By Charles Ong
Liverpool’s 3-2 capitulation at the hands of Oldham Athletic at Boundary Park served up a stark reminder that an obsession with youth must not persist, and Liverpool must mix it up with experience and wisdom in order to succeed in both the short and long-term.
The likes of Sterling, Borini, Sturridge and Suarez all started together for the first time, bringing about renewed optimism amongst Liverpool fans. And whilst the side that Rodgers fielded was strong – and definitely strong enough to dispatch Oldham – what should not be missed is the lack of experience in the side.
Out of the 11 that started, eight were 23 and under, with Brad Jones, Martin Skrtel and Luis Suarez the exceptions. It was obvious right from the whistle that these players showed inexperience and an inability to deal with the pressure – particularly Coates and Robinson, both of whom put on horror shows and in the words of Brendan Rodgers, made Matt Smith “look like Didier Drogba”.
Only when Steven Gerrard came on then the side began to settle but even then, it was too little too late. Liverpool were crashing out of the FA Cup to a side that only picked up one point in their last eight League 1 games. It is an utter embarrassment.
While there will be no excuses for failing to qualify for the next round given the lightweight nature of the side, it’s also fair enough to suggest that Rodgers had probably got his starting line-up wrong.
He fielded four attackers and there was so much space around Henderson and Allen that the duo essentially lost the midfield battle. Time and again they were bypassed with relative ease. Both players do not possess long-range passing in their armoury, so it left the attackers isolated and redundant.
Oldham was getting the ball into Liverpool’s final third with such an alarming rate that the 3-2 scoreline was, in fact, rather flattering in Liverpool’s favour. The protection for the defence was inadequate in particular.
However, this remains a one-off incident that should not define Liverpool’s season. Yes, getting knocked out of the FA Cup to minor opposition isn’t ideal, and never will be at all. But since that’s done and dusted, why not look at the positives? Liverpool will have one less distraction to deal with, and with such a thin squad the resources could be channelled into the last 15 games of the League to ensure a creditable push for the top-four.
As of now, it remains a fantasy but having (nearly) completed the second addition in Coutinho – our future lies further than one FA Cup exit.