defences with his movement and runs, but his ability to beat a man and place a good shot on target just isn’t up there at the moment alongside S&S (but then very few players are). Again Moses didn’t do much to stand out in this game, but like the other substitutes utilised, the game was already over by the time they came on so can’t fault any of the performances.
 
Opposition Standout Player
 
Standout Player – Scott Parker (MF)
By far Fulham’s best player in a difficult game for the Fulham side. He was shouting, battling, tackling (and fouling) all the way across the middle of the park, and demonstrated the passion that he has shown at a number of clubs over the years. Even at 3-0 down he was still throwing himself at everything, even getting a shouting at from our Captain for a late challenge, followed by an acknowledging smile and nod of respect from Stevie G. He is a consistent player week in week out, and it was just unfortunate today that the team his was playing for were outclassed.
 
Final Summary
 
Overall this was a great game from us. Solid defence at the back, a terrorising midfield, some great crossing and cut out passes, and clinical finishing when required. A lot of chances were missed, but when you can create 32 shots to 4 in the game, you can afford to miss a couple. The best part of this game from my view point was the fitness, desire and work rate of the team as a whole. We are making it very difficult for teams to get time on the ball, and that will always help to win games, and we now have a strike force that will consistently get us goals, which is going to make us a hard team to beat this season.
 
The signs are Anfield is returning to being the fortress of old, and I think players are starting to feel that apprehension that used to be so famous when they are standing in the tunnel and realise, “THIS IS ANFIELD!” 

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