Hindsight is a wonderful, but those who follow me on Twitter will know that I queried this at the time: why did Alberto Moreno start for Liverpool last night?
Brendan Rodgers may draw derision for his choice of language sometimes, but it’s hard to argue with what he has achieved at Anfield and so he deserves the benefit of the doubt with most of what he does. Rodgers has obviously advanced Liverpool tactically over the past two years, but he also seems to have cultivated an environment of trust at Melwood and his players genuinely seem to like him.
Last night was baffling though and, as overly-critical as it may sound, it was also deeply unfair.
The logic behind involving Moreno at the first opportunity was sound enough and I completely appreciate the benefits of embedding a new player into a side as soon as possible. But this was a twenty-two year old with no prior experience of English football and who had, at most, only a week’s worth of training with his new side before being asked to start away from home against the defending champions.
Manchester City are a very talented all over the pitch, but their ability to play intricate, high-paced football in the attacking zones makes them especially difficult to defend against. Opponents not only have to deal with the one-on-one threats all the way across that front-line, but also with the creativity and incisive movement that City typically play with at home. They cause every defensive unit in the country myriad issues and even veterans of this league struggle to subdue them.
So what was the up-side to Moreno starting? Why was it so important for him to start last night as opposed to against Tottenham on Sunday, after another week of acclimatisation? Glen Johnson is not a particularly secure full-back on either side and Javier Manquillo is himself very new to the Premier League, both they both represented higher-percentage selections than Moreno. They have both played before with Martin Skrtel and Dejan Lovren, and defensive chemistry was very important last night - and the apparent lack of it was the reason for Liverpool’s promising start in the game dissipating into a meek surrender.
The Spaniard is still learning the game and, yes, the mistakes he made last night are not in any way terminal to his development, but putting him in a scenario in which his confidence was likely to be dented felt like a disservice. A young player’s self-belief is precious, and Rodgers played fast and loose with it last night without needing to.