They may have had a promising start to the season but last night’s game at Anfield exposed some frailties in Liverpool’s armour.
This may seem a knee-jerk reaction to being taken to extra-time by Notts County – a game which Liverpool ended up coming through with a 4-2 win, but that isn’t the case, there is a common theme with when Liverpool’s side in their more disappointing performances, and that is the absence of Lucas in the middle of the park.
This was also on display during Liverpool’s 3-1 loss to Southampton at St Mary’s last season, when Lucas was rested and Joe Allen tried to operate in his role, Allen looked out of position and Liverpool looked exposed.
Lucas is the only player at the club that plays his position well, the first time ball out of defence, the way he breaks up the play whether that be by winning the ball in the tackle to start a counter-attack, or to just take a foul to halt any attacking momentum from the opposition.
In his absence, Liverpool’s underbelly seems soft. Against Notts County, Joe Allen looked as if he was operating out of position again to he could try and fulfil the role the Brazilian plays before leaving the field with a hamstring injury.
Steven Gerrard has tried to mature into a deeper role, and has done well but he seems to be the function behind a lot of the creativity rather than breaking up the play – and to play him deeper would probably compromise a lot of the drive he offers going forward.
Henderson seems to be a player that needs to play further award and it would look awkward him playing a deeper role as he is more of a presser of the ball rather than a tackler, and as pleasing on the eye as Luis Alberto looks when in possession, he doesn’t look like the type of player who is going to mould into a midfielder who’ll just sit in front of the back four.
So with no-one else able to fulfil that Lucas role, where does that leave the side if he gets injured again?
Liverpool need to find cover for him and quick, otherwise their vulnerabilities to counter-attacking football will be further exploited, especially given how high they play the full-backs. The other option could be to play them deeper, but that could nullify some of the attacking threat.
Either way, if Liverpool want to be sure of being a more solid unit in the middle of the park, they really need to look for a good defensive midfield option as cover, otherwise they run the risk of looking exposed again, and looking unbalanced.
image: © faisalzaman