Season ticket holder Craig Rimmer shares his views on what needs to be a very Merry Christmas for the Reds.
A hugely disappointing result against the Mancs at the weekend served to underline the small but hugely significant difference between these two largely evenly matched sides. These small details – a phrase which Rafa himself uses so often – were exposed in a second undeserved smash and grab win for the Mancs in two seasons. Just one shot on target for United may hardly amount to a resounding victory, but similar things were said last season.
As expected the game was extremely tight with both sides looking to give nothing away, and both sides were very closely matched. The Mancs basically took their only clear chance and hung on to it. But the crucial thing was that United just seem to have more of those ‘star’ players, who can single-handedly turn a game at the moment. Whilst Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard definitely come into this category for Liverpool, there isn’t really anyone beyond this (although hopefully in the future Ryan Babel will begin to prove me wrong). Whereas United, however much we hate them (and I certainly do even more now), just have a couple more, with the likes of Ronald, ‘Shrek’, Tevez and Giggs. And when you are chasing a game like we were on Sunday this can make all the difference. In order to change this it will require extra investment, if not in January, then next summer.
As frustrating as the defeat was, in the most eagerly anticipated game against the old enemy in years and game which many fans felt the Reds truly were capable of winning, it is important to forget about the disappointment and prevent our league season imploding as it so often has in recent seasons. That means switching our focus to a potentially tough game against Portsmouth on Saturday. Whilst our task in the league is far more challenging following the weekends results, 7 points (assuming we win our game-in-hand) is not impossible. Experiences in recent seasons tell us that this will be very difficult, particularly because we have all of the other top three sides to play away, but firstly we must start winning again after two league defeats. As everyone knows, if we have a good Christmas, things may start to look rosier again heading into the new.
At the beginning of the season, whilst I was desperately hopeful that this season would be the one to end the long wait, I ultimately felt, as I am sure many people did, that maintaining a challenge for the league title throughout the season and finishing much closer to our main rivals would be a satisfactory step forward. This is very much still alive and we are better equipped to challenge for the title this season, and in the future, than we have been for years. If the reds can start stringing some wins together over Christmas and into the New Year, then there is every chance that the rather ugly appearance of the league table at the moment could take a change for the better. The ridiculous suggestions amongst many in the national media that Liverpool are completely out of the title race in mid-December should be ignored as usual.
The important thing at the moment is to play as well as we have been doing for most of the last two months and string together some good results, so that we are well prepared for the next time we take on one of the so-called “big four”.
Portsmouth are likely to provide a tough test, but, as long as the confidence of the team isn’t too dented, then it’s a test we should overcome. I’d like to see Ryan Babel and Peter Crouch given a chance on Saturday. I thought Babel was one of the most effective players against United and looked as likely as anyone to cause a breakthrough, as he so often does when coming off the bench. He now needs opportunities to prove himself over 90 minutes. As for Crouch, he and Torres are surely the best two strikers at the club and probably now need a run of games together. Whilst I admire Dirk Kuyt for his unquestionable effort and energy and feel that in certain games he can link up very effectively with Torres, he ultimately lacks the required quality. Crouch on the other hand is far more likely to pop up with a goal.
With Daniel Agger and Xabi Alonso also finally nearing a comeback, we should vitally have near enough a full squad over the Christmas period. Fingers crossed we can get some good wins over the next couple of weeks and put the league season back on track. It’s certainly not over yet; although it’s going to be difficult. Here’s to a good Christmas for the Reds!