No case for the defence as Liverpool F.C.'s struggles continue

Written by Reuters | London | Updated: Nov 2 2014, 15:26pm hrs
Liverpool F.C.'s Alberto Moreno dithered, Newcastle United's Ayoze Perez scored and the Merseysiders' difficulties were laid bare in a few seconds of sloppy defending by a player recruited with the frittered proceeds of Luis Suarez's departure.

This was the narrative that echoed around the Liverpool forums and message boards within seconds of the full-time whistle in Saturday's 1-0 defeat at St James' Park as the Anfield club's fans began to debate where it had all gone wrong.

For Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers, a fourth loss in 10 league games this season, could be explained away as little more than a moment of defensive madness.

"We were punished for a mistake and that is what cost us the game," he told BT Sport.

There are some supporters, however, who are beginning to point the finger at a manager feted for last season's title charge but now firmly under the microscope.

While the more generous fans see Rodgers being hamstrung by an untimely injury to striker Daniel Sturridge, others point to a defence that still struggles with the basics and a host of new recruits that have failed to hit the ground running.

Following Suarez's departure to Barcelona, Liverpool splashed out 130 million pounds ($207.94 million) on nine new signings, including Divock Origi who returned to Lille for a season on loan, to fill out a squad that looked thin in the previous campaign when Liverpool were runners-up.

None of the arrivals have been a resounding success, some have failed to shine at all while others have punctuated intermittent bright moments with game-changing errors and catastrophic blunders.

Liverpool's defence remains a concern with two clean sheets in 15 games in all competitions this season.

Croatia's Dejan Lovren and Spaniard Moreno, at a combined cost of 37 million pounds, were added to a backline that shipped 50 league goals last season.

Yet Moreno's mistakes cost Liverpool in a 3-1 defeat at Manchester City earlier this sesaon and now at Newcastle, while Lovren was signed to provide leadership but has added as much uncertainty as steel to a backline that looks as uncomfortable defending set pieces and high balls as last year.


The pair are not the only new recruits to have struggled for form, with pundits frequently making comparisons with Tottenham Hotspur's failure to spend wisely when Gareth Bale left for Real Madrid for a world record fee last year.

Five of Rodgers' close-season signings are under 23 and some look ill equipped to make an instant impact in the Premier League, typified by Lazar Markovic who was signed for 20 million pounds from Benfica and has started two league games.

The most controversial addition to the squad is Italian Mario Balotelli, whose struggles in front of goal and perceived lethargy have been exaggerated by constant comparisons with the player he replaced.

Suarez's industry was almost unparalleled, while Balotelli has a habit of floating ineffectivelly around the pitch, shrugging his shoulders when passes go astray and moving out of dangerous areas at inopportune moments.

Last season's defensive fragility was overcome by releasing attacking players to go for the jugular.

With Sturridge expected to be on the sidelines for several more weeks with a calf injury, Liverpool look short of a plan B and are persisting with a tactical approach that seems impotent without its key protagonists.

"We've lost probably 80 percent of our goals out of the team with Luis going and Dan (Sturridge's injury)," Rodgers told reporters on Saturday.

"We can't keep going on about it but it is an item as to why we're not getting so many goals. When you're a team that can score goals, that gives the team confidence."

With Liverpool visiting European champions Real Madrid in the Champions League on Tuesday before facing Premier League leaders Chelsea next weekend, things could get even worse for Rodgers before they get any better.