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Everything's the Worst: Big Bad Wolf Edition

Preoccupied with that ghastly apparition staring through the mirror, ETW has issues and they need airing. Forget about rounding up whatever happened over the weekend because right now, nothing else matters.

Laurence Griffiths

Who's afraid of the creature with the sharpest of teeth and the staunchest of appetites? You cannot escape and you cannot hide. Your efforts will never be sufficient to halt the tide. Its existence is far beyond our own no matter how much you think you've grown. Nothing brings more frights than the indelible marks when reality bites.

Everything is the worst right now and that's not because Liverpool were escorted to the classroom by Arsène Wenger's high-flying pupils. The simple fact is that Liverpool could have been more competitive with the options available on that particular matchday. Victory may have remained elusive but respectability would not have. Sometimes it's hard to accept and in the aftermath of the match, it was clear that central midfield remains a significant impediment to the progress we hope to make.

The opening goal by Cazorla has been analysed and a match report acknowledged that one side outclassed another. When writing First Thoughts on the defeat away to Arsenal, I wanted to avoid fanning the flames of ire as I was extremely upset at how Liverpool were being outmatched with options to provide some redress even if victory would remain beyond Brendan Rodgers' side. I was apoplectic during the match and hurled all sorts of insults at Liverpool staff, players, and whatever else came my way. I was angry that something that could have been resolved was just left to fester and continue to wound my beloved club.

Yet I was surprised how I bristled at the thought of criticising Steven Gerrard too severely. Our captain. Our superman. Our living legend. The problem was that while he was and always will be a legend for Liverpool FC, he may no longer be the captain and superman that we think he is. His performance was just as poor as Aly Cissokho's and I showed no restraint in my assessment of the fullback's day. It is difficult for a writer to accede to the fact that emotion and loyalty impeded judgement, but while I commented that "we need to talk about Gerrard and the midfield" in First Thoughts, I didn't encourage it in the comments despite knowing Steven Gerrard had been poor. He should not be immune from criticism and must earn a place in the team on merit.

There are a few nasty little wolves in our midst and while the defeat to Arsenal did not alert us to their baleful existence, it provided the sharpest dose of bitter reality.

Brendan Rodgers and his status as manager.

I think most us recognise that Brendan Rodgers has developed as a manager in his short time at Liverpool FC. While we saw promise in him last season, it is unquestionable that most are increasingly becoming comfortable with how he has settled into the role as Liverpool manager. What he needs is something to add to his Liverpool CV because while he has had an impressive calendar year (thus far) in the job, there is nothing like winning a trophy or finishing in the top four. Ironically, those two goals remain somewhat realistic for Liverpool's season, with the FA Cup the sole cup competition that Liverpool could win this season. The top four is the second goal that appears to be a possibility with the solid start to the season and the decreased workload on the players.

Rodgers may or may not possess the clout or necessary gravitas to drop any player he chooses because of the nature of the club, fans, and players. The two players who seem to be immune from being benched are Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez. One player is arguably the best in the league so that argument becomes settled quickly. However, Rodgers has been a manager whose legitimacy has been strengthened from the perceived close relationship he holds with his players. A eulogy is never far from the lips of our trusted leader and perhaps it is a case of him moving slowly towards greater power as Liverpool's captain of the ship.

Steven Gerrard and the midfield.

Yes, it's a problem, and I thought this season would see some rotation between our captain and the talented Joe Allen, a player who needed to be rested last autumn. Now his inclusion is being overlooked. What a difference a year makes. Allen is a player that Rodgers genuinely rates and it is undoubted that his early performances were not the type most Liverpool players could produce. They were tactically aware, technically savvy, and full of footballing intelligence. We need that right now and while it may take some time for Allen to get back into that Liverpool groove, he certainly knows how to pass and move. Pass. Move. Two things that midfielders should do. Track back, tackle, and think would also be helpful. Actually getting the chance to partner to the reliable Lucas Leiva could be a good idea.

Jordan Henderson is a decent player who is full of running and in most matches he'll help others do their jobs. What he does need to do is add some goals to his game as he appeared to do last season but he must improve his final third output. Sometimes it seems that our beloved Henderson is more frightened than a battling centre back as he approaches the opposition goal. A final pass, a decisive run, or a confident shot are not what one would associate with Henderson's game. Our strikers would get some support if he can add one of those three to his regular repertoire of hard running, pressing, and tidy passing. Luis Alberto could provide a composed partner for Lucas when Liverpool are at home against some of the weaker teams but he may be used in an attacking midfield position.

Much depends on the formation but there is greater onus on the midfield to produce goals in a 352 system. The wingbacks aren't in the same attacking category as the two wide players in a band of three in a 4231 or 433 so the attacking midfielder and another central midfielder may need to provide some goalscoring support. Liverpool have done well with 352 but where are the goalscoring Henrikh Mkhitaryans midfielders?

Steven Gerrard. Steven Gerrard. Steven Gerrard.

Rotation and one game a week.

This is what Brendan Rodgers must consider as Liverpool have nine games left in 2013 that will take the club up to the halfway stage of the league season. In the midst of August's fruits, I wrote about how the absence of European football could aid Liverpool in returning to the land of milk and honey. Those were the heady times indeed. Playing one game a week means that players need to be involved from the bench to get meaningful time as midweek European cup excursions are off the menu. An early exit from the whatever-name-it-is-but-we-don't-really-care-even-if-we-loved-when-King-Kenny-won-it-Cup also reduced the chance for players to attain that much vaunted "match sharpness" that's needed to push past 100%.

Rotation can be from the start but it can also be from the bench. Sometimes it is vital to get players involved so that when they are called upon, they'll have some match fitness to work with that doesn't involve reserves and training bibs. If Liverpool are cruising then priority subs could be Daniel Agger and Joe Allen. If those two are starting in place of players who have had plenty of minutes of late then a player like Victor Moses, Raheem Sterling, or Luis Alberto would be early candidates to allow established names to get a rest for the last 20-30 minutes of a game. It is imperative that Brendan Rodgers ensures that there is some freshness throughout the ranks because options for minutes outside league action are desperately scarce.


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