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Ahead of Liverpool’s clash at home to Hull City.

We look at the reasons behind the Reds indifferent start to the season.

Liverpool: This season's problems can be solvedA lot has obviously been made of the sale of Luis Suarez to Barcelona being the main factor and catalyst for Liverpool’s stuttering start to the season. I have seen some writers label it is as a ‘disaster season’ already, even though the Reds are joint second in their Champions League group and if it were not for goal difference they would be in the top four of the Premier League.

It is a bad start, yes. But a better one thus far than Manchester United, Arsenal or Tottenham Hotspur. The sale of Luis Suarez has obviously hit Liverpool very hard, but it is not their only problem. I would argue that the loss of Suarez, coupled with the recurring sight of the injury prone Daniel Sturridge not in the starting eleven are the two joint biggest factors as to why Liverpool’s form isn’t on par to that of last season. I argue that Sturridge was equally as important if not more so than his former Uruguayan team-mate last term. He might not be on the same level as the South American with regards to his all round play and entertainment value but he is in my opinion a better goal scorer. Maybe not a better striker in the sense of playing through the middle and having the vision that Suarez has but in terms of simply putting the ball in the back of the net.

It must be remembered that in Suarez’s first eighteen months or so, there were times in which he struggled for consistency and there were games when he couldn’t hit a barn door. It is credit to Brendan Rodgers and the coaching team at Melwood for this improvement. Sturridge is and always has been clinical in front of goal. His games to goals ratio at Chelsea, Bolton Wanderers and Liverpool all show this.

This problem also leads to the next one. The problem of Mario Balotelli has so far lived up to the expectations of most Liverpool fans. The majority of us thought that he would act like a genius yet only show flashes of his brilliance. We were right. He has shown signs of promise but that is all they have been. I actually feel that Balotelli is being made a scapegoat in some quarters. He has always performed better when he has been played with another striker, and that is a formation he has admitted he prefers being part of. In Manchester he often partnered either Sergio Agüero or Carlos Tevez, in Milan it was Giampaolo Pazzini.

As such, to ask for him to play as a lone striker in a fast paced system is the fault of Brendan Rodgers. Balotelli is an intelligent player but he is bound to struggle in an environment and position that he is alien to as the focal point of the Liverpool attack. Off the bench, Liverpool have Fabio Borini and Rickie Lambert. Neither player appears good enough to work in tandem with the maverick Italian given that Rodgers has barely used them. The sooner Sturridge is back, the sooner the goals problem will be fixed it appears.

The other major factor is another obvious one. The congested fixture list. I have heard people talking about how Liverpool are ‘doing a Spurs’ this season. The similarities are there. Both teams have lost a player who they moulded into a genuine world-class talent and the jury claims that both clubs brought in several players in a bid to replace them. Nonsense. Liverpool would have brought the majority of players in had Suarez remained at Liverpool. Balotelli is the obvious exception, but the core of the XI’s that are starting are the same as what was available last season.

Simon Mignolet, Glen Johnson, Martin Skrtel, Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson, Joe Allen, Philippe Coutinho, Raheem Sterling, and Sturridge will obviously be on the team sheet when he’s back. The Reds have made some additions but that is only because of the added demands of European football. The top-tier of European teams all have a squad currently bigger and better than Liverpool’s one so you can see why Rodgers had to invest. Another myth is how Liverpool took a group of individuals who would not thrive in the Premier League, like a certain North London outfit. Unlike Spurs’ foreign imports, Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren and Lambert all had standout seasons in the Premier League last season. Unfortunately only the former of this trio have thrived so far in Merseyside. Lambert hasn’t been given a chance and Lovren is just settling in, it could be argued.

As for the signing of Emre Can, the 20-year- old German should be given more of a chance in central midfield. Gerrard will always be an Anfield legend but his amount of games needs to be managed. He is closing in on his 35th birthday and whilst he still commands a lot of influence in games, his legs are ageing. Alberto Moreno has had some standout performances at left back, his fellow Spanish U21 international, Javi Manquillo has not had the same success on the opposite flank. Lazar Markovic has shown glimpses of his quality in pre season but we will get a true sense of his quality when the FA Cup starts and if Liverpool are still in Europe in the next calendar year. That is the beauty of a squad. All these players need time to settle in and get used to the demands of a club like Liverpool.

There is an unfair expectation on Liverpool to challenge for the league due to their success of last season but that is unfair. They are probably still suffering a hangover from being so close in May. Liverpool should be getting into the top four given the amount of money they have spent, but it will be difficult given the amount and calibre of forward players Manchester United have recruited. Liverpool are clearly struggling at the moment. But they are only out of the top four on goal difference and are favourites after Real Madrid to qualify from their group. Not all bad, then.

Originally published at inthestandsport.com

Post written by Chris Baily
for InTheStandSport, Blog: inthestandsport.com, Twitter: @InTheStandSport

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