Progress – Keep it coming

7 games gone now in the league, 7 games unbeaten. Sitting in fourth with a game in hand over 2nd and 3rd. I know it’s early on but after having a lot of unnecessary criticism of Rafa Benitez recently I thought I’d do abit of early season comparison and analysis.

Below are stats for the first 7 league games of each of the last 3 seasons. Which make interesting reading.

V Villa, won 2-1 (3)
V Chelsea, drew 1-1 (1)
V Sunderland, won 2-0 (3)
V Derby, won 6-0 (3)
V Portsmouth, drew 0-0 (1)
V Birmingham, drew 0-0 (1)
V Wigan, won 1-0 (3)
(15 points from 7 games. Average points= 2.13 p/g. Goal scored= 12, average p/g=1.71, Goals conceded= 2, average p/g= 0.29.)

V Sheffield United, drew 1-1 (1)
V West Ham United, won 2-1 (3)
V Everton, lost 3-0 (0)
V Chelsea lost 2-0 (0)
V Newcastle, won 2-0 (3)
V Spurs, won 3-0 (3)
V Bolton, lost 2-0 (0)
(10 points from 7 games. Average points= 1.43 p/g. Goals scored=8, average p/g=1.14.
Goals conceded= 9, average p/g=1.28.)

V Boro, drew 0-0 (1)
V Sunderland, won 1-0 (3)
V Spurs, drew 0-0 (1)
V Mancs, drew 0-0 (1)
V Birmingham, drew 2-2 (1)
V Chelsea, lost 4-1 (0)
V Blackburn, won 1-0 (3)
(10 points from 7 games. Average points= 1.43 p/g. Goals scored= 5, average p/g=0.71. Goals conceded= 6, average p/g=0.86.)

We all know a good start is key, and in the last few seasons we haven’t had the greatest of them, but this year, for me, we have had a good start. 15 points from 7 games, 5 more points than the last 2 seasons, scoring more and conceding less than our last two starts. Now if sitting in 4th place with a game in hand on 2nd, 3rd and 5th and still unbeaten is the end of the world then well…

What has been different/key points of the season so far?

Torres Factor

There was a lot said about what sort of impact he would have at Anfield, and how long it would take for him to settle in. Well, he has had an instant impact from the off. He seems to have all the makings of a ‘˜top striker’. He is a great finisher, has an excellent touch, has pace, is strong, determined and good in the air. el nino6 goals already, for a young lad adapting to life in a new country isn’t bad at all. Granted he didn’t have the best of games today, but at least he was there to have the chances. It seems that we may have finally found the man to finally fill the void Mr Owen left 3 or so seasons ago when he went of for his all but 1 season spell at Real Madrid. 21.5 million pounds may have been alot of money, but if he produces the kind of quality we have seen v Chelski, Derby, Sunderland and Reading etc then he will be worth every penny. A special mention for Andriy Voronin. A lot of our fans were puzzled over his signing, who just payed attention to his rather modest scoring records in his career to date, but has looked a very good addition to the squad and a bonus because of him costing nothing transfer fee wise.

The form of Arbeloa

This lad has been great. He gives us cover at left, right and centre back and seems very competent at all 3. alvaroA season ago our back 4 picked itself. Riise, Carra, Agger and Finnan. Now we have competition, (along with Aurelio and Sami also battling for places) especially at left back. We all know how Riise isn’t the greatest at his defensive duties but does offer a lot going forwards, with Arbeloa who is better defensively gives us the option of allowing Riise to play a more attacking role while we can rely on the steady Arbeloa on the defending part (though himself offers something going forward).

Also it puts pressure on the defenders to keep performing as they know we now have some very good cover. Overall his performances have been excellent, he’s steady, a good passer of the ball, good at supporting the left winger and overall a good defender. A very good signing from Rafa. Probably one of his finest.

“We’ve got the best midfield in the world’¦..’

Xabi, Momo, Stevey and Mascherano. What a set of central midfielders.

momoMomo has looked like a new man. After his very serious eye injury he never really got back to his top form, and put in some disappointing performances. It looked like he was off to Juve in the summer, but it seemed Rafa changed his mind and I’m so glad he did. He Looks a lot more competent going forward (something he must have worked on in training along with his passing) His passing seems to have improved, along with his overall movement on the pitch, and his tackling is very good as usual.

MaschMascherano has continued with his excellent form from last season for us. He is potentially the best holding midfielder in the world. Against Birmingham he was the best player on the park by a long shot. Nearly everytime the Brum tried to counter attack Masch was there to break it up, and has done this throughout his time at Liverpool. Xabi has had a decent start to the season, but has yet to hit his top form. Stevey, back in the centre where he belongs, and we all know what he is capable of. He has had a mixed start, showing glimpses of brilliance playing in the centre. But when we have all 4 of these players firing at the same time, opposition teams better look out.

Wingers- Benayoun, Pennant, Babel (Plus Kewell and Leto)

babelThis season we have finally got some decent options on the flanks. Yossi Benayon was signed in the summer from the Hammers and the thing he’s so good at is cutting in and working his way through the oppositions back line, and he loves to do this. He showed that today against Wigan and this can be used to devastating effect. Ryan Babel, can play behind the front man, as a forward in a front 3 and now on the flanks. He’s young, skillful and quick. What you want from a winger. It will take him time to settle in properly and adjust to playing out wide as a winger, but has looked impressive in a few games this season, and has bags full of potential.

JPJermaine Pennant, has improved enormously since joining us. He’s quick, can beat players, and has good movement off the ball. One thing he needs to work on is his final ball as sometimes when he gets into a good position his final ball lets him down, and for a man of his quality and potential that’s a real shame. Harry Kewell, well what can I say. We had a 4 month or so glimpse of the Harry Kewell of his Leeds days and then he got injured again. If he does regain that form we will have a top winger on our hands. Sebastian Leto has looked good in the few matches he’s played. Looks to have a lot of potential and hopefully will see more of him.

We have a very good squad now of top quality players. It’s still early days and there’s no need to be getting carried away but we are 10 games unbeaten and sitting nicely in the league. We are going to have spells like this, where we are not going to play to our best, but at least we are still picking up points, which is the most important. This moaning about Rafas ‘˜rotation’ policy is really getting on my nerves. The man picks the best team for each match, not necessarily the best 11 players. The man gets paid to manage our club, so lets not get on his back, as from where I’m standing he has done a fine job so far, and long may it continue.

This is Rafa’s fourth season with Liverpool and what we wanted to see when he first arrived was progress and hopefully winning number 19. We all know under Gerard Houllier we had hit a stale patch and it was time for change. Rafa has brought new impetus into Liverpool Football Club, and with the help now of Hicks and Gillett I am confident he will take us back to the top of English football. All I can say is we are progressing well under Rafa and may it continue. And when we really get going we’ll be one hell of a force.

Matthew Watson