The game on Sunday against Arsenal was one of the best I’ve seen in ages. The battle in midfield between Fabregas, Gerrard and Mascherano was absolutely phenomenal to watch. If I were a neutral I would have been over the moon at the end of the game after watching such a thrilling match. However I am not a neutral and I am not really feeling all that thrilled. We lost two key players, possibly three, we did not win at home (again) and we did not look in the same class as Arsenal.
We have spent millions of pounds on new players and Arsenal has spent a pittance in comparison. On Sunday it looked the opposite at times as Liverpool were completely outclassed for long periods. It wasn’t that we played badly, because we didn’t, it’s just that Arsenal were simply superb. We deserved to come out of the game with something thanks to the efforts of Gerrard, Mascherano, Carragher and Alonso until he went off injured. We were however lucky to have escaped with that point thanks to Arsenal hitting the post twice and being unable to convert the resulting open goals.
John Arne Riise was absolutely terrible on Sunday and not for the first time. I understand that Rafa’s options are limited in defence at the moment and the faster we can get Arbeloa and Aurelio back to full fitness the better. Riise was caught out of position time and time again on the left flank. I can’t remember the amount of times I stood up and berated him for standing around in the area instead of covering the left wing.
Fortunately for the Reds, Steven Gerrard was absolutely superb and looked as good as ever. His goal was fabulous, he was tackling well, leading by example and played like a real captain. At the back Carragher was back to his usual self too after some recent lapses in defence. He was clearing everything and making sure that the Arsenal where restricted to only a handful of clear chances. It is slightly concerning that once again it was these two players that stepped up on the big occasion. We really do need some more match-winners in the squad because we just cannot continue relying on Jamie and Stevie as we have done for the last few years.
I said last week that Peter Crouch deserves a chance and I just could not believe what I was seeing when I saw the starting line-up. Rafa had picked three strikers and Crouch still couldn’t make the team from the start. If Torres wasn’t fully fit why did Rafa risk him if he is so concerned about him getting injured by not playing him against the likes of Portsmouth and Birmingham? When Crouch was brought on to replace Torres in the second half he looked terrific. Within minutes he almost put us two up with a fabulous long range shot that was well saved. He looked very threatening throughout the second half and beautifully set up Gerrard in the area near the end who unfortunately took too many steps before shooting. Not being chosen on Sunday was iron clad proof that Crouch is Rafa’s fourth choice and if it continues this way then I see no other option but for him to leave the club if the right offer arrives in January. This will be a shame because he offers so much that the other strikers don’t, such as his height and his terrific ability on the ground. As I said last week, I feel that Voronin and Kuyt are too similar in their playing style. I have no issues with their fantastic work-rates but I am not very confidant they will get the goals to end the recent slump. I’ve no idea how Kuyt scored so many goals in Holland, it must be the way Rafa chooses to play him. With Torres now out for a minimum three weeks we need Crouch more than ever and I am relieved that he seems to have a great attitude and instead of sulking he is coming on and trying his hardest whenever he gets a chance.
When we scored the early goal I was obviously as excited as everybody and leapt around the pub. I was however worried that we would end up paying for scoring so early. It was the same story that we’ve seen so many times over the years in which we failed to kill off a team after going ahead too early & then spending most of the game causing panic for the fans.
I think that we should have definately played Benayoun and possibly Babel too. What is the point in having talent like this sitting on the bench and having Kuyt and Voronin doing that sort of work instead of being in the box? The answer is that there really is no point. Benayoun is absolutely sensational and with Pennant out for ten weeks this should be his chance to get a run of starts. I hope that he will start getting more playing time because we’ve all seen how effective he is when he gets more than fifteen minutes.
The injuries to Pennant, Alonso and Torres are unbelievable blows. We are missing Torres because we are badly missing his goals and pace. Pennant is missed because I feel we play better with width. I feel the biggest loss though is going to be Xabi Alonso. We have been desperately crying out for him so badly in recent matches. We have missed having a player that can lead from the back. As fantastic as Mascherano is, he is more of a ball winner and just gives the ball to another player, whereas Alonso has that incredible vision to create things with his intelligent passing. I’m almost crying when I realise we have those upcoming must win Champions League games without these players, I’m just glad that Stevie G is back in top form again. The return of Daniel Agger in the next week or so will be an absolutely huge boost to the side too and give Hyypia a well earned break.
I’m trying not to be to downhearted and pessimistic despite things looking a bit bleak. As it currently stands qualification to the Champions League knockout stage is still within our own hands. We remain six points behind Arsenal in the Premiership and the way things have been going lately it’s more likely that the gap will widen rather than shorten. However if we can ride out this recent slump and players step up to replace those who are missing, then hopefully we will stay within touching distance of the league leaders. Arsenal will be losing a number of their best players in January to the African Nations Cup so that will be a perfect chance for us to gain an advantage over them. We are also only five points behind Man Utd with one game in hand. I think people may be forgetting this when they get all gloomy.
Up next is Blackburn away which will be a tough fixture as Blackburn has won four games in a row. They are currently one point ahead of us with the same number of games played. A victory at Ewood Park would be a perfect way to kick start the season back up again so let’s hope the Reds don’t let us down.