Benitez needs to shake things up
Stoney’s right — it both is and isn’t time to panic. Right now, Liverpool look like a shaky mess, not a team that can compete for titles. But for every problem, there’s a solution. Here’s the formula for a Liverpool turnaround.
1) The Lucas Leiva Implosion.
Awesome jam band name aside, The Lucas Leiva Implosion could have disastrous consequences for Liverpool. The own-goal was bad, but even before that, I cursed his name approximately 84 times in 30 minutes. He was erratic and inaccurate — he managed to mishandle nearly every single touch. Now, that could be one bad performance, but when the whole world’s talking about how it’s your fault that Liverpool is choking itself to death, that will impact your psyche. I expect Leiva to get worse, not better, and that means he shouldn’t be starting right now.
2) The Torres Treatment
I realize everyone in the Premier League plays footy the way pat Riley’s Knicks used to rough up the NBA, but nobody is taking more fouls and getting fewer calls than Torres. Clearly, every manager has decided that if they foul him on every play, eventually nothing looks like a foul anymore and they can just pound him into the ground. It doesn’t help that he’s complaining, but he does have a point. He’s been beat the hell up, and you only need look at his scarred brow and black eye to realize he’s taking the worst whuppings in the EPL. One solution would be for the refs to call the game semi-fairly, but I won’t hold out hope for that.
3) Nobody passes well from the back
Not Leiva’s fault here, but Benitez doesn’t have someone with Alonso’s skills. And yet Rafa’s entire 4-2-3-1 scheme depends on a player with the ability to start the counter attack with a spot-on pass upfield from the back. Aquilani may be a good attacking midfielder for the 12 games per year we’ll see him, but he’s not Alonso. So why are the Reds playing a system that forces them to put a player like Lucas on the field, keeps a player like Riera on the bench, leaves Torres isolated up front for punishment, and won’t work with Liverpool’s current roster?
I’m glad you asked.
If Liverpool wants to loosen up the team, play its best players, ease the pressure on Torres and show that Benitez isn’t in fact the most stubborn grouch in the world, they need to employ a new scheme. It’s time to break out the 4-4-2 diamond.
The back line in front of Reina would remain the same: Insua-Carragher-Skrtel-Johnson. Yeah, they’re getting chewed up on set plays right now, but that wasn’t a problem last year, so I’m hopeful that will get resolved. I’d be happy to abandon Rafa’s zone marking scheme, but he’s almost as tied to that as his 4-2-3-1. But I digress.
The diamond suits their midfield talent perfectly. Mascherano plays the defensive position in the back, Riera plays on the left until Aquilani is fit, Benayoun starts on the right, and Gerrard takes his place up front as a goal threat. This gets the best 4 midfielders on the pitch every game, and Babel is a decent backup for either wing (or if Benayoun moves to Gerrard’s spot when he’s out). Lucas could serve as a backup to Mascherano, which suits him better — he’s not an attacker or a playmaker, he’s a defensive midfielder. Let him learn behind one of the best.
Up front, you put Torres and Kuyt. Kuyt’s a world class striker, plays the position for Holland, and he’s physical. No one will be putting him down with a single elbow. Perhaps most importantly, center backs wouldn’t be able to focus solely on shanking Torres in the prison showers, and thus El Nino would experience more freedom.
Installing a new formation would put the best players on the field. It would shake things up in the minds of the players and give them something else to focus on besides “HOLYSHITWHATIFWEDONTWINTHELEAGUEOMG.” It would cause frustration for other teams and managers used to playing against Liverpool a certain way. And it would show that Benitez is more than a one-system curmudgeon.
I know, I know. I’ll grow a second head before this happens. But it’d be the best thing for them, no?