Keeping the ball better? Nearly 70% possession wasn't enough for you ?I'm going to be relatively critical about our performance, so if you're not prepared for that please don't read this post. I will, of course, point out the obvious and say that I am absolutely delighted with the 3 points and the fairly dominant win. But I intend to keep that firmly in perspective, and these are the thoughts I had during the game:
Firstly, we are still not controlling the game. While this may be tolerable against Norwich (barely), it absolutely will not be against better teams. Our midfield tries to move the ball too quickly forward at times instead of controlling the tempo and setting the tone of the game to our terms. Also, lacking a proper ball-winner like Lucas means that our defense needs to provide additional cover to the back 4 by not allowing other teams to have the ball in midfield. Our pressing is good, but once teams get past the first wave of pressure they can often bring the ball right through us at the defense; I think we really need to focus on keeping the ball far better. Poor pass selection and errors in the midfield by trying to force the play will come back and hurt us. We play a high defensive line with attacking fullbacks and we owe it to them to make their jobs easier. It is no coincidence that we looked more solid once Henderson came on.
Secondly, we need our wide players to come into the middle when SuÃ¡rez drops deep into the hole. On the back of today's performance, Rodgers may be justified with continuing to play SuÃ¡rez there, but that means the wide forwards need to step up. Sterling and Suso lacked presence centrally, and once Assaidi came on he filled that gap. I expect Assaidi to take Sterling's spot in the PL XI now that he's fit. He + SuÃ¡rez will be exciting to watch.
Thirdly, individual errors are still costing us. A lot of sloppy passing and unacceptable mistakes. Reina made a couple of enormous saves and then drops the ball for their first. Skrtel is only as consistent as his partner. We are too quick to go back to the keeper which puts pressure on the defense. We lost a lot of possession by our midfield/defense forcing Reina to kick long. This ties in with my first point: control the ball further up the field. Rodgers needs to drill into the players that there is no slackness allowed until the final whistle. Allen knows this already and stays mentally switched on all game.
I'm hoping that this win allows us to turn a corner mentally, but let's not get carried away. Norwich is astoundingly poor and we took advantage of that today. The next games against Stoke and Reading are going to be difficult and I'd like some things improved on in those games leading to the derby.
Edit: Praise in order for SuÃ¡rez (he only scores worldies!), Wisdom, Suso, Sahin, and Johnson.