At the end of the ninety minutes against West Ham on Monday, Liverpool went a point clear of Chelsea at the top of the Premier League. It’s been a while since we were still seen as genuine contenders in December, but right now I’m not feeling very positive about any potential title challenge. Going top of the league should be a cause for celebrations and cheering, yet the crowd at Anfield booed the Reds off the pitch.
I watched the game live at home, due to a chest infection, and by the end of the game I probably set my recovery back a day. The stress of watching Liverpool at the moment is just so painful and infuriating. We are defending superbly and the midfield is getting plenty of possession but when it comes to the final third of the pitch the ball is rarely hitting the back of the net. In the last ten days we have missed two golden opportunities to go five points clear at the top. With no disrespect meant to Stoke, Fulham or West Ham, if we have any desire to bring title number nineteen to Anfield, we should be blowing these teams apart. Three home draws against inferior opponents are the type of results that may very well come back to haunt us at the end of the season, especially if we manage to stay in the race and lose the title by a few points.
Lately I have been beginning to wonder if Rafa had Robbie Keane properly scouted before he went out and bought him. Twenty million pounds is a hell of a lot of money for a player, Torres didn’t cost a lot more. Based on his performances in the past there is absolutely no doubt at all that Keane is an outstanding player, but that doesn’t mean he can automatically play in any team. Having a great side is not just about buying the best players it is about having the right players to play together. In my opinion, Keane is not comfortable playing up front on his own, he needs a striking partner to lay balls off for him.
On the flip side, Torres does not need anyone up front with him, all he needs is the ball played up to him and he is able to do the rest and create space for himself. So when Torres is injured it is difficult to see where the goals are going to come from, unless Gerrard plays in a more advanced role. There is no point playing Keane up front with Dirk Kuyt, he may as well be a lone striker because Kuyt likes to roam about the pitch and is no longer an out and out striker. He has been substituted nine times out of twelve league games so far, usually around the sixty five minute mark. This surely cannot be helping his confidence, although five touches of the ball in that time against West Ham doesn’t help his cause there either. Rafa keeps saying time and time again that ‘œKeane’s form will come’, but it’s now been nearly four months and we’re still waiting. Surely the reason we paid such a large sum for him was because he had so much experience playing in the Premier league and therefore wouldn’t need much time to settle?
If Keane is unable to play in the current team at Liverpool, then it may be a case of a lot of money wasted. This is made more frustrating when there are other areas of the side that need strengthening, the full backs for example. Ironically the player that was sold partly to raise the funds to buy Keane, Peter Crouch, may have been the perfect player to have alongside him at Anfield.
Torres is not due back for another two weeks, although perhaps it may be better long term if he is out for longer? Four hamstring injuries in eighteen months is now beyond a joke. Memories of Michael Owen are flooding back and I am worried that if the medical staff don’t get Fernando back to full strength, instead of rushing him back, then it is going to continue happening. I know that Owen was put on a weight program to fix his hamstrings and it worked a treat, so I wonder if Torres has been doing anything similar. The problem for Rafa though is that, although we did OK without Torres earlier in the season, this time his injury has come when the goals have dried up and the temptation to rush him back is a lot stronger.
Up next is an away trip to Blackburn Rovers. Blackburn have been dreadful over the last few months and are shipping goals like crazy. Their manager, ex Red Paul Ince, is under mounting pressure at the moment after a number of defeats. I fear that this game has the same potential as the one against Spurs a few weeks ago. The law of averages say that they have to win sometime and I am concerned that in our current form we will come unstuck and lose at some point. If we continue with the dry spell in front of goal all it takes is one lapse in concentration from a set piece and Blackburn can score. If our other strikers can start scoring this weekend then that may ease the pressure and hopefully Torres can heal properly and we won’t have lost ground on Chelsea in the meantime.