And here I thought I'd be able to celebrate the first time I've delayed watching an entire match.
It turned out to be extremely disappointing, as Liverpool were overrun and outclassed in nearly every regard. Not going to waste any time here---some recapped thoughts in no certain order.
An Admission of Guilt
Unfortunately I was accurate in my guess at a switch to the 4-4-2 and painfully inaccurate that it could have been effective. Given the personnel available (read: missing Joe Cole
and Alberto Aquilani), I had thought it would give Liverpool a chance to at least push forward a bit while not completely losing the midfield battle. To be fair to myself, I had predicted Kuyt off Torres and Maxi wide. Not that it turned out to matter.
It was utterly and completely wrong, and it's foolish to argue otherwise. Nothing went right with the personnel or the tactics---City were dominant with their midfield three, and there was no hope for Lucas or Steven Gerrard to anything that resembled linking play. In an ideal world (which this clearly is not), that formation would have been able to at least force the issue at times.
But they weren't, Roberto Mancini and his side had it completely right, and Liverpool were embarrassed. The possession battle was comical , there were no chances for the interplay that we had hoped for between any of the forward men, and no real glimpses of hope for Liverpool to claw back into things. I ended up cursing myself for the naïveté of even suggesting this Liverpool side could stay competitive with such a shift.
Width, and a Lack Thereof
There was nothing doing for Dirk Kuyt and Milan Jovanovic, mentioned plenty by those in the matchday thread. It seemed that a good part of it was down to the fact that they were tasked with tracking back and assisting Gerrard and Lucas in the middle rather than staying forward and creating chances. That pretty much took all the life out of Liverpool from the wide areas, neutering any influence they could have had from more advanced roles. Having to subtract a wide player to compensate for being overrun in the middle absolutely killed Liverpool.
I admittedly am not a noted tactical wizard (see above), but it was clear that this was not the way forward. And it seemed to be that way early and often, and nothing was really done to change it. If this is going to be the formation Hodgson uses (which history would indicate), then you'd have to think that more money will be invested in wide players with the pace to compensate. But this is Liverpool, and the promise of transfer funds has likely been greatly exaggerated, and they're going to have to make due with what they've got.
Anonymity in Attack
Briefly, the end product of the above two areas was a paucity of real chances when it mattered. Both Torres and David Ngog were starved of any service worth mentioning, and the only real threat came after Gerrard hit the post and the follow-ups by the two strikers were saved by Joe Hart. It wasn't just down to a lack of influence from the strike partnership---there was nothing to back them up, nothing to free them, and nothing to be encouraged by.
Trouble at the Back
A weakness largely down to the dreadfully undermanned midfield, but still a less than stellar performance from a normally-reliable defense. Gareth Barry was a lonesome figure waiting to slot home the first, Pepe Reina had a bit of a clanger on the second goal credited to Carlos Tevez, and Skrtel's tackle that led to the third, while not completely inexcusable, was the most unfortunate of ways to cap things.
But there were noticeable problems outside of the goals---mostly the troubles for Daniel Agger at left back. It's not entirely down to Agger, as an on-form Adam Johnson can give even the most experienced left back problems. The struggles by the Dane were notable, though, and it cried out again for depth at a position that Liverpool have still not adequately addressed. To say it was an off night for the Liverpool back line takes credit away from City, who were overwhelming at times in attack, but this was not a Liverpool defense we're used to seeing.
A Day of Disquiet
From the early rumors about Mascherano refusing to play (explained in none too encouraging fashion by Hodgson afterwards) to the laughably premature calls for Hodgson's job, it's been another day to forget in a year of forgettable days. As it relates to the club, there's nothing more divisive than a bad Liverpool performance---supporters at each others throats about who's to blame, who's a real fan, who's right about who's wrong; the rumors of further unrest from players that desire more; the accustomed schadenfreude from the usual suspects and talk of a once-proud club that's now past its expiration date of relevance.
And sadly enough there's grains of truth to most of it. It's true that much of the early optimism, buouyed by Joe Cole's arrival and encouraging displays against elementary opposition, is either fading or gone entirely. But even though it's slightly hollow and naïve to say after such a poor performance, there's also plenty of football left to be played and plenty of time to Liverpool to right the ship, even if that righting is a painful process.
Thanks to all who shared their thoughts in the matchday post---more to come tomorrow and leading up to the difficult trip to the Black Sea on Thursday.