LFC crash out of the FA Cup at Oldham
IT WAS, to paraphrase Brendan Rodgers, not OK.
The Liverpool manager was still seething the day after the humiliation before, and he wasn’t pulling any punches.
His team made Oldham’s Matt Smith look like Didier Drogba. They were far too timid. The youngsters didn’t pull their weight and could end up playing League One opponents every week.
It then became an overall critique of slipshod performances in recent weeks.
Aston Villa’s Christian Benteke has done nothing since his terrorising display at Anfield in December.
Defeat at Stoke City was just as bad.
The common denominator in those three defeats was Martin Skrtel, the only defender to appear in each match.
The Slovakian also featured in the 2-1 defeat at Manchester United where his being caught out by Danny Welbeck allowed Nemanja Vidic to deflect in what ultimately proved the winner.
Rodgers backtracked on singling out Skrtel, but the point was already made.
Indeed, the signpost was there with Skrtel having been included in the starting line-up at Oldham in the first place, Jamie Carragher clearly being spared with the midweek visit to Arsenal in mind.
Skrtel, more than any of Liverpool’s defenders, has struggled to acclimatise to the Rodgers era. Witness his error against Manchester City, when his backpass was intercepted by Carlos Tevez and cost Liverpool an early morale-boosting victory.
That, though, is understandable. What isn’t is the manner in which Skrtel has been outmanoeuvred and, yes, bullied by some of the more robust forwards Liverpool have encountered this season.
It was rarely a problem with Carragher alongside him. But with Daniel Agger more cultured than combative, the onus has been on Skrtel to provide the steel at the back and, on occasion, he has been found wanting.
Perhaps it’s just a matter of confidence. After all, it was for good reason the Slovakia international was named Liverpool’s Player of the Year last season by the club’s supporters.
But he wasn’t alone in underwhelming at Boundary Park. While it was unfair to expect Sebastian Coates to impress having started so few games this season, the alarming manner of his performance suggests his long-term Anfield future could be in doubt.
And with time against Carragher, it does ponder the question: why haven’t Liverpool been in for a centre-back during this transfer window rather than adding to their multitude of central midfielders?
Rodgers has always stated he wants a pool of six middle men to pick from, and with the loan move for Nuri Sahin having not worked out, he has instead turned to Inter Milan’s Brazilian Philippe Coutinho.
Yet having criticised his team’s youngsters and admitted the squad needs more experience, it does appear something of a gamble to sign a 20-year-old who struggled to cope with the physical demands of Serie A.
Rodgers may be right in stating Liverpool lack strength in depth but he has nevertheless spent more than £50m since arriving last summer. Not exactly small change.
Of course, the Northern Irishman still has time on his side. But unless Liverpool can now make a sprint for the finishing line, quite how much more funding Fenway Sports Group are prepared to hand over remains to be seen.