The Red Review: November 2008
November; a month Liverpool have struggled with in recent history. Our proverbial mid-season slump historically starts here and fans were very aware that despite our very strong start, there is a long way to go yet.
Our fears didn’t seem justified as Dirk Kuyt blasted in a gorgeous pile-driver within the first five minutes at White Hart Lane on November 1. Tottenham were rebuilding under their new manager Harry Redknapp but even he admitted that the comeback from Spurs wasn’t their sole doing.
Liverpool fans squirmed for 70 minutes as Liverpool desperately tried to find a second goal. Gerrard hit the woodwork; in fact several players hit the woodwork. For vast periods of play Liverpool were superior in every area. Our pass and move football had come along a long way but all of this seemed futile when Jamie Carragher scored an own goal. Tottenham received the luck they needed and Pavlyuchenko snatched the 3 points in the final minute.
It was a first defeat of the campaign but it showed that Liverpool couldn’t hang onto 1-0 leads forever. The lack of composure in front of goal was worrying and the injury of Fernando Torres did not help matters. It was another Kop hero that saved us against Athletico Madrid at home. In a Champions League crunch match Liverpool underperformed as Maxi Rodriguez fired in a wonderful volley just before half time.
Liverpool threw their hearts against the Atletico wall in the second half that followed as frustration built again. Then in the 95th minute Steven Gerrard went to ground winning a contentious penalty. Was it a penalty? Even the majority of Liverpool fans will agree it was not but it didn’t seem to matter in the context. Gerrard blasted in the equaliser and we were left fidgeting at another aggravating performance.
With Torres out the burden lay on Robbie Keane to start firing for Liverpool’s frontline and it was something that he’d failed to do in the league so far. Parking the bus has been a popular tactic at Anfield for mid-table and relegation scrappers but nobody told West Bromwich Albion as they took the game to Liverpool on November 8.
This time Liverpool were able to break on the counter and Robbie Keane finally got off the mark with two fine first half goals. A 90th minute goal from Alvaro Arbeloa capped an encouraging win for the men in Red as we briefly marched back to the summit of the Premier League.
Our ‘œreserves’ weren’t performing nearly as well however. In a League Cup tie with Spurs Liverpool’s defence made a series of errors as Tottenham marched to a 3-0 lead at half time. Despite exploiting Tottenham‘s set piece weakness, Liverpool went down 4-2 (goals from Sami Hyypia and Damien Plessis) and the first of our four trophy challenges ended in failure.
Our form in the league remained strong though as we battled to victory against Bolton at the Reebok. Dirk Kuyt scored a beautiful gaping header near the half hour and Torres’s return proved crucial as he showed wonderful skill to find Steven Gerrard. With this Gerrard made up for a sitter in the same half which was only second to a glaring miss by Robbie Keane in the first half.
Chelsea were earning good results themselves though and this showed that we needed to remain on top of our game. Chelsea‘s failure to gain all three points against Newcastle meant that Liverpool had a golden opportunity to capitalise and go two points clear against Fulham. Instead we were treated to another mediocre performance. Fulham battled, like most teams at Anfield do, but Liverpool’s lack of composure was astounding once more.
Our final match of the month against Marseille was another frustrating affair but it did book our place in the next round of the Champions League. Gerrard was again the key that unlocked the door as he headed in after 23 minutes. Liverpool looked far from convincing in the second half with another desperate defensive display. Credit must go to Carragher for patrolling the defence as he did that night.
Whilst there were many examples of Liverpool’s lack of composure, and perhaps lack of depth, in attack there were positives to come out of the month of November. For a month that often poses problems to Liverpool’s title ambitions, Liverpool finished mostly unscathed.
It is a continuing trend in this review that I’m able to look back in a positive light because of improvements since (two 3 goal wins on the bounce in December). Overall, things remain positive for Liverpool as they approach the New Year in first place, albeit not by much. If this has been the mid-season slump then perhaps better things are on the horizon.