According to this article by Jonathan Gottschall, fiction is good for you. Liverpool coach Kenny Dalglish apparently agrees, considering his choice of tactics and personnel in today’s woeful (to coin Alan Dymock) 2-1 loss to Chelsea in an FA Cup Final that, frankly, left a lot to be desired. King Kenny’s head must’ve been filled with stories—delusional fairy tales, really—if he thought that sticking with a timid game-plan and sluggish lineup was going to amount to anything against a disciplined Chelsea side that has proven itself quite adept at taking advantage of opportunities.
But really, Liverpool’s whole season has felt like a fantasy—and by fantasy I mean bad acid trip. They can’t seem to settle on an ethos. They pass in attempted triangles for a while (except only on the wings, and usually towards their own goal), but then stall in the final third, as if the opponent’s box is filled with molasses. Then they try long ball for a while, and have some success chipping it in to Carroll, especially on corners. Then they commit to the lob game, but it too stalls, as Carroll either under-performs or doesn’t even present himself as an option. Then it’s back to attempted midfield play that doesn’t work, and fruitless runs into the corners. Rinse and repeat.
Today’s match was a microcosm of the whole year, with Enrique, Downing, and Spearing all appearing to be running in quicksand for the first 60 minutes. A 2-0 hole is carved, and finally Kenny admits that there needs to be a change in strategy. Then Carroll comes on, scores a great goal, and the momentum shifts. An inspired Liverpool side gains possession, wins the 50/50 challenges, and lays siege to the opponent’s goal. Then Carroll starts to drift and wane as a threat. Meanwhile this whole time Suarez is endearingly determined but overall ineffectual. Liverpool gets a bad bounce (thanks to the linesman), and loses in utter frustration. Game, set, match, season.
The one bright spot this year, it must be said, was the appearance of the Anfield Cat (a win over Cardiff on penalties is hardly worth bragging about, in my humble opinion).
So with this season all but written, what is to be done? The answer to me is simple: sign Clint Dempsey. He could play well with either Suarez or Carroll, and isn’t afraid to get in there and mess things around in order to keep pressure on or get a shot on goal. He doesn’t care if it looks pretty; a ricochet goal is a goal. He’s not going to get the ball in midfield and dribble it into a corner, stop, and then lose the ball trying to decide whether to cross it or take on the nearest defender. He’s just going to cross the damn thing. That’s what Liverpool needed today, and it’s what they’ll need next season if they don’t want to repeat the fantastical nightmare that has been 2011/2012.