Yes, yesterday’s opening game ended in a draw but how did the Liverpool XI really perform on the day? Well, to start off, it looked like Hodgson had stuck with the tried and tested 4-2-3-1 formation with Gerrard playing the old Alonso role and Joe Cole occupying the Liverpool captain’s position of last season.
So, let’s continue from the back. OK, Reina’s blunder towards the end of the match was definitely a negative but was at the same time universally agreed to be very uncharacteristic of the man. Surely, he’ll bounce back from that so, no real issue there.
Being the first game of the season, it was evident that Hodgson wanted to play it safe at the back so, the inclusion of Agger at leftback was no surprise in order to counter Arsenal’s aerial threat with new boy, Chamakh and Vermaelen proving to be constant threats throughout the match (one which eventually led to Reina’s above-mentioned howler).
One major change that not surprisingly, pleased Sky’s Andy Gray was the change from the zonal marking system to the mano e mano system that’s more comfortable with the British pundits. No complaints there as both systems has its own merits but I do hope we’ll be able to see some concrete stats at the end of the season, just to lay this particular debate to rest if at least, for a brief moment.
Johnson looked more comfortable and with a season now under his belt, his partnership with Kuyt looks like it’s developing into a very promising one. Kuyt was his usual Energizer Bunny self so, we couldn’t ask more of him really. The same could be said of his teammate on the other side of the field, Milan Jovanović – a hard working player who looked like he has decent technique as well as a very mean shot on him. I can see him being a crowd favourite very soon.
Speaking of crowd favourites, Gerrard definitely looked enthusiastic with the central midfield role he so desires but maybe there is a case against him playing in that role. Yes, he might be fine if paired with an all-action Mascherano against a relatively soft Arsenal central midfield but against tougher midfield pairings (and with lesser partners), he’d potentially struggle. Maybe it’s first day nerves or maybe Hodgson does want his captain to play that way (considering the circumstances). Whatever it is, I hope it’s done for the good of the whole team and not to please certain individuals.
It was pleasing to see Mascherano in the starting line-up although based on his recent performance with Argentina, I had no doubt that he’d perform to his usual high standards. It was even more pleasing to see such good banter between him and the Anfield crowd on the day. Maybe, just maybe, between the crowd’s support, Hodgson’s man-management skills and the lack of funds at either Inter or Barcelona, our Javier might just decide to stick around for another while. Who knows?
Pepe Reina on the other hand, would know how one blunder (or reckless tackle to be more specific) could turn Joe Cole’s otherwise decent day into a very bad one. Before that, he did well but I get the feeling that he’s still struggling with his fitness, as on many occasions it looked like even the young Jack Wilshere had Cole in his pocket. Hopefully, the appeal will be successful and we’ll be able to see more of Cole sooner rather than later.
And, last but not least, we have the very much under-appreciated David N’Gog. Whatever criticism you pile at him, the young man still just does his job which is, to score goals. He’s had a decent start as well with four goals already this term. OK, three of them came via FK Rabotnički but credit is still due where it’s due. I’m hoping he keeps it up and continues to improve.
To sum it up, the draw wasn’t a major disaster (especially against the likes of Arsenal), there weren’t any disruptive radical changes and the good dollop of enthusiasm all-round can only be for the better.