2013-2014: A One-off Season or Not? Part 2

2013-2014: A One-off Season or Not? Part 2
August 15, 2014 Mihail Vladimirov

By Mihail Vladimirov.

In Part 1 Mihail looked at Defensive Issues. Now he turns his attention to:

Chapter Two: Attacking Issues

It’s true that there were plenty of times where Liverpool’s attacking displays were simply breathtaking and the perfect example of ‘poetry in motion’ at its sparkling best.

Continuing from the second part of the 2012/13 season, last season saw the further development of the Reds’ ability to either quickly hit the opposition on the break using their attackers’ speed, trickery and overall directness, or use the technical brilliance of their midfield to open up the opposition’s defences. All of this was achieved thanks to the triple-pivot playmaker system of using Gerrard (once he moved at the base of the midfield unit), Coutinho and Suarez dictating play and providing penetrative passes from different zones and angles. This allowed Liverpool to play possession football without lacking in attacking bite and score goals whether they were moving the ball slowly upfield to probe the space in the final third or attacking swiftly as gaps opened up for quicker attacking transitions.

However, it’s also true that there were times where Liverpool struggled in attack, unable to get into their usual passing flow and assert their ability to overwhelm the opposition by creating genuine goal-scoring opportunities.

Open play struggles against packed defences

Liverpool encountering huge problems when facing deep, packed and/or well-organised defences is nothing new or surprising at all. Nor is it the case that it is only Rodgers’ team that struggled in that way. But the fact is that last season the team had their periods when they really struggled and found themselves bereft of ideas on how to open up the opposition when they line up with at least seven players only dedicated to breaking up the play and preventing Liverpool from creating potent attacking moves.

Fortunately for Liverpool (and this is the main reason why the team ended up challenging for the title despite all defensive and offensive issues), many of the games where they struggled in this way still resulted with the team actually getting all three points. Often this served to mask the attacking problems blunting the team’s overall play during these games (or at least during certain periods of these games). The usual narrative was ‘the win is all that matters’. All of which is fine during the season and you’re fighting tooth and nail to finish as high as possible, and more so if you’re actually deep into the title battle. But once the season is over and there is enough time to go back and analyse how and why what happened or didn’t happen, it’d be ignorant or even foolish not to examine as much as you can with the aim to improve whatever you can to be even better the next time.

The games against Stoke (H), Palace (H), WBA (H), Fulham (H), Spurs (A), Cardiff (H), Everton (H), Arsenal (H), Fulham (A), Swansea (H), Man Utd (A) and Norwich (A), were all outright wins in that Liverpool played superbly in attack, even if some caveats could be applied. At times the team were helped by poor defensive organisation from the opposition, overall tactical naivety in how the other manager set up his team, the opponent being in a ‘black-hole of form’ or the Reds being fortunate to score decisive goals from set-plays. Often in these games Liverpool, for all their attacking prowess, displayed the massive defensive issues discussed earlier. Still, as a whole it could be said Rodgers and his players fully deserved to win in these 12 games by simply outplaying the opposition and being the better team.

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