Best Adjustment By Opposition Manager: Gus Poyet's 3-4-3
I tend to think of tactics as a game of "Rock-Paper-Scissors." There are obvious strengths and weaknesses to every system and guessing your opponent's hand beforehand (see what I did there?) is as much a part as putting your own hand (and again!) down. In yesterday's game, the whole planet knew Brendan Rodgers was going to roll out the 4-3-1-2 we've seen over the past month, so Poyet changed his shape accordingly.
The Uruguayan's 3-4-3 was designed to keep SAS from playing 2v2 against the Sunderland center backs and give the Black Cats a chance to double up on both flanks. It was essentially a forfeiture of the center of the park, but Poyet knew he had no hope of winning this battle anyway.
Regardless, tactics are only part of the story and a team's ability level and confidence are just as, if not more, important. So, credit to Poyet for putting his team in a system that allowed them to overachieve (is it condescending to say losing 2-1 is overachieving? Probably, but not wrong?) but based on talent and form they were just overmatched.
Worst Officiating Consistency: Kevin Friend
Good lord. I can't be the only one who has grown tired of the inconsistency of second yellow cards can I? Shades of Clattenberg and Rafael's hand ball with Vergini avoiding a second booking after taking down Suarez. I want to stop pounding my head into the wall but if it's a yellow card, it's a yellow card, regardless if the player has already been booked.
On top of this, Friend had a pretty piss poor game. Most of the disputed calls were 50-50's, but that not a single one ever came up tails beggared belief, while some were just plain missed.
Best Red: Steven Gerrard
He let Suarez take the first before he took the second and sent it right on home. Besides the addition to the highlight reel, Gerrard pulled all the strings from deep. Not Liverpool's best performance of the year, but the Captain kept up his fine form. And he won the first of what will be several rounds of "Yellow Card Roulette."
Runner up: Santiago Vergini who apparently learned defensive tactics at Dunkirk and Waterloo. Thankfully, he has naked pictures of Kevin Friend, so he remained on the pitch for 90 minutes. Leverage people, leverage.
Worst Red: Jon Flanagan
Not an overall terrible performance by any stretch and you could probably pick one of Hendo or Allen who didn't bring too much to the final third. However, Flanagan just totally switched off on Ki's header from a corner and this led to an extremely nervy finish by the home side. Ball-watching at the back post is no way to go through life, son.
Best Series of Ridiculous Touches: Philippe Coutinho
Here's another "Mostar" video to keep you unproductive at the office. P-Funk needs to develop his finishing skills and overall add a bit of consistency moving forward, but the technique on display yesterday was why we all love him. Flicking it over people's heads, outside of the boot corner clearances, the close-control to skip around defenders, the vision/invention on through balls. Unreal.
Worst Backwards Step in Chemistry by a Forward Duo: SAS
Doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, but you get the point. Over the past couple games we've seen increased flashes of SAS going for their own rather than looking for each other, and yesterday was when we crossed a line. Rodgers called his strikers "soloists, not partners" after the match and I find that worrisome for the sole reason that the two have shown great chemistry for much of the season. Each is bursting with confidence which is excellent, but the balance seemed flip over into selfish territory for this one.
Worst Offseason Move by a Player: Emanuele Giaccherini
Joined Sunderland from Juventus to take on a larger role within a team, only to watch the compatriot who recruited him get fired within the season's opening stretch. He certainly has more responsibility with the Black Cats than the Bianconeri, but he must feel a little remorse watching his old team cruise to another Serie A title while his new one continues to fight uphill against relegation.