It would be fair to say that a failure to grab three points at home to Wolves this season would be unthinkable, but a lot of unthinkable things have happened so far and I don’t think many of us went into this game with anything other than hope.
Another strong start yielded little in terms of end result and after the first 15 minutes we, yet again, dropped our heads and let Wolves back into the game. Some shocking passing and mis-control gave our opponents the impression that we may be there for the taking, and their increased confidence led to a torrid 30-minute spell at the end of the first half.
Thankfully we got a bit of a break in the second with the sending off and I want to put a shout out here to Pepe Reina for running the length of the pitch to argue the case for Ward’s red card. Pepe is rapidly becoming one of my favourite ever Liverpool players and is a superb character and team-mate who is completely dedicated to our cause. The fact that he was paying such close attention to see the incident from that distance and also took the time to sprint 100 yards to remonstrate is great to see.
Perhaps we were slightly fortuitous with the sending off, but if bad luck has contributed towards the loss of confidence, form and poor results so far this season, it only seems fitting that a dash of ‘good luck’ contributes to a vital win.
The determination on Gerrard’s face as he powered forward for the header to score our first goal should remind us all of how passionate our skipper is and how frustrated he, like all of us, are in regards to our form this season. Stevie certainly hasn’t been himself recently, but we need to remember that he is still coming back from injury and walked back into a weakened team whose confidence has been shattered in the light of yet another false dawn. We need to be careful when placing such high expectations on a single player, even one of his quality, if expecting them to almost single-handedly set us back on track. Hopefully a few more incidents like this will remind us how important our skipper is and this ridiculous talk of him being stripped of the captaincy, or worse, sold, will stop. Quite how these rumours or speculations start is anyone’s guess, but it’s yet another example of the utter madness that surrounds modern football.
If a player like Gerrard, who has done so much for the club, can be lambasted after a few poor games following a return from injury into a side in the middle of its worst crisis of confidence for years should have to read this sort of nonsense then god help us all. I wouldn’t put it past the media to promote such controversial BS, but any fans that contribute should hold their heads in shame. Sure, we’re entitled to criticise the guy after a poor performance or two, but to take it to these levels is dumfounding and in a relative sense, I believe the same applies to the manager.
Moving on, I thought Pacheco was brilliant during his short spell, but will also argue that the timing of his introduction was equally important. We were on top of Wolves and had a two-goal cushion, relieving any pressure that he may have felt and allowing him to play his natural game without feeling as if he must somehow pull something special out of the bag. I don’t think we would have seen the same composed control and nice touches if the score line were 0-0 and now the youngster can walk away full of confidence. I think this is certainly something that Rafa considered when making the substitution and if so, would fit in with his thinking in terms of how to treat Aquilani.
We’ve all seen what confidence has done to our young striker NGog after scoring the second against the Mancs as he’s been in great form and scored some vital goals since. It’s important to bear in mind factors such as player psychology and a more long-term view of progression when making such decisions, but since this sort of ‘outside the box’ thinking seems so alien to most in this country, nobody ever considers it when lambasting a player or manager following what they would consider a poor performance, starting line up or choice of substitutions. Just because you’re technically fit doesn’t mean you should always be thrust straight into the action, particularly if you are young or new to a club or foreign league.
Our poor start to the season has left the media and a portion of the fan-base desperately searching for scapegoats and while our manager (within reason, as it has been excessive recently to say the least) and more experienced players (experienced in terms of age, time at the club or time in the Premiership) can handle such pressure, it may be severely detrimental to new arrivals or young prospects. A degree of care is needed then, and I think Aquilani did more than enough today to walk away from the game with confidence and his head held high. Hopefully we’ll see a lot more of him in the coming weeks but I do think it’ll be some time before he reaches the level that convinced Rafa he was worth the valuation. In the meantime, some clever link-up play and a bit of vision when contributing to our attacking play would go down nicely, particularly if Gerrard and Torres can recover their best form.
So, a vital three points against Wolves and though it wasn’t pretty, there were plenty of positives. Unfortunately there’s no time to relax as we have a massive game against Villa on Tuesday to prepare for, but personally I’m glad our next match is a ‘big-un’. In times of trouble we seem to find it easier to motivate ourselves to put in a good performance in these sorts of games. I’m not going to offer any predictions but I will certainly be hoping that the match is devoid of freak injuries, dodgy decisions, own-goals, beach-balls and red-cards.
Unless we’re not on the receiving end of them for a change, of course.