Former Manchester United defender and well-respected Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville believes that Liverpool lack the intensity which worked so well for them last season.
Following the sale of last season’s top scorer Luis Suarez in the summer, the Reds went on a big spending spree and brought in eight players on permanent deals for a reported combined fee of £116,550,000.
The squad needed bulking up to juggle with the strains of a title challenge plus European football, but the gamble of quantity of renowned quality has ultimately seen the club take a huge backwards step.
The Reds find themselves in a lowly 12th position, having lost six of their 12 games to date and looking a shadow of side which finished second last season, scoring a whopping 101 goals.
While analysing the Merseysiders’ latest loss at Palace, Neville explained how the intensity has disappeared from last season and claimed the sale of Suarez isn’t the underlying problem.
“Crystal Palace were more enthusiastic, had more energy and Liverpool’s performance was woeful, when you think of the standard they set themselves last year,” he told Sky Sports.
“That’s what’s damaging Liverpool more than anything at this moment in time; it’s such a short memory to think how they played last season. They were startling at times, breathtaking.
“What was breathtaking about them? People used to say they blitzed teams in the early parts of matches. But what was staggering to watch last season was the pressurising, the intensity when they gave the ball away to winning it back. At this moment in time it isn’t there.
“Structurally Liverpool aren’t a great defensive unit but what they were great at last season was springing into attack and reacting quicker to win the ball back.
“That’s not to do with quality, it’s not to do with Luis Suarez or world class players. It’s to do with the mentality, fitness and confidence.”
|Season||Tackles Won GAME||Ball Recoveries GAME||Possession Won Attacking 3rd GAME||Appearances|
As per the table provided by Opta Stats, the results back up Neville’s comments and show how Brendan Rodgers’s men have lacked the intensity so far this season.
Aside from completing on average less tackles and ball recoveries this season, the biggest difference is winning the ball in the final third and pressuring the opposition into making mistakes.
Suarez and Sturridge were terriers up-top and chased down lost causes, the same attributes however can’t be said of Mario Balotelli or any other option Rodgers has tried upfront this season.