It only took two thirds of the Premier League season but Kenny Dalglish finally seems to have recognized the error of his ways in continuing to play Charlie Adam, opting to drop him for the second match running whilst also showing none of the previous sentiment he had shown to Jordan Henderson, who was also resigned to a place on the bench. I can tolerate a lot of things, but prolonged blind faith in underperforming players is not one of them. As the saying goes, though, “better late than never” and if we’ll be putting out more sides like this then the decisions that have us in seventh place may slowly start to be forgotten.
It appears at long last we no longer have to put up with a Charlie Adam free kick hitting the first man. No longer do we have to put up with a woeful shot from distance or a skyed penalty effort, and no longer do we have to put up with the needless fouls he constantly gives away.
We’d almost become used to the sight of him raising a hand in apology, as if it was expected rather than a rare occurrence. If seeing Adam on the bench for the second match running was a good feeling, seeing Maxi’s name on the team sheet and Jordan Henderson parked alongside the Scotsman was almost surreal. I had to pinch myself to believe it.
It’s an unwritten rule than when Maxi Rodriguez plays, Suarez plays well, and it paid dividends yesterday afternoon. The Uruguayan didn’t have to try and do it all on his own and was always looking for his Argentine compatriot in attack. His goal was a beautiful example of one touch football that just wouldn’t be possible if it had been say, Henderson on the other end of the pass, who would have most likely reacted too slowly, tried an aimless cross or attempted to shoot himself. But alas, we were treated to a South American tiki-taka delight, the kind Liverpool supporters expect to see. It truly was a wondrous bit of football.
Almost all of Liverpool’s best attacks came down the left hand side and indeed, it was interesting to see them develop on both sides, the Argentine, Spanish combination on the left, compared to the all English combination on the right.
The attacks down the left hand side were clearly more intricate and clever. Heck, even Andy Carroll was getting in on the act with his Spanish speaking teammates. Far too often, though, Downing and Kelly sent the kind of aimless crosses into the box from the right that we’ve seen all season.
Indeed, apart from his very well taken goal, Downing had a pretty average match. The link up between him and Gerrard had a touch of fortune about it, but the finish was exquisite and to be honest, in a season that’s seen some of the worst finishing in memory I’m not going to complain too much when the ball goes in the back of the net.
But it’s unlikely Dalglish will continue to go with Maxi against QPR, as we again saw him be the first man substituted, even though he had a very good game. Indeed, in the rare moments when he has played he’s almost always been straight back to the bench for the next match. If he does start against QPR, though, I’ll be pleasantly surprised.
It’s only taken until the latter half of March, but Dalglish finally picked up a team that left fans with a sense of confidence going into the game, rather than a feeling of dread.
The midfield pairing of Gerrard and Spearing had so much more balance to it. Take the moment when Martin Kelly had galloped forward on the right, lost the ball and allowed Stoke to counter attack through the vacant space behind him. Had Charlie Adam started, there’s every likelihood that would have ended up with a cross and probably a goal, but Steven Gerrard had stayed back, sprinted 30 yards across field and cut out the attack before it could get started. In a 4-2-3-1 both central midfielders have to have some sense of defensive duty and Charlie Adam, completely let off the hook in that department at Blackpool, is not capable of playing effectively in a two man midfield.
We saw in the last meeting between these two sides how Dalglish tried to combat Stoke’s physical approach with a three man defense, and that it completely failed because the opposition played with just one out and out striker, instead opting to pack the midfield. As a result Liverpool had a redundant man at the back that could have been utilised further forward, and because of this they barely had a shot on goal.
That Dalglish went the entire game, using all three substitutions and thus not recognising this tactical error, was a real worry. Thankfully, he started yesterday’s game in a much more suitable 4-2-3-1, meaning Liverpool were able to dominate the midfield and didn’t leave too many men at the back. Towards the end of the game, Liverpool were ahead, and therefore bringing on Coates to form a three man centre back line made sense, as not conceding, rather than controlling possession was Liverpool’s number one priority. In short, whereas Dalglish had gotten it completely wrong last time, he got it nearly spot on in this one.
Contrary to popular belief, I don’t just whinge about Dalglish because I dislike him, rather, I believe he’s made some awful decisions this season, which have cost us dearly in the league. But I believe we should all give credit where it’s due and even though it’s come far too late in the season, that Dalglish finally decided it was time to drop Charlie Adam and Jordan Henderson is a good start.
Whether or not he has the cojones to continue without those two remains to be seen, but it would be thoroughly disappointing if against QPR all of the good work from the last two matches was undone and we reverted to the mediocre players we’ve seen for most of this season.
Playing for this club is a privilege, not a right. If players don’t perform, especially for an entire season, they don’t deserve to start every game. Liverpool should reward players that play well. Dalglish should know that better than anyone, and it appears at long last that the mediocrity of some of his signings is beginning to dawn on him. Hopefully, the same generosity that’s been undeservedly afforded to Henderson and Adam will be afforded to Maxi, who based on this performance, still has a lot to offer this club.
In a completely unrelated note, I would like to offer my well wishes to Fabrice Muamba. May you have a swift and full recovery.