Liverpool fans that think they are on the up and up after a 2-2 draw with Manchester City at the Etihad on Sunday would be forgiven for being mistaken. For those who feel that this is a marked improvement along with the draw against Arsenal at the Emirates in midweek, there are many causes for concern despite drawing with the champions and seeing much of the ball.
Brendan Rodgers’ endless optimism and gushing enthusiasm for Liverpool’s adaptation to a possession game is flattering to deceive – indeed, despite an improvement in ball retention, Liverpool still create very little. Aside from two unlikely long-range efforts from Daniel Sturridge and Steven Gerrard that hit the back of the net, it is hard to recall any other clear-cut opportunity. Liverpool certainly had a lot of shots, but most of them were from distance and blocked by the first defender.
Liverpool benefitted from a gift of a goal from the Arsenal defence on Wednesday night, but even on going two up failed to put the game away against a team whose mental fragility is famed throughout the land. Liverpool again snatched a draw from the jaws of victory against Manchester City despite twice being ahead. This is endemic of a defence that has been forced to recall Jamie Carragher, a player who wasn’t particularly good even at his prime and labours under the delusion that it is well shielded by a three-man midfield.
Admittedly, Lucas Leiva provides some hope, although he is often left isolated alongside Steven Gerrard who aside from his goal gave away possession lazily and failed to assert any real authority over proceedings. Jordan Henderson is still under judicial review, offering little either going forward or defensively.
Rodgers is performing an emperor’s new clothes-style trick, cherry picking positives and refusing to acknowledge the negatives, stating afterwards that “we should have won as well”. Well, yes, arguably you should have Brendan, but if you want to win games maybe you should actually do something to win them. One of the most infuriating things about Rodgers’ Liverpool is their recent preoccupation with time wasting – not playing to win at all, rather more happy to see out the game with a point against more illustrious opponents.
Against both Arsenal and City, Liverpool tried to play out the last ten minutes, wasting time where possible. The substitution of the injured Sturridge for midfielder Joe Allen is telling – Fabio Borini was on the bench, and Liverpool were arguably in the ascendency (City, it must be said, were awful). Similarly Jose Enrique was sent on for Liverpool after 71 minutes against Arsenal, again with frontman Sturridge sacrificed.
Both games were there to be won, but Liverpool failed to capitalize. Rodgers’ alleged ambition and allusions to improvement pale into little more than cheerful patter in the face of two points from two sides from the upper echelons of the league. Rodgers told the BBC “it’s the mark of our improvement that we have come to the champions, dominated the game but didn’t win.” A Freudian slip perhaps, but if the indicator of Liverpool’s success is not losing games that they could have won, then Rodgers’ words are painfully precise.