This was first published at Empire of the Kop on June 1, 2015.
It is difficult to understand what Liverpool were trying to do last season. Strange transfers, tactics, team selection, formations, and dire performances led to unhappy fans and a general atmosphere of negativity.
FSG have been accused of adopting a ‘moneyball’ strategy despite no evidence that it works in contact fluid sports like ice-hockey or even the MLS. While young players have been bought, others like Lallana, Lovren, Balotelli and Lambert are 27, 25, 24 and 33 respectively. With the exception of Balotelli, their resale value won’t be high. When considering that Agger and Reina went for a pittance, this is not a moneyball strategy but a blend of youth and experience. Experimenting with moneyball by spending over £100 million is also illogical.
It’s too early to judge players like Can, Markovic and Manquillo but were the experienced players an upgrade on the existing players? Is Lovren really better than Agger? Why was a world class striker not prioritised? Were these the players the fans expected to see join this famous club?
Our tactics rely on movement but Balotelli and Lambert do not provide that. Lambert was bought as a Plan B but the problem was this meant sacrificing Plan A and a lack of natural crossers in the team made this even worse. When they were dropped, the team still did not adopt the aggressive pressing of the previous season and when they did, it was infrequently and too late.
Markovic at right wing-back, Sterling as the central striker, Can at right-back; all that was missing was Mignolet as the false 9. When it didn’t work, Rogers was too slow to change and gradually their form and confidence declined. Can was a success as the third centre-back but it’s not that unusual to play a midfielder there. Bielsa frequently played a midfielder in the back three when managing Chile and Guardiola went one step further with Mascherano as one of the two centre-backs at Barcelona.
With four at the back you can afford to have a wing-back who attacks like Moreno as long as there is balance on the other side. An ageing Glen Johnson, who is poor defensively, was not the answer. This led to 3-4-2-1 which worked initially but failed for two reasons: there was only one genuine wing-back and Gerrard was playing in a midfield two at the age of 34. This led to the midfield being frequently over-run, left the defence exposed, and a lot of goals were conceded as a result.
Xavi and Pirlo do not play in a midfield two and there is a good reason for this, they no longer have the legs. Rogers seemed unwilling to change and instead of using Gerrard’s strengths his weaknesses were exposed.
The games against Man City, Crystal Palace and Stoke summed up the seasons performances. Moments of brilliance followed by shocking ineptitude. The manner of the loss against Stoke was particularly galling and it was a shameful send-off for Gerrard.
The less said about the Champions League games, the better.
A season to forget
What were Liverpool’s objectives at the beginning of the season? It was meant to be Champions League qualification but the players brought in did not reflect the quality required. It’s hard to believe that FSG were willing the accept that the season was going to be ‘about par’, not after spending over £100 million.
What does all this mean for next season? That is the question many fans are asking.