Liverpool limped out of the Europa League with a whimper last night. Struggling to break down an organized side in Sporting Braga proved their downfall. In 360 minutes of knock-out football, Liverpool only managed 1 goal – against Sparta Prague. When the draw was made for the knockout ties, Liverpool couldn’t have asked for a better route to the quarter finals. Sparta Prague should have been more comfortable than it was. And Braga, well, Liverpool rarely looked like scoring over the two legs.
Liverpool’s lack of pace and creativity was laid bare for all to see. I dread to think what Villareal or Porto could do to this current Liverpool side. Dalglish managing Liverpool in Europe for the first time was a historic moment, but that was a good as it got for Kenny.
The stark realization that his team needs significant investment was soon upon him. Had the cup-tied Luis Suarez been available, things could have been different. But its wrong to pin your hopes on one man, maybe the absence of Suarez was a bonus. As it highlighted the need for invention and pace.
Liverpool ran out of ideas quickly against Braga, the reds dominated possession, with 67%. Yet they failed to create meaningful chances in the final third. Carroll played with purpose, and gives Liverpool another option. But it’s a fine line between having variation in your play and just lumping balls forward to the big man. Carroll will take time to bed in, I should imagine the final 10 games of the season will see him adapting and striking up a partnership with Suarez and the players around him.
But in the meantime, decisions have to be made at board level. It looks likely that Kenny will be a handed a two-year contract to continue as Liverpool manager, which is the right decision in my eyes. Kenny and his backroom staff have earned their chance to continue their good work, results have been good since Kenny returned. It’s just the performances which need to improve, consistency is the key here. A comprehensive battering at West Ham was followed up by smashing league leaders Man Utd.
Whilst it hurt to go out of Europe in this manner, it just emphasises the rebuilding job that Liverpool need to undertake. Still, the positives should be taken. At the beginning of the season, we looked like a doomed club.
Hicks and Gillett have now been replaced with sensible, prudent owners and Dalglish has galvanised the club. And we have a new strike force. It could be worse you know.