The game between Leicester and Liverpool on Saturday evening was one of the matches of the season so far.
The atmosphere at the King Power Stadium was not quite that of its title-winning season peak (though I don’t think it ever will be), but the home crowd were very much up for it.
On the pitch, the pace was high and though the quality was there; it was very helter-skelter with, a distinct lack of control in the middle of the park.
With three in the centre of the park, as opposed to Leicester’s two, Liverpool had more possession of the ball, but they did not have more control and their frailties in defence meant that the game was not completely done and dusted until the final whistle.
So good going forward, brimming with attacking flair and talent, the Reds are curiously inept at the back (curious in that it’s not been solved yet) and distinctly lacking in someone to dictate the pace of play in the middle of the park.
No commanding defensive presence
Their issues at the back have been looked at time and time again, with their weaknesses in the air once again on show here for Leicester’s first goal, even if the goal should have probably been ruled out.
Despite a foul on ‘keeper Simon Mignolet by goalscorer Shinji Okazaki, the Reds failed to clear a simple corner, but it should never have happened. Joel Matip conceded a stupid free kick for a foul on Jamie Vardy, which ultimately led to the successful corner.
Never-mind though that there were infringements, there was nobody at the back for Liverpool taking command, and even if he was being fouled, Simon Mignolet should still have been stronger in shrugging off this foul and getting rid of the ball.
In the screenshot above, the defending is calamitous. Defenders are bunched together around the six-yard box, leaving Vardy unmarked at the edge, Harry Maguire (circled) is breaking through to follow in the loose ball, whilst no-one has picked up Okazaki (circled) and Mignolet flaps around.
He may have saved Jamie Vardy’s penalty in the second half, but it was his messing around that led to the foul.
He’s capable of good things, but he’s not reliable or commanding enough behind a defence that could really do with both things. Liverpool desperately need a leader, someone to take charge and move defenders around into the right positions.
Lack of a midfield dictator
It was also interesting to note how Liverpool could not use the ball to control the game.
Their midfield is entirely made up of three players (Henderson, Emre Can and Gini Wijnaldum) who all seem to do the same thing, players who can link the defence and the attack, run all day long, but aren’t known for their ability to dictate play, to know when to slow it down and speed it up.
Against Leicester, they were dying for someone to do that, and they just don’t have that in their squad.
They got away with it on Saturday, but the lack of such a player meant that they couldn’t control the game and against better opponents, they won’t be so lucky.
RealSport Verdict: Entertainment or success
For a side without a recognised central striker, this is a team that can be exhilarating and devastating when going forward.
Philippe Coutinho showed on Saturday that he will not be sulking (take note Alexis Sanchez) about not getting the big money move that he wanted over the summer, while Mohamed Salah’s pace will add even more threat to what they have to offer.
They will not be dull, but like it or not, you need a good defence in order to win the big titles.
You need to have that base to fall back on when your stars up front don’t have a good day. Unfortunately for them, Liverpool just don’t have that.
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