This is fast becoming a Liverpool staple.
Lots of chance created. Dominating possession. Points in the bag. Economical.
But for the clean sheet, which is fast losing its Liverpool staple status, and the three League points, this was a typical performances from Kenny Dalglish’s charges. So I’ll keep it short this time.
Two individual things stand out.
First, Stewart Downing is possibly the most directly nonconstructive player on the Liverpool team right now. 10 league appearances, no goals, no assists. How many times has he beat his man on the flanks? How many times has he delivered a successful ball into the box for Andy Carroll to attack? (More on Carroll later.) The #19 looks less and less the missing piece to our jigsaw, as proclaimed by Damien Comolli following Downing’s signing in the summer. His runs and crossing look less and less effective by the game, and Jose Enrique is currently taking on everything down the left flank. Kenny Dalglish’s best summer signing without a shadow of doubt.
A word for Glen Johnson on the opposite flank. Aside from Manchester City’s Galacticos-style rotation policy, the battle for Liverpool’s starting right-back slot has become one of the most fascinating positional battles in the League this season. Glen Johnson showed signs of life, his dribbling and pace causing problems in the West Brom half. Against smaller teams, the more defensively-sound Martin Kelly will have to bide his time, because there’s no denying that Johnson, just like Enrique, can act like an extra winger. But this competition can only prove beneficial to England in the longer run. And don’t forget young Jon Flanagan waiting in the wings.
Second, Luis Suarez began the game with 17 shots off target so far this season, the most in the League. He finished the game with 22, the most in the League. Somewhat unsurprisingly, all his 5 shots taken against West Brom were off target. He is rightly taking the plaudits for making Liverpool tick and for generally causing havoc in every opposition area he comes across, but there’s got to be a certain level of balanced perspective. And Kenny must make sure this doesn’t get to Suarez’s head.
Selfishness is fine, but not unproductive selfishness. The right-sided freekick in the first half, which he insisted on taking at the expense of the left-footed and more prolific Charlie Adam, was a typical example of his competitiveness and willingness to make everything work. It was also a typical example of his off-target shooting.
Now if only Suarez could use his unpredictability to drag away defenders and then create chances for his strike partners, just like his deftly chipped pass to Carroll, whose first-time left-foot volley was smothered by a good block, and exactly like his sublime through-ball for Carroll’s goal.
To be sure, Carroll’s was a sketchy first touch en route to his goal. But it was an underrated outside-of-the-foot finish. In general, this was a game that started to show signs of life in the Andy Carroll-Luis Suarez partnership.
Besides scoring a goal, Carroll impressed with his improved positioning and desire. While Downing put in his non-existent crossing into the box, Carroll’s off-the-ball movement into key attacking positions was noteworthy, and his run into space to receive Suarez’s through-ball also showed signs of increased understanding. It’s time to take advantage of an increasingly confident Andy Carroll.
Perhaps with Carroll firing on all cylinders, Liverpool will finally turn their attacking dominance into goal gluts.
For now, 18 shots still only yielded 2 goals. And currently, out of the Top Six, Liverpool trail by some distance in terms of goals scored.
The finishing is still profligate. More of the same, really.
Three points on the back of an attack that has yet to hit top form. More of the same, please.