Hello all. I hope you had a good Christmas, Hanukkah, Solstice, or what have you with your families. Today we play Blackpool, for what I believe is the first time this season. (Wait, what's that? We've already played them? And lost you say? At Anfield? Don't be silly.) At the very least they will be entertaining, as they play a free flowing game, having no reservations about throwing themselves on the spears of say, Arsenal or Chelsea. Whether or not we will be is another matter, but this is exactly the type of match where a pressing variant of a 4-4-2 is called for with both left and right backs moving high up the pitch (not just Johnson).
This'll be the open thread- More on both squads after the jump.
Blackpool are an interesting bird. They run a formation rarely seen in the premier league, a 4 tier shape. Zonal Marking calls it a 4-1-2-3 here, but I'm more comfortable with thinking about it in a four tier manner. They tend to try to play in as flowing a manner as possible, and because of their shape they're limited in their width. This has proved a problem against some teams that move quickly and "pass people off the field"- notably the Arsenal match, but otherwise Blackpool have shown an excellent tendency to hold their own against similar attacking teams and break down overly defensive ones. Notably, they scalped us pretty early on in the season in a brutal match for Liverpool fans, where the refrain of complaint in that match (so, why don't we push up the field or shoot? Oh, so you can't tackle past your own mid line now? So defenders are off side if they move past the mid line?) foretold the grim state of affairs today.They have some vulnerabilities, but they've really performed far, far above everyone's expectations.
Liverpool should absolutely skin this team. Blackpool can be outclassed, and in all honesty they don't have a player who would see the pitch at Liverpool. Charlie Adam is pretty good, but he would struggle to replace a Gerrard even on form. Blackpool has trouble dealing with the Chelseas, Arsenals, and Man Uniteds of the Premier League world, the aggregate skill on display generally overpowering the tactically innovative side. (and my dad just walked by, glimpsed at the spelling, and sniffed "poor coinage there, son") So, in theory, if our players performed to their paychecks, they should take this in a walk. Mind you, very talented teams that tend to play defensively struggled a bit (hello, Man City), but they still got maximum points.
Will we win the match? Well, we certainly need to. As Sam noted earlier, we need to take some points in this holiday period- he said 13 of 15, and I think we should expect 15 of 15 from a team that's going to qualify for Europe. The coming slate is a collection of out of form teams and bottom feeders, and good teams, certainly teams that deserve Europe, would win out in this schedule. I've said previously that the only way this season is a success is if we get to Europe, and the only way we get to Europe is by winning the matches we're supposed to and surprising some teams in matches we're not. As much as I would like the FA cup, it's not going to help us hold on to certain players whom we cannot replace in the coming year if we don't make the Europa League. We don't play a squad we shouldn't get points from until Chelsea in February. Except for Bolton in a couple weeks, every match in that set (in the Premier League, mind you) is a match we should win. Blackpool is probably the best team we play in the set of coming matches, and there is no way we should drop points today (never let Bolton get in the way of good hyperbole). This is an important bellwether- we need to see if the boys can play with flair and confidence 1. away from home, and 2. against a team they should beat. Attacking teams you have no expectation of beating is easy, playing confidently against teams you must beat is far, far more difficult.
Leave your thoughts and observations below if you would- I'm probably stuck on the radio with this one.