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Liverpool 1, Roma 2: Gaining Fitness but Lacking Depth

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BOSTON, MA - JULY 25:  Liverpool's offense makes a run towards goal against AS Roma during a pre-season tour friendly match on July 25, 2012 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - JULY 25: Liverpool's offense makes a run towards goal against AS Roma during a pre-season tour friendly match on July 25, 2012 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
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It's pre-season, and the results don't matter. What does matter—beyond the basics of gaining fitness and an increasing familiarity with Brendan Rodgers' system—are any signs, for good or ill, that speak to the likelihood of success once the results do start to count. And on that front, following a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Roma at Fenway Park on Wednesday night, it has become increasingly clear just how little depth Liverpool has at several key areas, particularly forward and holding midfielder.

Liverpool 1 Adam 80'
Roma 2 Bradley 63', Florenzi 69'

Against Roma, Liverpool's best forward in the first half was Raheem Sterling and in the second it was Dani Pacheco. The most consistent goal threat was provided by Jonjo Shelvey from midfield while Nathan Eccleston and Adam Morgan were entirely invisible, strikers in theory only. It spoke to a worrying lack of depth on hand to staff Liverpool's front three, and as it stands now, the club face a season in which they are likely to play close to sixty games with Luis Suarez, Fabio Borini, Andy Carroll as the primary options along with a cast of promising youngsters (and Stewart Downing).

If Carroll joins Dirk Kuyt and Maxi Rodriguez in leaving Anfield this summer, the situation will be even worse—even if Liverpool aren't held to ransom in their attempts to bring in a replacement for the towering target. Meanwhile, the lack of depth behind Lucas is equally worrying, as Jay Spearing looked as out of his depth as the lone holding player as he did throughout the second half of last season, having his latest "one of his worst performances ever for Liverpool" performance.

And pre-season or not, that Jose Enrique has continued the run of poor form he was on during the second half of last season is hugely worrying, as is Brendan Rodgers becoming the third manager to try playing Danny Wilson at left back. Wilson was completely embarrassed after coming on in the second half for Enrique, but had Enrique not left the pitch it's entirely likely he would have ended up taking the blame for a Roma goal or two himself on a night when Liverpool's most effective player at left back was Dani Pacheco whenever he filled in for his wandering teammates.

In midfield, Charlie Adam remains a mixed bag with two scoops of bad and a clumsy tackle to go along with every moment that makes the highlight reels, and against Roma the bad came when he was slow to track Michael Bradley on Roma's first goal—though Danny Wilson abandoning his position to go chasing after the ball was the primary cause—and then turned the ball over for their second. Of course, after being at least partially to blame for both Roma goals, he then made a late run, latched onto a Dani Pacheco layoff, and slotted away Liverpool's only goal of the night.

Still, outside of his goal it's not unfair to suggest that Adam's night was downright disastrous. And so the battle over the midfielder will continue as Liverpool fans struggle with the question of whether the handful of highlight-worthy moments he delivers in almost every match are enough to make up for them being surrounded by 89 minutes of regret. What no Liverpool fan will likely argue over, however, is that Danny Wilson should never, ever, ever play at left back again. Ever.

However, it wasn't all negatives, with the aforementioned Shelvey and Pacheco putting in the best Liverpool performances of each half as both youngsters further showed they deserve to be serious contenders for minutes ahead of the likes of Downing, Cole, and Adam once the season starts. Raheem Sterling, too, had another strong outing, as did fellow academy teammate Suso, though both looked a touch further away from being able to compete against Roma physically than their slightly older teammates. It was also brilliant just to see Daniel Agger striding forward with the ball at his feet for Liverpool once again.

So at least it wasn't all bad. And it has to be remembered that Roma is further along in their pre-season than Liverpool and fielded a nearly full-strength side. Plus we promised our liver we wouldn't get overly worked up about a bad result or two when the results don't matter. Even if alongside the handful of clear positives there were an awful lot of worrying signs when it comes to questions of depth at forward, depth behind Lucas, and left back in general that can't be waved away by talk of pre-season and suggestions that all that matters is gaining fitness.