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Liverpool’s midfield not as much to shout about
In the heady days of Istanbul and Athens when Liverpool fans considered anything less than a trip to the Champions League final a disappointing campaign, the Kop would regularly belt out: “We have the best midfield in the world.”
It was the formidable midfield combination of Xabi Alonso, Steven Gerrard and later Javier Mascherano that spurred the Anfield faithful into song.
The midfield quartet of Lucas Leiva, Christian Poulsen, Milan Jovanovic and Maxi Rodriguez could not by any stretch of the imagination be described as the best in the world and as the Reds toiled in the Midlands sunshine it soon became clear it wasn’t even the best one on the pitch.
Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard both cut frustrated figures as Lucas and Poulsen struggled to provide them with the ammunition required to pierce the Birmingham backline.
Former manager Rafael Benitez endured sustained criticism from a press-pack seemingly determined to undermine his achievements for playing two defensive midfielders last season following Xabi Alonso’s departure to Real Madrid.
But arguably the fault did not lie in the system but with the personnel and new boss Roy Hodgson seems to be falling into a similar trap.
Where Alonso, himself a deep-lying midfielder, dictated play with quick and incisive balls into Gerrard and Torres, Lucas and Poulsen struggle to play with the same pace or precision.
And with a centre-back pairing of Jamie Carragher and Martin Skrtel, who don’t always look entirely comfortable bringing the ball out of defence, the problem is exacerbated.
Raul Meireles came off the bench 15 minutes from the final whistle and his appearance coincided with some of Liverpool’s most coherent attacking play.
If the Kop are going to rediscover their voice, one imagines he will have a big part to play.
PHOTO: Liverpool’s manager Roy Hodgson (L) talks with Lucas Leiva (R) during a training session at the club’s Melwood training complex in Liverpool, northern England, August 18, 2010. REUTERS/Phil Noble