Despite earning a draw at Stamford Bridge, a blunt performance from Liverpool's midfield suggests that they desperately miss Lucas Leiva.
Liverpool have been a bit of a bogey team for Chelsea in the recent past and their latest trip to Stamford Bridge re-established their status as such. They have endured their worst start in the league for over a hundred years and were threatening to plummet further under the bar set so highly by the title-winning Liverpool teams of years gone by but the Reds salvaged a point in London and proved to be the scourge of Chelsea yet again. It was a fortuitous point in all honesty and their midfield desperately missed their injured Brazilian Lucas Leiva, as they have throughout his lengthy spell on the sidelines.
Suarez's goal earned them a poiint
When pouring over the match statistics after the game, one realizes that Liverpool had the better share of possession despite being dominated for long periods. The visitors struggled to create clear-cut opportunities and were largely restricted to shots from range. Nuri Sahin and Joe Allen did very little of note other than playing the simplest pass available on every occasion. The midfield’s possession was dictated by series of mundane passes which made Liverpool’s play look rather monotonous and unthreatening.
STAT: Liverpool's 57% possession was the most by a visiting team at Chelsea in the Premier eague since Arsenal in February 2010.
Steven Gerrard was the only one of the midfield three who showed the drive, energy and directness to get at Chelsea. In contrast to Allen and Sahin’s efforts on the ball, the Liverpool skipper regularly looked for a penetrative pass every time he received the ball. With a livewire like Luis Suarez upfront, you’re guaranteed to see movement from him but tapping the ball around in midfield is to waste that advantage.
Allen struggled to make an impact
This is not to say that Lucas would bring a more decisive aspect to Liverpool’s passing for the Brazilian has never been recognized for his passing ability. Instead, this is to point out that Allen and Sahin have consistently failed to do either one of the crucial tasks in midfield. They haven’t distributed the ball particularly well and they haven’t made many key passes either while also failing to close down the opposition or win the ball back for their side on a regular basis. While Gerrard, despite still attempting to regain his best form, has gone about his business in his typical all-action approach, Sahin and Allen have both concerned themselves with merely ticking things over.
STAT: Joe Allen did not attempt a single pass over 25 yards against Chelsea.
In all fairness, a player who is good at keeping the midfield ticking over by playing the simple passes and making themselves available is a valuable commodity but having two of those players in the same line-up can slow the team down. Sahin and Allen are both good players no doubt but they need to be complemented by someone with a bit more energy. Either one of them would look far better if partnered by the tenacious Lucas with Gerrard playing slightly ahead to pick the ball up and make things happen. Balance is vital in any team and Liverpool are lacking it at the moment. Liverpool may have brought in Sahin because of his distribution but the Turkish international hasn't settled particularly well and has opted to play the safe passes rather than the more extravagant ones he was signed for.
Liverpool have missed Lucas' combative style
They got away with a rather blunt performance from their midfield on Sunday but Brendan Rodgers must be commended for changing his tactics rather than just going through the motions against the European champions. It was a bold decision to play three at the back and it probably didn’t work as well as he would have liked but they managed to keep things tight and the change in shape along with the introduction of Suso in the second half turned things around to a certain extent. Liverpool may even have knicked it right at the end when Suarez was clean through only to be thwarted by an advancing Petr Cech.
At the moment, things are awfully predictable in Liverpool’s midfield and they only pose a threat once the likes of Suarez, Raheem Sterling or Gerrard get on the ball. The Merseyside club could definitely do with Lucas’ doggedness in the middle of the park and may look a lot sharper once the midfielder returns to action.
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