I know what the malady is, and I know what the complaints will be. Whenever Liverpool are faced with anything resembling a physical side, they crumble. An opponent could literally put a giant block of wood up front, but as long as it was sturdy, Martin Skrtel would wet himself at the sight of it. And that would only be after Sebastien Coates went running for the hills from it. Their midfield can be crowded out, especially when it contains Joe Allen. And they'll continue to look for a rescue that isn't coming. Not from an incompetent ref, not from their own players, not from the heavens.
The fans, and maybe the players and management, will wail about getting little protection from the ref, or how the barbarian horde employing the neanderthal tactics aren't suited for Liverpool to play their progressive game. But until you just say "Fuck it" and get on with it and bully through no matter the challenges, you're basically Diet Arsenal from a few years back. A delicate flower who constantly wonders why the bad men won't let you display your art. And it's utter bullshit.
Liverpool have no excuses today. They got what they deserved, though I feel like ranting about the officiating for a good long time, because it was awful. There were bad performances and curious managing decisions and whatever else you need. And the overriding fear that it may effect that far more important encounters later in the week.
Let's trudge through this.
-How can someone who looks like Martin Skrtel be so easily overmatched physically. He wanted no part of the Oldham attack from the word go, just like he didn't want any part of Stoke's, Villa's, Mansfield's, or name a few others. I used to think that central defense was the one thing Liverpool had no questions over. While it's not something to be debated during the season, it might have to come up for discussion in the summer. Because if Skrtel is so easily found out by such an easy tactic to employ, is he really a player you count on as foundational?
-That said, Coates was so beyond anything that I recognize as an athlete that I can't even excuse it as rust. How did this player fall so far off the cliff? You could say he's needed more matches, but every time he comes up for air this is what it looks like. How can Rodgers give him more matches then?
-Ok, this is being harsh on Joe Allen, who wasn't as awful as I'd like to make out. But he's obviously been poor for a while now, losing his place to Jordan Henderson (I hope). Why then would you toss him into this match with even more responsibility than normal in a two-man midfield instead of three? Allen was swimming against the physical Mansfield, so don't say you couldn't anticipate him struggling with a League One side. Surely just the mere presence of either Shelvey or Suso would have aided.
-Speaking of which, what did Shelvey do to not even get a start here?
-He wasn't helped by a straight up 4-2-4 look, which led to a problem with the fullbacks. They didn't have much support, and whether they chose to isolate the centerbacks to get out wide to prevent crosses or to support the bullied defenders in the middle and let those crosses in, both options were wrong.
-Rodgers called out his young players after the match, I'm sure he was looking right at Coates. But Robinson didn't do much to help himself either. And I doubt he'll be looking squarely at his blanky Allen.
-Now Gerrard has to get two and a half matches (this one equals at least a half now) in one week. That's awesome.
-That was the first TV analyst to actually be right about Suarez and his reputation. Can we clone him?
In the end, Rodgers and the team should be judged by what happens in the league and the growth shown there. A win over Arsenal will wash this out pretty quickly. Maybe not having the burden of more matches is a blessing. But the giant steps back are becoming beyond infuriating.
Ok, I'm going to stop before I spit up some actual bile.