By Rebecca Parry.
The Reds had hit a rich vein of form until they were beaten by Manchester United again before the international break. But two weeks away from league action could be just what they need to get their top-four bid back on track . . .
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Liverpool had been on a great run since the turn of the year – with their last loss in the league coming at Old Trafford last December – until their oldest rivals managed to do the double over them at Anfield last weekend.
The Reds didn’t offer much in terms of creativity; and for the first time in a while, it appeared as though their system was slightly stale. Daniel Sturridge was struggling because of lack of service, and the away side did look like they wanted it more. With Steven Gerrard not starting after returning from injury, he looked like the perfect substitution to bring some life into the game. However, his part was played for only 38 seconds, after frustration and passion seemed to get the better of the skipper, resulting in a straight red card.
Although Liverpool did step up the tempo after being reduced to ten men, and pulled a goal back through Sturridge, there were still few chances in the game overall. They have managed without their star striker for months this season, although it’s only since hitting a good run of form after Christmas that they have really looked like challenging for a top-four spot.
Brendan Rodgers has found a way to rework the system since Luis Suarez’s departure to Barcelona in the summer, and an international break is another good opportunity to regroup and start fresh. Following the two-week break, it’s the beginning of the ‘business end’ of the season. Sometimes a change is as good as a rest; and adapting the system to suit individual players’ qualities could be just what Liverpool need.
There have been numerous times in the past few weeks where players like Raheem Sterling have played out of position. Therefore, we’ve only seen glimpses of what players can do but they have not been able to fully make an impact on the game, much like when the 20-year-old has played at right wing-back. Sterling’s impressive display while playing for England on Friday night proved it may not be so much an issue of form, but more about where he is being played.
Vital components of Liverpool’s game, like their quick touch passing, haven’t been as effective of late. You wonder if teams are now used to playing them at their own game – just as United did at Anfield a couple of weeks ago.
Club football fans are not necessarily fans of international breaks, preferring to see their team play week in, week out. However, Liverpool have had a lot of fixtures recently, especially with cup replays. A fresh outlook could be just what they are looking for, and help them to play unpredictable and exciting football again. With injuries to the players like Lucas Leiva, Sturridge and Gerrard, it may have been hard to find that balance, but with the next fixture being Arsenal at the Emirates, the games are growing increasingly tough as we enter the final stage of the season.
The Reds may have lost to United, but they still have enough games to win those points back. And with an especially tight race for the top four, it will only take another run of good form to get right back in the mix.