Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Bleachers Brew #415 Liverpool this Premier League season: In the red

This appears on the Monday, October 13, 2014 edition of the Business Mirror.

In the Red
by rick olivares

With seven matches played in this Premier League season, Liverpool Football Club find themselves adrift of last year’s pace. They finished second in a title chase that ended on the final playing date of last year.

As of this writing, they are in ninth spot with only 10 points accrued from the possible 21.

They are a pale shadow of the side that wreaked havoc on opposing defenses en route to a 101 goals, the most ever for a club that finished a bridesmaid and the most the Reds have scored in the top flight English football system.

When Brendan Rodgers took over the manager’s position of Liverpool Football Club, the Reds struggled with their new possession-based game.

Then last year, looking to finally have gotten what the gaffer preached, Liverpool took the Premier League by storm playing some of the best attacking football the league had seen since its inception. However, a late slide cost them a chance to win their first top flight title.

In my preview for this season, I noted that in the Premier League era, Liverpool has always fallen down the ladder after finishing second in the league. I’d hate to be right about this but right now, the Reds are in ninth spot having accrued 10 points out of the maximum of 21.

There was speculation that the club would challenge Manchester City and Chelsea for this year’s title. I’d love to be very optimistic but I felt that they had changed a lot of pieces from the past two years.

Rodgers has started an average of four newcomers in every match. During the first Merseyside Derby of the year, six of the starters were new. I’d say that guarantees chemistry problems.

Furthermore, Premier League teams have had two seasons to figure out what Rodgers has been trying to do with Liverpool, for sure they have come up with devices to counter the Reds’ once potent attack.

While there is really nothing new in terms of tactics in football, one can make up for it in execution, desire, and defense. Liverpool, sadly, is wanting on all three fronts. The majority of possession is even a misleading statistic.

The late loss to Chelsea is a sad reminder of that. And if one looks at the Blues this year, they have fixed their offense while not changing anything on defense. A winning combination if you ask me.

What I think the club needs are a few more things – a bedrock at central back and a motor in the middle.

I think the addition of Alberto Moreno on defense is huge and he provides an attacking threat from the back. I can see the potential for Dejan Lovren but he has been far too inconsistent.

Word is Liverpool has won the nod of West Ham defender Winston Reid who is one of the Premier League’s best defenders. Earlier this campaign, it was Reid, the New Zealander, who set the tone for the Hammers when he scored in the second minute against Liverpool in a 3-1 beating. Reid will be a huge help on defense and that probably means Javier Manquillo will have to sit.

Also on defense, there are those talks with former Barcelona net minder Victor Valdes who will be a stopper at the back this team needs. I love Simon Mignolet but he has been inconsistent this year (but I’d really point to the spotty defense as the culprit).

Regarding that fire engine in the middle third, Manchester United landed a coup when they brought in Real Madrid’s and Argentina’s Angel Di Maria. Since arriving in Manchester, he’s scored three goals and chalked up three assists. In Argentina’s recent friendly with Germany, Di Maria had a hand in all four goals in a 4-2 win over their World Cup tormentor.

What they need is someone like Arjen Robben who has pace, skill, and the ability to finish. Someone who can light a fire under these underachieving and lackluster Reds. Suarez played that role for Liverpool. So the search continues.

I like how Liverpool has not given up on bringing in Borussia Dortmund’s attacking midfielder Marco Reus who has a dazzling array of offensive skills (personally, I love his set pieces, ability to make key passes and finishing). If they can add him that would be great but even if they don’t they have Jordan Henderson in the middle along with Philippe Coutinho.

I love what Adam Lallana has been doing in the last couple of weeks but if he can be a bigger threat up front while bringing up that ball (use Gareth Bale as his inspiration), then Liverpool will be back to their usual ways.

Of course, we will have to see all of these happen first. And the team needs to get healthy. Who knows what a healthy Daniel Sturridge can do alongside Raheem Sterling and the underperforming Mario Balotelli? And certainly, I am not in agreement with how Brendan Rodgers feels that Gonzalo Higuain in the answer up front.

Make no mistake. The pressure is on Rodgers to show that last season was no fluke. He put this team together and now is looking to dump Rickie Lambert and other newcomers for not making a dent in Liverpool’s fortunes. Rafa Benitez got a lot of stick for his purchases while always lamenting he didn’t get support. Rodgers who hasn’t won anything anywhere should get some stick.

I don’t think management will stomach anything less than a title chase and a Champions League slot finish this year.

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