Sunderland 1 – 0 Liverpool: Time To Forget The 4th Spot

As Liverpool succumbed to their third straight loss in the Premier League, it can be now safely assumed that their quest to get into the 4th and final Champions League spot is officially over. Kenny Dalglish’s summer rebuilding job is not going to be able to achieve what it had promised at the start of the season. There are problems that are present throughout the pitch, let’s have a look at them on priority.

No. 1 – Midfield

As abject as Liverpool’s performances have been lately this one has been the worst of the lot. The midfield has not been doing enough for Liverpool throughout the season and this game was no different. Charlie Adam, Jordan Henderson and Jay Spearing failed to provide any sort of incision in the final third, although due credit should be given to the Sunderland midfield, especially Jack Colback, for their high energy pressing game. Gerrard’s steady decline since his return from injury indicates that a goal scoring central attacking midfielder is what Liverpool need to find on priority in this transfer window.

No. 2 – Forwards

Luis Suarez is a great player at finding spaces in tight areas and drawing fouls out of opposition defenders but his chance conversion rate is absolutely abysmal. If Andy Carroll doesn’t play, a major problem that Liverpool face is that they do not have any tall players when crosses are played into the box. Liverpool need to shift to a 4-2-1-3 formation with either Gerrard or Bellamy playing in the hole and Kuyt, Carroll and Suarez in attack. That way if a cross is played into the box, Suarez and Kuyt can be ready to attack any knock downs that Carroll can produce.

No. 3 – Defence

Another thing that should concern the Liverpool fans is the lack of depth in central defensive positions. Last week Jamie Carragher played in central defence and at fault for both Arsenal goals. This week Sebastian Coates stepped in and looked like a bundle of nerves throughout the match, unable to cope with the strength of Nicklas Bendtner and the movement of Frazier Campbell.

The season cannot be written off as a failure for Liverpool because they’ve won the Carling Cup now and are still in the running for the FA Cup. However with the amount of investment that was made in bringing players, Champions League qualification at the expense of Arsenal was the least that was expected of them.

This failure to qualify for Champions League can prove to be detrimental to their plans for next season as well. Rumours suggest that they want to bring in Eden Hazard, Seydou Keita and Javi Martinez. Whether any of the aforementioned players would want to give up on a chance to play in the Champions League can be anybody’s guess.

Comparing The Bench Strength Of the Top 6 Premier League Clubs

As the Premier League heads into the busy festive period, all the teams in the league are scheduled to play almost twice every week. Although this can be a treat for the fans, it is more often than not, a headache for most managers due to injury and exhaustion concerns. Couple this busy festive period with the impending African Cup of Nations, and the need for a strong squad is felt more than ever. A good bench can save the managers of this dilemma, but it’s a problem nonetheless.

As six teams: Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool, battle it out for the League title and Champions League spots, let’s take a look at the bench strength of these teams.

Manchester City
Manchester City

Bench: Edin Dzeko, Adam Johnson/Nigel De Jong, Alexander Kolarov, Kolo Toure, James Milner

Manchester City, the firm favourites for the title, boasts of a bench which has players which can walk into the starting 11 of any other Premier League team. Such has been the amount of investment in the squad that City will have no problems heading into the tight fixture list. Strong competition for places can be a double edged sword as, though it can bring the best out of players to push their claim for a starting 11 spot, it can also lead to dissatisfaction due to lack of playing time. However, with the success that City is enjoying, it will be foolish to jump ships at this juncture.

Manchester United
Manchester United

Bench: Dimitar Berbatov, Javier Hernandez, Ryan Giggs, Park Ji Sung/Ashley Young, Fabio/Rafael

Pretty much like Manchester City, Manchester United also boasts of a world class bench. However, lack of playing time is not a concern for these players as Sir Alex has been rampant this season with his rotation policy, even rotating his goalkeepers at times. United also won’t have problems with the African Cup of Nations as they will only lose Antonio Valencia from their starting 11. United traditionally have always performed better after the Christmas interval, and with the bench strength that they have, it is hard to argue against the idea of them not doing it again.

Tottenham Hotspur
Tottenham Hotspur

Bench: Niko Krankjar, Steven Piennar, Roman Pavlyuchenko, Sebastian Bassong, Sandro/Tom Huddlestone

Tottenham have arguably the weakest bench among the top four at the moment, but with the motivation of pushing for a third place, the players coming off the bench are also putting in better than decent performances. Spurs have effective backups for all the positions on the pitch, but lack a game changer in their ranks, unlike City and United.

Chelsea
Chelsea

Bench: Fernando Torres, Florent Malouda, Branislav Ivanovic, David Luiz/Paulo Ferreira, John Obi Mikel

Similar to United, Chelsea also have a strong rotation policy but that seems to have been dumped at the moment due to the tough times that the club faced in the recent weeks. Chelsea have a host of top class players to choose from the bench, capable of making an impact whenever they are on the pitch. They are lucky not to be facing an injury crisis at present and are only poised to lose Mikel to the African Cup of Nations.

Arsenal
Arsenal

Bench: Marouane Chamakh, Andrey Arshavin, Yossi Benayoun, Ignasi Miquel, Tomas Rosicky/Emmanuel Frimpong/Francis Coquelin

Arsenal are currently serving their customary defensive injury crisis that hits them at this point of time every season. With all four full backs out, Arsene Wenger is having to field four central defenders at the back four. They are also likely to be hit hard by the AFCON as they will lose Marouane Chamakh and Gervinho during this period. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Park Chu Young and Ryo Miyaichi are most likely to be introduced to the bench in the coming weeks.

Liverpool
Liverpool

Bench: Andy Carroll, Jamie Carragher, Jonjo Shelvey/Jay Spearing, Dirk Kuyt/Maxi Rodriguez, Martin Kelly

Liverpool too have a strong enough bench but are a little inexperienced when compared to their rivals in this regard. With Lucas Leiva injured for the rest of the season and Luis Suarez set to serve his 8 match ban, Kenny Dalglish will be forced to rotate his central midfielders and strikers, but that shouldn’t be too much of a problem as Dalglish would most probably use Jordan Henderson and Craig Bellamy in these positions.

P.S. – The list above does not take into consideration the goalkeepers of respective teams and lists only the most probable bench line-ups.