It wasn't all bad for Charlie Adam against Arsenal on Saturday—it was only almost all bad. He did, as usual, supply a handful of cutting cross-field passes that effectively switched play. He found Martin Kelly in space on a pair of occasions as Liverpool's fullback joined the attack late and unmarked. And most positively, he created two of Liverpool's three best chances to score, skipping past his man in the build-up to Suarez' first half chance that hit the post and later drilling a low cross into the penalty area that Dirk Kuyt similarly directed against the woodwork.
Unfortunately, outside of those moments he had an almost entirely poor day. Outside of a half-dozen stellar passes, he in fact put in what may have been one of the worst performances by a Liverpool player this season. It was ineffective, it was sloppy, it saw possession handed over to Arsenal needlessly time and time again, and it included the requisite handful of cringingly poor tackle attempts to stand in counterpoint to those of his cross-field passes that were on target.
Video by kLFCreds.
Even when Adam got it right against Arsenal, at times it came about because a heavy touch or misplaced pass ricocheted off a defender after he'd gotten things wrong. And meanwhile, he wasn't only misplacing his trademark Hollywood balls—many of his short passes went straight to Arsenal players, at times with it not even being clear which teammate he had intended the pass for. His set-pieces weren't any better, either, with the day marking yet another performance to suggest that on current form he shouldn't be allowed anywhere near a dead ball situation.
Though, again, it wasn't all bad. The vast majority of Adam's day was certainly painful to watch, but for some fans, when the match ended it was that small handful of positives that left a lasting impression. Those who ended the match thinking he had done well will have been focusing on the fact that with more clinical finishing, he would have played a key role in two Liverpool goals and a likely draw. For many others, though, that he had an almost wholly negative impact outside of those few moments remains inescapable.
Which, when it comes right down to it, is just more of the same for a player who has polarised opinion since his signing: He'll provide a half-dozen passes worthy of making any highlight reel, but he'll badly misplace at least twice as many others, often slow play down with extra touches that are the antithesis of pass and move football, and provides nothing in defence. It also appears that he will never pass the ball after carrying it into the final third. Against Arsenal, the contrast might have been as stark as it ever has been between Charlie Adam's two sides, but in the end the basic positives and negatives remained the same.
For those raised on direct football and long passing, the argument says those half-dozen passes that get shown on Match of the Day and have led to Adam recording six assists this season justify his presence. It says that the only problem with his current play isn't Adam so much as it is that Liverpool lacks anyone who can cover for his well-documented shotcomings.
For those who value smart players and pass and move football, however, that his final touch of the game is to fire the ball out of bounds perfectly encapsulates a player who seems to get things wrong far more often than he gets them right. He might make a few highlight reel passes, but every time he puts the ball out of play or sends it directly to an opponent while not under pressure it's a wasted opportunity and a chance for Liverpool's opponent to build their own attack.
We normally stick to the positives when it comes to every-touch compilations that aid in breaking down player performances—in part because the talented people who make the every-touch compilations would understandably rather revisit positive performances. This time around, however, we were lucky enough to have kLFCreds agree to go through Saturday's match again to pick out every pass, dribble, and tackle attempted by Charlie Adam in an effort to help us break down his game against Arsenal and also because we wanted to look at his performance in isolation to see if our initial impressions of his performance had been fair.
It may be far from pretty, but we think it's been useful in helping us understand Adam's game, both the particular one he had on Saturday and in a more general sense. We hope that you'll agree with us on that, no matter your opinion on the particular value of Charlie Adam, and we also hope you'll give kLFCreds a follow on Twitter since she was nice enough to put the compilation together for us.