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Net pains for Liverpool


MOMENTS after Liverpool’s 3-0 defeat at West Bromwich, Brendan Rodgers admitted that “there would be more days like this to come”.
It was their worst opening day defeat in 75 years, but there are far more troubling statistics to consider than that.

The team Rodgers selected for the trip to the Hawthorns scored just 33 goals in the league last season. To put that into perspective, the lowest number of goals scored by a team in the Barclays Premier League was Stoke City (34).

With the exception of Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina, here are the total numbers of league goals scored by Rodgers’ starting XI last Saturday: Martin Kelly (0), Daniel Agger (1), Martin Skrtel (2), Glen Johnson (1), Stewart Downing (0), Lucas Leiva (0), Steven Gerrard (5), Joe Allen (4 for Swansea), Fabio Borini (9 for Roma), Luis Suarez (11).

When Rodgers looked to the bench for attacking inspiration in the 69th minute, there wasn’t a great deal to pick from. Joe Cole, who replaced Lucas for just nine minutes before succumbing to injury, scored four times for Lille last year.
Andy Carroll, who scored the winner in the FA Cup semi-final against Everton, managed just four goals in the Premier League. Jordan Henderson (2) and Charlie Adam (2) were the alternatives for Rodgers as he looked for some comfort.

Although Rodgers intends to refine the club’s philosophy in the coming months, their alarming lack of firepower is a cause for concern. His thorough approach impressed the owners, but they will need to be more adventurous to stay in the top half of the table.

They drew 10 games last season, nine of them at Anfield, and it is a record Rodgers will have to improve on. This weekend they face the champions Manchester City, a team with goals in every area of the pitch.

Rodgers’ philosophy is admirable, but the priority has to be finding a way past opposition goalkeepers. Last season, under Kenny Dalglish, they managed to score just 43 times in the league, three shy of relegated Blackburn.

In 38 league games last season they failed to score in 13 and scored only one goal in 11 other matches.

Manchester City scored 88 times, sharing the responsibility around their formidable frontline. Sergio Arguero (23), Edin Dzeko (14), Mario Balotelli (13) and Carlos Tevez (4) played their part in City’s success.

Manchester United, who lost the title on goal difference, scored 86 goals. Although it was not a vintage season for United strikers, Wayne Rooney (27), Javier Hernandez (10) and Danny Welbeck (9) were still regular goalscorers.

Although the league title is beyond Liverpool in Rodgers’ first season at Anfield, he has other targets in mind. To qualify for the Champions League, they would have to target a minimum of 60 goals in the Premier League. Last season Arsenal (68) finished third and Tottenham (59) were in fourth.

Although Liverpool have played only one league game this season, putting chances away in the league continues to be one of the biggest issues. They managed 16 shots against West Bromwich, but only two of them were on target.

Suarez, a lethal finisher when he was at Ajax, made 31 league appearances last season and converted 11 times. Three of those goals were against Norwich, when he underlined his class and attacking qualities in Liverpool’s 3-0 win last April.

He should have scored at the Hawthorns and so should his team-mates considering the number of attempts on goal. Rodgers’ summer signings are one touch, tidy footballers, but they also lack the killer touch in front of goal.

Borini, signed from Roma over the summer, worked with Rodgers when he was a young player at Chelsea and then went on to play for him at Swansea.

Although he was full of promise as a teenager at Chelsea, he was a long way short of first team standards. Rodgers has enormous faith in him, but he will not be prolific in his first season at the club.

Allen is another intriguing signing, a player Rodgers is raving about after signing him from Swansea. Although he is a talented player, he scored just four times from the centre of midfield in Swansea’s first season back in the top flight.
Alongside him Gerrard, his team-mate and skipper, has always made a significant contribution to Liverpool’s attack. He spent a large proportion of last season off the field with injury, but he is usually good for a decent return.

Elsewhere, the cupboard is bare. Daliglish’s defenders barely made a contribution last season and there was nothing on Saturday to suggest that is about to change.

Unless Rodgers reconfigures the team, Liverpool can expect more of the same.
Saturday: Swansea v West Ham, 1:45pm, Aston Villa v Everton, Man United v Fulham, Norwich v QPR, Southampton v Wigan, Sunderland v Reading, Tottenham v West Brom, all at 4pm and Chelsea v Newcastle 6:30pm.
Sunday: Stoke City v Arsenal, 2:30pm and Liverpool v Man City 5pm.

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