Liverpool is in a bad way. Sure, it’s relative (Newcastle is Number 1!), but Liverpool needs help if they don’t want to be first out of the Big 4 at season’s end. Although only a handful of matches in, it appears that 2009 Liverpool may well turn into the equivalent of a PSA. Sorry, Marc, but the Reds are a mess. Glen Johnson may be the best attacking right back in England, but his defense is poor and suffers even more as a result of his constant forays to the front. One glaring deficiency is his inability to be a defensive presence in the air. Skrtel and Kyrgiacos are pedestrian; Insua is unproven. That Carragher is already attempting to yell this unit into shape is ominous. Seven goals conceded in four games, including two to Bolton and three to Villa in back-to-back matches? Mighty Portsmouth also has given up seven in four. Yikes.
The midfield is hapless. As we now know, Lucas is no Xabi. Lucas has industry, but his vision is lacking and he simply cannot get the ball to Gerrard or Torres in the right places. At a club like Liverpool, Lucas, Riera and Yossi (the latter of whom is a fantastic player) belong on the bench providing needed depth, not in the starting 11. Rafa recognizes that Babel is key. Considering Rafa’s failure to bring top (healthy) talent to the midfield, Babel’s emergence is essential.
Liverpool has one of the better attacks in football. Torres and Gerrard are world-class and play wonderfully off each other. Kuyt’s industry and predatory abilities are the perfect complement to these two studs. The Kop’s biggest worry has to be Torres’ health, especially in light of the lack of depth in attack. Rafa simply won’t be able to rely on Ngog or Voronin to provide needed goals, making it impossible for him to rest Torres.
January reinforcements cannot come soon enough. The key for Liverpool is to stay within shouting distance of Europe come Boxing Day so as to pressure Hicks and Gillette to buy during the January window. If funds are made available, Rafa should make a strong run at Fulham’s Hangelaand (or West Ham’s Matthew Upson), buy Elano on the cheap, and find a second quality striker (Trezeguet?).
My best guess? Liverpool will struggle to stay close to Chelsea/Man U/Arsenal/Spurs/City.