Liverpool’s 2-0 defeat at the hands of Stoke on Saturday made a pretty clear statement: It doesn’t matter how talented a team is if it doesn’t go forward.
The Reds surely have talent — particularly on the attack — but what do Joe Cole, Raul Meireles and Maxi Rodriguez have in common? They are being deployed on the wing without being natural wingers. The result of such is pretty much what you’d expect. The team lacks width as the wing players drift to the center and are slow up the flanks, and the team lacks pace, because natural wingers are simply faster people than the converted wingers that Liverpool is using.
In fact, who is Liverpool’s paciest player? David Ngog? Ryan Babel? Glen Johnson? Steven Gerrard? Arsenal has Theo Walcott. Manchester United has Nani. Chelsea has Florent Malouda; City has Adam Johnson; The list goes on and on. Just about every team but Liverpool has somebody with explosive speed who creates width by taking the ball up the wing in a way that forces defenses into panic mode. Roy Hodgson‘s team continually looks conservative, especially due to the lack of midfield creativity and the deep line taken by the group, but much of that is because nobody is pushing the play up the sides. The team has to slowly establish their shape at midfield before beginning the attack — which often can’t even get started.
Luckily, it appears that Hodgson will have some great options to remedy the situation come January. Aston Villa’s Ashley Young, who has been in the best form of his career thus far in 2010, has said that he won’t sign a new contract at Villa Park this season, and many have speculated that he is therefore available. Aston Villa nearly universally ship off its prized prospects, so it’s hard to believe that Young can’t be had.
Tottenham, however, may also be interested in Young, but given its crowded midfield, the team would likely be swapping him for Aaron Lennon, who is also said to be available, according to The People. He, too, would perfectly fit the mold of what Liverpool needs.
Many have criticized Hodgson for straying from Rafa Benitez’s style of attacking football, but his problem is largely one of personnel. Liverpool simply doesn’t have Arsenal’s or Tottenham’s roster. Liverpool has a midfield comprised of great players who are in their late 20s and early 30s and weren’t natural wings when they were at their paciest.
In Young and Lennon, Hodgson surely has options for fixing the club’s glaring flaw. Come January, he’d be wise to pursue them fervently.