When the fixture list was announced before the start of this season I was over the moon. At the start of last season we had a string of tough away games all in a row. In a nice contrast, for this campaign we were handed a nice start with a series of games that we expected to win the majority of. I agree that an away match at Portsmouth is not ever going to be an easy game and a draw is a respectable result.
However, our performance in that game was absolutely dreadful and we never even looked like scoring until Torres came on near the end. In the home game against Birmingham City we were disgraceful and once again never looked like doing anything until Torres was brought on. This was a great chance to win with some style and put the games against Portsmouth and Porto behind us and get the season back on track. Unfortunately from what I witnessed it appeared that nobody had bothered to tell the players this.
Until the game against Birmingham I had no idea that Stevie Wonder was working for Setanta. I’m referring to the fact they awarded Steven Gerrard the man of the match. Gerrard has been nowhere to be seen in a Liverpool shirt since he injured his toe before the international break. He looked good playing for England in the two Euro 2008 qualifiers but has looked way off since then. He played OK when he came off the bench at Portsmouth but against Porto and Birmingham City he didn’t really look interested. I have no idea whether his injury is still bothering him or if it’s just a dip in form but I hope that whatever is causing this goes away quickly.
I have no idea why Rafa decided to leave Fernando Torres on the bench for two Premier League matches in a row. He claimed on Saturday that it was a tactical decision but I have to wonder where he’s coming from. He said it was because we needed to play between the lines and ‘œwe brought on Fernando, but you could see how many times he got behind defenders ‘“ never. That’s because there was no space’. That is not what I saw, it seemed to me that from the second Torres came on we were creating chances. Every time Torres got the ball you could feel everyone in the ground (and the pub) get excited as if they could sense something about to happen. He nearly scored with an overhead kick and was really causing the defence big problems.
I understand that for the early kick-off at Portsmouth Rafa was trying not to tire out players who had been away with their national sides the previous Wednesday. Against Birmingham City however there was really no excuse for leaving out a player like Torres. Torres is a player who we have been crying out for and now that we have him we need to be using him to win these games. In my opinion if you spend twenty million pounds on one of the worlds best strikers he needs to be playing whenever he is fit. If Rafa is worried about him getting tired then he can always bring him off towards the end, by which time we may already be winning. Can you imagine the likes of Ian Rush or Robbie Fowler ever being left out in their prime?
I’m a big fan of Peter Crouch but I’m concerned about his current situation. After a good season last year in which he was our top scorer in all competitions, Crouch now appears to be fourth choice in the pecking order. He has only started one game in the Premier League this season, against Portsmouth, and he wasn’t especially good in that game. He’s rarely even been on the bench in other games with Andriy Voronin seeming to be getting the nod more often. His bad miss near the end of the match on Saturday will not have helped his confidence either. There is plenty of speculation as to whether he will put up with this situation for the remainder of the season. I personally feel he just needs to be patient as it’s still early in the season and if we can go on any cup runs we will need every player available. If the situation doesn’t improve for Crouch however, he may be allowed to leave in January if the right offer is forthcoming.
As the game dragged on against Birmingham City I was quite vocal in my feelings that it was heading for another bore draw. I know for a fact that I wasn’t the only person in the pub who was beginning to wonder about Rafa and why he makes certain decisions with the squad. One fella even went as far as to loudly say ‘œRafa is a w*nker’. I have no doubts that Rafa is the right man for Liverpool and I firmly believe that sooner rather than later he will lead us to the ultimate glory we all desire. But sometimes I would love to see inside his mind and find out why he makes certain decisions. However at the end of the day, the side we had out there was more than capable of hammering most opponents and Rafa can’t be held fully responsible for the lacklustre performance.
It is now time for the Liverpool squad to wake up and stop sleepwalking through matches that we should be winning or at the very least attempting to win. The players need to realise that if they don’t pull their fingers out right now they will be on the verge of throwing away a great chance to end eighteen years of hurt next May.