February 2, 2011


Kenny Dalglish's sure touch unveils foraging foursome to fear (Within a month Kenny Dalglish has lost a household name but rebuilt the front of his side. That takes some doing (Paul Hayward, 2/02/11, guardian.co.uk)

"I think the idea is to frighten a few people who come to Anfield. They are four really good footballers and they'll complement each other pretty well," said Kenny Dalglish, their manager. The new attacking Liverpool started to become visible as Gerrard and Meireles lined up in advanced midfield roles behind Dirk Kuyt. When Suárez disrobed it took him 16 minutes to locate the net in front of the Kop before his adrenaline wore off and the emotion drained him.

Carroll, dressed like a lawyer in a smart grey suit, was watching from the stands. Suárez had spent the previous day completing his work permit application and had yet to train with the squad. In the half-hour or so he was on the field he was imprecise at first but then speedy, agile and quick to exploit space, as befits a player who made his name in Holland.

On this meagre evidence he will torment centre-backs, who will fear his spearing runs, and confuse defensive midfielders, who will have to track his deeper moves. His goal, Liverpool's second, was fortuitous: an angled scuff which was rolling towards the line when Stoke's Andy Wilkinson tried to clear it and deflected the ball in off a post.

A formula to accommodate both Gerrard and Meireles, who scored the opener, behind the two new strikers could be problematic but football is not really about formations. The point is that Dalglish now has a quartet of foragers who will swing plenty of tight games his way. By an unforeseeable twist, losing the most expensive player to wear the Liver bird has broken the dependence on two star turns: Torres, who probably left months ago, in his head, and Gerrard, the over-burdened embodiment of all things Liverpool.

...is that defenses are so bad that if you attack them (with 6 to 8 players) you can blow them up. This gives a distinct disadvantage to teams that generally play defensively--as almost all smaller clubs do and Liverpool did under its past two managers--and a huge advantage to the ones that just attack from the get go. In practice, the most expensive sides tend to come up against opponents that yield too much to them and play for draws. The confidence of the big money clubs is then fed by undeserved results in a positive feedback loop. The most confident then win games just by virtue of trying to do so, against teams that--oddly to Americans--essentially aren't trying to win. On the other hand, even a good and expensive club that suffers a few setbacks will quickly lose confidence and then the losses will snowball because they aren't really trying to win either, just avoid losing again (see Arsenal almost every season and Chelsea and Liverpool this season). It's a sport that lives up to Yogi's old aphorism: 90% of the game is half mental.

Liverpool, by playing an attack-oriented front 6--Carroll, Suarez, Kuyt, Maxi, Gerrard, Mereilles--can rather rapidly re-establish themselves as one of the top clubs in the league, especially if they use Lucas as a defensive midfielder in front of a central defense of Skrtel and Agger with Martin Kelly crossing balls into the box from the wing and drifting back to help defend when needed. even just the commitment of money to two strikers creates a psychological perception that they are confident in attack, which in turn creates goals and wins by itself. Such are the vagaries of the game.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 2, 2011 7:01 PM
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