The Kop Salad with Reem Shahwa: Liverpool’s growing pains

As a team sport with 11 men a side, it is difficult to grasp the idea that one man’s departure has the ability to rip a club apart. Call it the butterfly effect, if you will.

When news broke that Luis Suarez had signed with Barcelona, the gravity of the situation was diluted by the course of events which preceded it, the bite fest of Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup.

Liverpool’s incredibly poor start to the season however, depicts a larger chasm of drastic proportions, leaving the Reds almost unrecognizable on the pitch this season.

It must be said though, that while the former No.7 was crucial to last season’s success, the initial 16 points in 7 games that the Reds picked by September 2013 (in comparison to 10 points this season) happened while he served a 10-match ban.

Lest we forget Daniel Sturridge’s nettings, credit is definitely due to the Uruguayan’s return, where the Reds later peaked. However, the team once feared for its lethal SAS attack are now facing a desperate call for SOS.

Liverpool had a busy transfer market over the summer that questions the quality versus quantity of new players brought in. A classic case of over compensating, given the situation.

Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool - Barclays Premier League
Balotelli is struggling to adapt with Brendan Rodgers’ style of play

A poor result in the Champions League against Basel has prompted Brendan Rodgers to admit that ‘Mario was the one right at the very end who was available’. In other words, a ‘panic buy’.

At 16 million pounds he has yet to justify his worth; scoring just once in seven matches. And this piece of stat is absolutely relevant, because as a striker, you are bound by this one statistic.

Regardless of that, his work rate has certainly improved – though not nearly enough for Liverpool’s free-flowing style of football.

Next to Raheem Sterling, Balotelli looks, for lack of a better word, lazy. I found myself agreeing to the notorious Joey Barton when he tweeted, “Balotelli? He is the biggest myth in world football”.

Nonetheless, I’m backing him to do better with time, hopefully before he starts making headlines for other frolicsome activities. It’s easier to forgive when you have the talent to back it up, case in point the new Barca boy.

At the same time, my wish for Rickie Lambert to start in Super Mario’s place came true against West Bromwich Albion. I envisioned greater mobility for the three attacking midfielders of Sterling, Coutinho and Lallana, and it happened to a certain extent.

The 32-year-old underwhelmed, though. Instead, the player that lit up Anfield in that match was, unsurprisingly, not wearing a red shirt. It was Saido Berahino.

And to be honest, Berahino looked far more lethal when compared to Mario’s or Rickie’s performances this campaign. This was echoed when a Twitter friend of mine mentioned how Berahino could have been a far better purchase than Balotelli, perhaps for a lesser fee as well. Couldn’t agree more.

On the other side of the field, the niggling defensive issues that contributed to last season’s title slip, seems to have not been eradicated, despite the additions of Dejan Lovren, Alberto Moreno and Javi Manquillo.

Communication seems to be a problem and it could be due to several factors; an actual language barrier, or just the back four not gelling well with each other.

The ex-Barca goalkeeper could be set for a move to Anfield
The ex-Barca goalkeeper could be set for a move to Anfield

Simon Mignolet has been average at best, reflecting frailties accompanied by questionable decision-making in the penalty area. Rumours are also suggesting that Valdes could be set to join us after the international break. Perhaps a saving grace to the Belgian’s weaknesses, one would hope.

Adam Lallana though has my vote for being our best signing of the season. Though it’s a shame his campaign got off to a slow start due to injury.

The former Saint is a pleasure to watch as he possesses exceptional quality and energy that matches his eagerness to get behind the ball.

So it begs the question, are Liverpool this season’s crisis club?

I am not a blind sighted fan with misled passion and I will be the first to call a spade, a spade. The transition period is and will continue to be frustrating to watch with some of the Reds worst performances potentially yet to come.

The roles of Steven Gerrard and Lazar Markovic also need to be reconsidered. The skipper’s reduced ability to outrun opponents and the latter playing behind a striker despite being a winger has raised more than a few eyebrows.

Brendan has turned this team around before, and with his sheer quality, will no doubt overcome these growing pains.

In the mean time, he can take cue from Jose Mourinho and bring in one or two more experienced players in January, to curb their issues and prevent a poor start from turning into a poor season.

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