Looking at the Liverpool line-up many would have thought the starting eleven was at least decent enough to trouble the Chelsea backline. I can understand why Kenny opted for a more attacking back-four to some degree. He went with pace, movement and played Steven Gerrard in the hole to help thread balls into Suarez. With a back four consisting of solidity, the only problem I had with the formation was the two middle-men consisting of Henderson and Spearing. They were entrusted with the job of stifling the Chelsea attack and feeding Gerrard in his much more coveted role.
The problem I felt that would come to fruition was Henderson’s lack of involvement in big games and Spearing’s inability to be a ball cruncher or a midfield quarter-back in the mould of Xabi Alonso. Ultimately this would starve Gerrard, forcing him to come deeper and deeper for the ball leaving Luis Suarez as an isolated figure. The inclusion of the injured Charlie Adams could perhaps have made this formation more feasible but to the delight of many he is out for the season.
Jay Spearing’s inexperience and tentativeness was embarrassingly illustrated on two occasions, which ultimately cost Liverpool the cup final. The first in which he lost the ball leading to Juan Mata feeding the ball to Ramires who burst past Jose Enrique with ridiculous ease to blast past the ever reliable Reina at his near post. The second and most costly of these mistakes was diving in for an unnecessary challenge on Frank Lampard (not known for his speed or dribbling skills I might add), who skipped past the pint-sized Scouser to thread the ball into Drogba’s path who marked possibly his final Wembley appearance with a cool finish.
Heart-breaking as it was to witness he was immediately substituted for Andy Carroll who made a remarkable impact on the game following his tumultuous season. His late revival during a season of indifferent form was certainly a shining light in an otherwise performance bereft of heart and skill for sixty minutes. With his arrival the team came to life, prompting many to suggest Carroll should have started in place of Spearing. The sky-scraper of a striker allowed Suarez to drop off into the pockets of space, much like Juan Mata for Chelsea and proved for the last half an hour to be a menace, almost providing the equaliser but for a superb save by Peter Cech. Gerrard was allowed to dictate play from the middle of the park but it was all in vain and to the detriment to the large contingent of Reds who made the lengthy trek down south to London.
Appraising the game will be a stomach-churning task for many die-hard fans but this game will certainly highlight how poorly the summer signings have been and the ability they lack on the big stage for a team of Liverpool’s standing. Stewart Downing at times looked so timid when faced up against Jose Bosingwa that whenever he got the ball, he almost passed backwards or across failing to penetrate the right-back not exactly known for his defensive qualities. Jordan Henderson was at an impasse throughout the entirety of the game, drawing the ire of many of the fans. Whilst Jay Spearing doesn’t offer much to the team on a technical front, he at least tried, though his efforts weren’t good enough.
Evaluating the game has not been an easy task as I want nothing more than for Liverpool to succeed, but after witnessing a cup final that lacked real quality, Liverpool fans must ask themselves is next season a season they can afford to watch with the same players? When Raheem Sterling came on against Fulham for those last ten minutes, the excitement he roused amongst the fans because of his skill and pace was reminiscent of John Barnes. Unfortunately he wasn’t even granted a place on the bench. Surely Kenny Dalglish will have to assess what is required and make the necessary adjustments in the summer if we are to compete for the Champions League slots. If he doesn’t then the King will have to abdicate from his position and relinquish his crown to someone else.
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