Liverpool are now without a win in four games and all is not well at Anfield.
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In their opening two Champions League games they’ve now struggled against two teams who many thought they’d breeze past. Yeah, not so much.
After failing to create any clear-cut chances against FC Basel in their 1-0 defeat in Switzerland on Wednesday, Brendan Rodgers slammed his team for basic defensive errors which continue to exemplify their offensive ineptitude.
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Some fans are already hurling abuse at Rodgers following four defeats from their opening season games of the season, as life after Luis Suarez isn’t going well. Here’s three things we learned from their latest defeat.
Brendan Rodgers is blaming the defense
Following the defeat to Basel, Rodgers slammed Liverpool’s defense as their inability to defend set pieces continues to cost them points. In the 52nd minute a corner was swung in from the right which Martin Skrtel somehow headed towards his own goal instead of away. Simon Mignolet saved well but the rebound was prodded home by Marco Streller for the game-winner. Against Aston Villa in September, Gabriel Agbonlahor scored a very similar goal in another 1-0 defeat for the Reds.
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New center back Dejan Lovren, who arrived from Southampton for a whopping $40 million this summer, had another shaky evening and the same mistakes which saw Liverpool concede so many goals during the 2013-14 season keep cropping up. The difference last season was that they had so many threats going forward with Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge scoring goals for fun that it cancelled out their poor defending. They didn’t have that offensive threat in Basel on Wednesday and haven’t had it over the past few weeks with Sturridge injured and Suarez sold to Barcelona. Here is Rodgers’ assessment on the latest defeat.
“We didn’t start great and were not technically good early on but when we started to combine and create chances I thought we did enough to take something from the game,” Rodgers said. “But we defended badly from the corner and it is not for the first time. It is something that we continue to talk about in training but you need to deal with it on the field. You have to win your first contact and if you don’t do that then you can be punished. Mario Balotelli worked hard but needs to do more. He will be judged on what he creates and what he scored and he didn’t do that, but he is trying hard.”
Mario Balotelli’s barren spell is worrying
Rodgers touched on it there, you can’t fault Balotelli’s effort but it just hasn’t happened for him so far in a Liverpool shirt. Skewing a shot horrible wrong in the second half, Balotelli looked to the heavens and would have been okay with the ground swallowing him up there and then. Right now, he looks devoid of confidence and that edge to his game which we saw explode negatively at Manchester City in the past is missing.
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With Balotelli keen to convert to a team-first ethos at Anfield when that hasn’t always been the case in the past, are we seeing his individuality and unpredictability seeping away from his game? So far, one goal in seven outings in the red of Liverpool certainly suggests so. So does the image below, as Balotelli didn’t have a single touch in Basel’s penalty box in the first 45 minutes and looked completely isolated up top for most of the game.
Daniel Sturridge can’t return soon enough
Going off that last point, Balotelli needs a partner in crime and Daniel Sturridge’s thigh injury has come at a really bad time for Liverpool. Sturridge scored the winner in the opening game of the season against Saints and was crucial as Liverpool beat Spurs 3-1 away before the last international break. However, his injury when on England duty has gone hand-in-hand with Liverpool’s poor run of form as new attackers such as Balotelli, Lazar Markovic, Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert have one goal between them. Sturridge’s dynamism has been badly missed and his absence over the past three weeks has further reinforced how important his is to Liverpool’s success this season.
With Luis Suarez gone, many were hoping Sturridge could kick on and score more than the 21 PL goals he bagged last term to help a more defensive Liverpool side edge games. As they continue to concede goals cheaply, they now need Sturridge on hand to score at the other end. Good news: the 25-year-old is set to return on Saturday against West Bromwich Albion.