Henchoz: Reds must get balance right

Stephane Henchoz believes that Liverpool will need to find the right balance between playing stylish football and having a secure defence in order to succeed.

The build up to his goal.
Kelvin Yap

By Kelvin Yap

The Reds have struggled to get their Barclays Premier League campaign going this season, succumbing to an opening-day loss to West Brom and managing their sole win thus far a month into the campaign against Norwich while struggling to get past teams like Sunderland and Stoke. 

Henchoz, who formed a formidable defensive partnership with Sami Hyypia in Liverpool's treble-winning season in 2001, shared his opinion with ESPNSTAR.com on his former side's fortunes this season when he was in Singapore for the launch of the EPL Masters Football Singapore Cup.

He believes that the Anfield faithful should be optimistic despite the slow start to the season, given that the poor results came as a combination of tough fixtures, unfortunate results and individual errors.

Henchoz said: "Obviously if you look at the league, three points over the first five games for Liverpool has been disappointing. 

"But Liverpool played Manchester United, [Manchester] City, Arsenal, and went away to Sunderland away as well, which was always going to be a difficult one. And they also played West Brom at the start of the season. If you look at where they [West Brom] are now, West Brom are flying into the season.

"You could say that Liverpool's schedule was difficult.

"So far, the football Liverpool have been playing hasn't been bad at all - if you look at the Manchester United game, Liverpool were the better team and they were unlucky to lose.

"I am still very optimistic [for Liverpool]. I am still very hopeful."

Liverpool were once known as a defensively staunch side under Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez, but are yet to keep a clean sheet seven games into the season. The former Swiss international believes that the team will need to help out their defence by finding the right balance and defending as a team.

He commented: "If you look at the defensive aspect of the game, it's about getting the right balance. It's not only about the back four and the keeper - it's about the whole team, how they react when they lose the ball. 

"At the moment, there are the individual mistakes as well; Reina hasn't been at his best and made a few mistakes, Agger has made a few, Skrtel has made a few as well. 

"The balance between how they want to play under Rodgers and how they need to defend must be right. 

"At the moment, they want to adapt to a new style of playing the ball and the passing game. It is fine but it will take time and they have to make sure that when they lose the ball, they switch very quickly and make sure everybody is doing his defensive duty perfectly. When you defend, you have to be perfect."

The current Reds centre-back pairing of Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger has been compared with Henchoz's successful partnership with Hyypia. The 38-year-old believes that Skrtel and Agger have the potential to do well and will be helped if they both stay injury-free and manage a long run of games together.

"When you talk about centre-backs, you need to have a good understanding and it's difficult if you have to change partnerships every week.

"And if they can keep these two fit, if they can have a long run - maybe 15, 20 games in a row together, it makes a difference. It gives confidence to the whole team if they have a solid back four.

"It is very important because every team that does well over the season tends to be the one that concedes least goals. If you take the top teams across even Spain and Italy, it's the same - the top teams concede the least goals.

Liverpool are currently 14th in the table after seven games with only one win and six points - 13 off league leaders Chelsea. Henchoz feels that while a Champions League spot is out of their reach, the club should still be aiming for a top six finish, although it will not be an easy task given the high standards among the top clubs in the league.

"For me, the top four will be United, City, Arsenal, Chelsea. In which order, I do not know, but these are my top four," the former Wigan and Blackburn defender added. "I think a top 6 is a realistic target for them this season. Even then, it won't be easy for them.

"And then you got teams like Everton, Tottenham, Newcastle, Liverpool - another four teams competing for fifth to eight - a top six finish is realistic, but it won't be easy."

The EPL Masters Football Singapore Cup 2012 will be held on 14th October at the Kallang Indoor Stadium in Singapore and will feature former Premier League stars Patrik Berger, Robbie Fowler, Andy Cole, Paul Parker, Frank LeBoeuf as well as former Singapore stars Fandi Ahmad, V. Sundramoothy and Abbas Saad.

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