How the game was won – Stoke City vs Liverpool
Stoke City 3-5 Liverpool
Stoke City opted for a team selection which should have given them a great versatility in midfield, in selecting Whelan, N’Zonzi and Adam as three central midfielders the potential to play a 4-2-3-1 system which easily formed a 4-3-3 system should the situation require it was in evidence. However Stoke simply played with a flat three in midfield with Charlie Adam occasionally venturing forward and this is what led to the host’s consistent downfall throughout the match.
Liverpool did not put in a great performance worthy of the five goals they scored, in fact aside from Luis Suarez there is an argument to suggest nobody on the Liverpool side had better than a ‘good’ game. However one thing Liverpool did excellently was retain the ball in the midfield and inside their own half, the midfield duo of Steven Gerrard and Lucas held things together solidly and we even some glimpses of movement from Lucas into an attacking midfield position just like he had played at Gremio with Henderson dropping deeper to cover the gap.
With Stoke’s flat midfield three there was very little pressing of Liverpool when the visitors had the ball inside their own half and as such ball retention was relatively straightforward for the Liverpool midfield. Furthermore with Stoke’s flat three man midfield there was little thoughtful movement and Liverpool could easily pass through and beyond them and take three Stoke players out of the game completely which put Shawcross and Wilson under significant pressure from Suarez’s excellent pressing game.
Stoke’s flatness in midfield was the cause of their downfall not only defensively but also going forward, it invited pressure from Henderson, Gerrard and Lucas. Stoke were not afforded the same time on the ball that Liverpool were in midfield and this is why we saw Stoke giving the ball away in poor areas and thus making Liverpool’s afternoon a lot easier than it should have been.
Stoke held arguably their only real good spell of the match between the thirty seventh and forty seventh minute of play and even then their first goal came out of nothing after some good work from Arnautovic on the left before finding Peter Crouch in the middle unmarked courtesy of some poor Kolo Toure defending. Stoke’s second goal then came from a mistake with Liverpool giving the ball away from a goal kick.
Jack Butland received one of his few opportunities to start in the Stoke goal yesterday and impressed, making particularly good saves to deny Luis Suarez and later Daniel Sturridge but was let down by the lack of protection his defence was given by the midfield as well as the individual errors made by members of the defence. You hope this is recognised by Mark Hughes and the young goalkeeper isn’t dropped for the next fixture despite seeing five goals put past him at home.
Written by Chris Winterburn
Follow Chris on Twitter @Chriswin4
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