Carroll, Downing,The Fans and 3-5-2: Liverpool 0-0 Swansea

By Jonathan Carroll

Swansea came to Anfield last Saturday as huge underdogs and came away with an impressive point against a lacklustre Liverpool side. In fact, the newly promoted Welsh side were unlucky not to take all three points and Kenny Dalglish would have had little complaint had that been the case.

Apart from the Merseyside derby and the Manchester United game, Anfield’s atmosphere has become somewhat lazy. Instead of being a twelfth man, if the expected three points are not delivered against lesser opposition such as Norwich and Swansea as in the past two home games, a muttering of boos rings out. The famous Anfield atmosphere was questioned by the traveling support from Wales with shouts of “Anfield is a library” echoing round the stadium. Supporters of this famous club pride themselves on being a class above everyone else in relation to team support, team loyalty and football knowledge.Of course the minority of the home support boo at the final whistle when the result is not as expected. However, the minority is gaining momentum.The question must be asked if the home support has become the modern crowd, sitting, expecting, not fully supporting the team as such until they do something worthwhile. Somewhat like The Emirates I suppose. Singing and supporting should be part and parcel off all Liverpool games not just the United and Everton games. This game must be put into context however. It is worrisome that Liverpool again failed to win against a newly promoted side at home, especially after the Norwich game which should have served as a lesson. The key would have been to score early and force Swansea out of their defensive shape, that didn’t happen, the part where Swansea came out of their defensive shape did happen and more often that not in the second half threatened to take the full quota of points from Anfield as Mark Gowers miss at the Kop end illustrates, Liverpool were stretched against a disciplined Swansea who were allowed to play football.

Cast your mind back to the end of the 2010-2011 season, impressive wins versus Manchester City, Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and Manchester United at home helped Dalglish’s Liverpool come close to snatching a Europa Cup place after Roy Hodgson had the club teetering on the brink of the relegation zone at the midway point of the season. In the wins listed above, Dalglish’s Liverpool showed tactical awareness in a 3-5-2 at Chelsea, helping to nullify Drogba and Torres, the fast paced starts at home to both Manchester clubs had them behind before they knew how to react. That fast paced, quick to close down space and force errors from the opposition was badly missing from the Swansea game. Are the players guilty of taking the lesser teams for granted? A big concern now will be the confidence of Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing. Apart from Downing’s cross to Andy Carroll inside seven minutes which the striker failed to convert via the crossbar, both were largely anonymous. The feeling of frustration around Anfield will no doubt have gotten to the two as the game wore on and Carroll was later replaced by Craig Bellamy.

Carroll has the ability to be a great striker, his size, power and aerial ability are second to none and add to that he is working on his technical ability and it all adds up to be beneficial for Liverpool FC. Downing, signed to give added width and Premiership experience has faded since the opening games of the season and at a club like Liverpool, the team cannot afford for players to hide when competing for the top four. This all relates to the way Liverpool play. Swansea were not dominated, neither were Norwich and in order to put together a complete performance some rethinking is necessary on the part of Dalglish and assistant Steve Clarke.Both will be fully aware that all is not right and I expect to see a different approach for the next league game against Chelsea. To answer the question as to why Liverpool haven’t pressed teams higher up the field, is it fitness of lack of personnel. It seems to be a bit of both. Charlie Adam is not the definition of conditioned, Lucas, who is not fast, can however cover ground at the rate of a workhorse. Xabi Alonso was also quite slow but read the game so well that he was a great fit with Mascherano on the big occasion. Most obvious of all was the space Swansea were allowed,they had 55% of possession and better teams will take full advantage of such space and put a game like this beyond doubt. Adam doesn’t seem capable of getting close to Lucas to close space in midfield. Leon Britton and Joe Allen dominated the midfield battle for long periods and this is a huge cause for concern. On a positive note there was the steady performance by Jose Enrique who was challenged maybe for the first time all season by the pacey Nathan Dyer in terms of one on one battles, the Spaniard held his own attacking and defending the left side. Glen Johnson was less adventurous down the right flank and Martin Kelly will feel aggrieved not to have gotten the nod at right back for this one.The Jordan Henderson playing right midfield is an experiment that needs to be halted. Henderson has played better in cameo appearances in center midfield and with Gerrard injured, the opportunity should be there to gain some playing time in his role of choice. Henderson roams infield, therefore taking away any natural width on the right. Dirk Kuyt, while still not an out-and-out winger offers a better option. Luis Suarez was unusually subdued but this will happen time to time and that is when other players need to take on the responsibilty of winning games and that wasn’t evident. What are the possible options for Dalglish moving forward?

(3-5-2)

Reina

Skrtel     Carragher     Agger

Kuyt     Henderson      Lucas        Downing/Bellamy

Adam

Suarez

        Carroll

In the above formation, the three at the back would have help from Kuyt on the right and Downing or Bellamy on the left. Lucas, Henderson and Adam would form the three in midfield giving Adam more of a license to create going forward and placing less emphasis on his defensive abilities which are lacking. Suarez would come deep to link with midfield and Carroll as the target striker. The duo created havoc versus Manchester City at Anfield last season in a 3-0 drubbing and this 3-5-2 could well be employed against Chelsea on November 20th at Stamford Bridge. Add to the equation that players on the brink such as Jay Spearing,Maxi Rodriguez, Martin Kelly and Craig Bellamy could all start in the above lineup for some under achievers from the Swansea game.

The international break will give Dalglish and Clarke time to plot team tactics for Chelsea away, a game if approached in the correct manner could see a Liverpool side take a positive step towards their season goal against a Chelsea team that are yet to really click. This may be a good time to visit Stamford Bridge and while the home draws versus Norwich and Swansea were disappointing it is not the end of the world and players such as Downing and Carroll, do possess quality they simply have to play themselves into form or risk being replaced and given a chance to impress from the bench.

Liverpool

  • 25 Reina
  • 02 Johnson
  • 03 Jose Enrique
  • 05 Agger (yellow card)
  • 37 Skrtel
  • 14 Henderson (Kuyt 46)
  • 19 Downing
  • 21 Lucas
  • 26 Adam (yellow card)
  • 07 Suarez
  • 09 Carroll (Bellamy 74)

Substitutes

  • 32 Doni,
  • 16 Coates,
  • 34 Kelly,
  • 11 Maxi,
  • 20 Spearing,
  • 18 Kuyt,
  • 39 Bellamy

Swansea

  • 01 Vorm
  • 02 Williams (yellow card)
  • 03 Taylor (yellow card)
  • 16 Monk
  • 22 Rangel
  • 07 Britton
  • 12 Dyer
  • 15 Routledge (Sinclair 74)
  • 24 Allen
  • 27 Gower (Agustien 90+2)
  • 10 Graham

Substitutes

  • 25 Tremmel,
  • 44 Moras,
  • 11 Sinclair,
  • 26 Agustien,
  • 29 Richards,
  • 18 Lita,
  • 19 Moore
Referee: Phil Dowd
Attendance: 45,013
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