Selhurst Park has not been kind to Liverpool, particularly of late. Last season’s draw with Crystal Palace was the final nail in the coffin of their title hopes. This season, a 3-1 defeat in November was arguably their lowest point in an autumn filled with low points. More promisingly, though, it also helped push Liverpool to shift their approach, and that shift has seen them much improved over the last two months.
"That was a low point in the camp, and you have to look for a positive reaction off of that kind of result," said assistant manager Colin Pascoe of November’s difficult loss away to Crystal Palace. "We tweaked the system, and the group have responded fantastically to it. The way they’ve come back and played, the attractive football they’re playing at the moment, it has been a great reaction from that day to now."
According to Pascoe, the biggest change for Liverpool between November and now has been a renewed focus on defensive security. Under manager Brendan Rodgers, the defence has rarely been the top priority, but with the loss of Luis Suarez and injury to Daniel Sturridge—plus a few months of results showing just how badly Liverpool’s attack had suffered as a result—there was little choice but to make it the top priority.
A move to three at the back and reintroducing a proper holding midfielder, one judged by his ability to snuff out opposition attacks and screen the defence rather than his ability to launch counters, worked, stabilising a floundering side. Lucas’ recent injury does leave question marks about Liverpool’s defence and whether it can maintain that improved form, but according to Pascoe a solid, settled defence remains the priority.
"You get stability with a back four or a back three and try to keep them together, and that’s what’s happened," added Pascoe. "These three have been playing together regularly, and so it’s no coincidence we’ve kept the clean sheets. The manager has worked hard on that side of the game, to stiffen up the defence. If you’re not scoring goals, you need to find a way to stop them, and the manager has worked hard with that."