What happened to Liverpool?

Nick Cohen

Last Year

  • Liverpool had a break-out season last year in which they finished 2nd, only behind champions-to-be: Manchester City. After finishing 7th in 2012/13, the combination of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, better known as SAS (Sturridge and Suarez), joined with Brendan Rodgers’ attacking tactics tore apart premier league defenses. A combined 52 goals among both strikers, 31 of them coming from Suarez, and made up for the shaky defense that conceded 50 goals. Ultimately, a loss at home to Chelsea and a stunning 3-3 draw at Crystal Palace (in which they were 3-0 up and conceded 3 goals in the last 15 minutes) opened the door for City.

The Summer

  • Despite allegations that both Barcelona and Real Madrid wanted Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez, it seemed that the Champions League qualification had done the job to keep the mercurial superstar. Nevertheless, another biting incident, this time on Giorgio Chiellini of Italy in the World Cup, meant a 4 month ban. Liverpool decided to cash in for an approximate 75 million pounds to Barcelona. His sale led to a spending spree of over 100 million pounds, almost too similar to Spurs after the departure of Bale. Incoming were the likes of Lazar Markovic (20 million), Emre Can (10), Mario Balotelli (16), Alberto Moreno (12), Dejan Lovren (20), Rickie Lambert (4), and Adam Lallana (25 million pounds).

The Defense

  • After selling former Vice-Captain, Daniel Agger, to Brondby (for a fee of around 3 million pounds) Liverpool filled their defensive deficiencies with Dejan Lovren, their most expensive defender to date. Despite some commanding performances that included a goal in the beginning of the season, he has since been relegated to the bench, behind Kolo Toure. Individual defending, though, hasn’t been the only problem. Liverpool’s set-piece defending has been dismal, a recent example being Mathieu Debuchy’s headed goal on Sunday at Anfield. After the initial clearance of the free kick, the ball was sent back in the mixer. Man marking had been long forgotten and the lapse in concentration led to Arsenal’s first goal of the game. This style of defending has been, it seems, the mold Liverpool have been working off. Unfortunately, Mignolet craven presence between the sticks has also had an effect on Liverpool’s poor defensive record, resulting in the Belgian replacement by former 3rd string goalkeeper Brad Jones.


  • Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge are both out of the picture. The latter, injured in September on International duty, was meant to be the goal scoring outlet to replace Suarez. The same purpose was attended to with the purchase of Mario Balotelli from Milan and Rickie Lambert from Southampton. Among both forwards, there is only one league goal, accounting for the dearth Liverpool have been enduring this season. Lambert’s lack of pace, combined with Balotelli’s almost nonexistent work-rate and dismal finishing (including the open-goal miss against QPR earlier in the season) seem to account for the woes. Raheem Sterling has also been quiet in the league, showing signs of fatigue, and a considerable decrease in composure epitomized by his 3 one-on one goal-scoring opportunities against Manchester United’s David De Gea a few weeks ago.


In essence, Liverpool’s tribulation is evenly spread among various aspects of their game. Their forwards can’t score, the defenders can’t defend, and the new signings have mostly been quiet. Sturridge’s injury has only exacerbated LFC’s problems. The biggest issue, however, has been Brendan Rodgers’ inability to adapt to his new squad. As tempting as retaining the playing style of last season must be, he no longer has the personnel for it. Both Sturridge and Suarez have been replaced by Rickie Lambert, who lacks the pace, and Mario Balotelli, who lacks the work-rate, to attempt an emulation of the 2013/14 season. So far it has been difficult finding a winning formula but the team has been at its best with a more conservative approach, mainly involving Lucas Leiva, as the main enforcing midfielder. The imminent return of Sturridge can only mean good news, but Liverpool fans should no longer expect the magic the league witnessed last season.

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