The Big Fail: Stoke 3 - Liverpool 1

Bryn Lennon

Liverpool are overrun.

Hey remember when i said I liked Boxing Day better than Christmas Day? Boy does that seem funny now, huh?

After watching United's utterly predictable and yet still stomach punching affair with Newcastle, and then Spurs demonstrating why the idea for chasing for fourth is an utter pipe dream in the realm of the Easter Bunny, the last thing we needed was to see Liverpool lay a stinking turd. And that's what we got. Let's fast forward to 2013, shall we?

There were some curious tactical and managerial decisions. There were some poor performances and some ineptitude in the box that could have changed the game. But really, for me, this loss came down to Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger simply not being up to the challenge presented to them today.

I could question the validity of the idea of trying to challenge Kenywe Jones at every turn. Because what's the real danger? It's not Jones himself, but the second balls and runners from deep. Jones himself isn't going to score with a header from 30 yards, so wouldn't it be better to just let him have that and cover up what he's really looking for?

But that's too simple. The first goal, he wins the header over Agger, Skrtel slips, it's all over. That happens. It sucks, but that happens. Running around like panicked school children after that doesn't just happen, though.

Second goal. Agger loses Jones again, and Gerrard is either slow or lazy or both in covering the front post. That's simply not good enough from players who we demand be good enough. They have to be.

Third goal. The only place that throw was ever going was to Jones's head. So why, after he'd won every aerial battle on the day, was he left for Skrtel to deal with and not have Lucas or Gerrard bracket him from in front? Make him win the header among two defenders. But no, and Walters was able to bring it down because Agger wasn't tight enough or determined enough.

Ball. Game.

There were other problems. After miraculously winning a penalty for once, Liverpool were toothless. Shelvey had one chance but blew it with a poor first touch. Suarez did the same not too much longer. He fizzled all game. Downing couldn't continue his brief run of competence. Suso was bullied out of it for the most part. And Gerrard was awful, aside from the penalty. Enrique and Johnson didn't get into it as much as we're used to.

Other thoughts:

-When Liverpool have had success against Stoke, like last year's win at Anfield in the FA Cup, the night of Suarez's first goal, and one or two others, they've played three at the back. That's so they have two centerbacks covering the runs onto the flicked headers from either Jones or Crouch. Why not today?

-Shelvey was unimpressive, and it seemed the move was to bring Sterling on for him and deploy Suso into the middle where he's been more effective. Liverpool needed more guile to unlock a packed defense. Shelvey wasn't going to be it today.

-Speaking of which, Liverpool struggled to deal with Stoke's high pressure. Which is annoying, because you'd think a team that's going to provide itself on its passing would relish having that high pressure, because it could get through it and then have oodles of space behind it. But Liverpool didn't. So they can't play against a side determined to press high and they can't play against a team bunkered deep? What's left?

-Jordan Henderson probably should have started somewhere, but he didn't impress off the bench either.

One more fixture to go in 2012. It's QPR. I won't be sorry to see the back of this calendar. Neither will you I'm guessing.

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