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Glen Johnson and the Fine Art of Pitch Craft

Sure, there were lots of reasons why Liverpool failed to advance to the FA Cup semi-final on Sunday, but if you can blame the pitch as one of those reasons, why not do it?

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

For decades clubs have purposely manicured their pitches to give the home side a tactical advantage. Tactics may dictate whether a very slippery or incredibly dry pitch works best for the team's style, but the grounds team is fully aware as to what type of upkeep a manager may want. Unfortunately, conditions at Anfield haven't been up to snuff of late and it affected the team's performance, according to Glen Johnson.

"We just didn’t play to our best today," the defender told the Liverpool Echo after the nil-nil draw against Blackburn in the FA Cup. "We can’t make excuses but the pitch didn’t help us. I know it’s the same for both sides but it slowed us down. Without doubt, it’s the worst it’s been during my time at Liverpool.

"You have to watch your touch more because it bobbles so much. And it’s harder for the likes of Philippe (Coutinho) and Raheem (Sterling) to dribble with the ball. It slows everything down because the bounce is so irregular. It’s different every time. It takes a bit more concentration and it’s harder to play one touch football which is what you need to open these teams up around the box."

Certainly other factors were at play in Liverpool's failure to kill the game off and prevent a replay, but the quality of the pitch has been a known factor for some time now, with Brendan Rodgers expressing excitement at Christmas that the pitch would be re-laid in the summer. Rodgers' hopes that he'd get a new playing surface just in time for the new season may have been dashed, though, as news comes that construction on the Main Stand could interfere with replacing the pitch.

The source of the difficulties comes from multiple cranes that will be placed on the surface of the pitch during construction. Part of replacing the pitch is updating the drainage system beneath it, and there is concern that the weight of the cranes will be too much for the drainage pipes to withstand without breaking if they're replaced prior to the cranes arriving.

It's not ideal to have an old and tired pitch, but if Liverpool have to wait until the summer of 2016 to fully and properly replace the pitch, then Brendan Rodgers will have to find away to adapt his tactics to accommodate the conditions. Perhaps the only silver lining to their FA Cup replay away to Blackburn is the chance to play on an even worse quality pitch in anticipation of what they may face next season.

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