End of the storm? What a difference 3 weeks makes

Liverpool's Fernando Torres (C) runs through the Chelsea defence during their English Premier League soccer match at Anfield in Liverpool, northern England, November 7, 2010. REUTERS/Phil Noble (BRITAIN - Tags: SPORT SOCCER) NO ONLINE/INTERNET USAGE WITHOUT A LICENCE FROM THE FOOTBALL DATA CO LTD. FOR LICENCE ENQUIRIES PLEASE TELEPHONE ++44 (0)


Liverpool 2 Chelsea 0

It’s been two long years since my last article, but I agreed last week that I would come out of my self-imposed exile and get back to writing articles again.

After 18 consistently miserable months for Liverpool FC, (and so, by default, for me!) what a time I picked to dust off my keyboard again!

Only 4 games ago, we were “relegation candidates,” even amongst some of our own fans (who are mysteriously in denial of that fact now.) Yeah, we heard you – “the new Leeds,” “they said Newcastle were too good to go down,” “with Hodgson as manager we’ll lose the next 5 league games” etc etc etc.

Well, we didn’t lose those next 5 league games. So far, we’ve won 3 out of 3, including giving the current English Champions a first half run around they’d forgotten they could experience. In between, we’d taken care of high flying Napoli. 5 games, 4 wins, 1 draws, no defeats, 8 goals scored, 2 against.

I’m not going to roll-out the well-worn “turned the corner” line, but I am going to have a well merited pop at the doom-merchants who had ridiculously written us off as relegation fodder. Simply put, with players of the calibre of Torres, Gerrard and Reina, the whole idea was just plain ludicrous. Remember the words “when you walk through a storm, hold your head up high.” Don’t just sing them, believe them, because we are Liverpool!

Roy Hodgson Manager Liverpool 2010/11 Liverpool V Napoli 04/11/10 UEFA Europa League Photo: Robin Parker Fotosports International Photo via Newscom

Not only were we in utter turmoil as a club from the outrageous legal proceedings brought on by dumb & dumber, our world-class defensive midfielder had slung his hook, the manager had changed and we were skint, but the fixtures computer was seemingly programmed by the ghost of Tony Wilson. Both sets of mancs and Everton all away in our first 4 away games is difficult enough at the best of times.

At the worst of times, it was nigh on impossible. The outcome was 3 defeats which while depressing, was not entirely surprising given the state of the club and the state of mind of the players. So while the league table looked disastrous, the fact was we’d played 3 of the hardest away games of the season, (oh, and the 4th was to a Birmingham team unbeaten at home for a year) as well as Arsenal at home in our first 8 games. (Ok, I accept, the Blackpool game and performance was a total shambles, no question and really, no excuses for that one.)

However… here we are after 11 games and we’re joint 6th (or 9th to the merchants of doom referred to above!) and a mere 5 points out of 3rd! The Mighty resurgent Spurs with apparently the best squad since the Romans were building Chester and the greatest Dutchman since Goldmember in their team, have the same points as us, and the ever-brilliant David Moyes and his amazing squad of never-say-die warriors are, well, a point Rafael Beneathus.

So… to the display against Chelsea which, let’s be honest, was a long awaited joy to watch. The win against Blackburn was promising, but this one was against the big boys… the league leaders, who, I was suitably warned before the game by numerous Liverpool fans, were going to spank us.

Well, they didn’t. Nor did it ever look like they were likely to.

No, this was the game when many things changed. Torres regained his brilliance (which we always knew he would), Hodgson rediscovered his tactical know-how after tinkering (sometimes unfathomably) in other games. He also realized that his faith in Poulsen was misplaced, Kuyt is essential, Gerrard is needed in midfield against teams of this stature, Meireles is a star in the making and Martin Kelly is a serious consideration to permanently displace England’s first-choice right back.

Anfield Liverpool v Blackburn Rovers (2-1) Premier League 24/10/2010 Lucas (Liverpool) Photo: Roger Parker Fotosports International Photo via Newscom

But the biggest surprise – to me – and I know to many other Liverpool fans – was the remarkable performance of one Lucas Leiva. He was simply sensational and I must be 100% honest and say, I never thought I would use those words and ‘Lucas’ in the same sentence. While I’m not ready to pronounce him the new Jan Molby quite yet, this was a hugely encouraging display and – without any doubt – his best ever in a Red shirt. Well in young Lucas!

Prove me wrong lad, by all means, prove me wrong.

One other factor must not be overlooked…. The 12th man. The Kop was breathing fire at the billionaires of West London, and once again – at least for a half – the Chavs players bottled it in the face of a real – non-plastic flag waving – passionate set of fans. John Terry’s answer was to flatten everyone in sight seeing as he couldn’t outperform them. ‘The best left back in the world’ ™ was silenced by our new boys on the right hand side. Gerrard, Kuyt and Carragher showed the world what passion and desire really are. Reina managed the odd world class save or two just for good measure. Konchesky, Maxi and Skrtel were solid, showed passion and fought for the badge. Torres was, well, unplayable.

Just for good measure, with us then being on the wrong end of Chelsea’s assault on our goal for most of the second half, Roy turned to youth with Jonjo Shelvey and Jay Spearing asked to see the game out against the top team in the country. Risky? Possibly. Admirable confidence in the young lads? Definitely.

Linda Pizzuti, partner of Liverpool's owner John W Henry, smiles before their English Premier League soccer match against Chelsea at Anfield in Liverpool, northern England, November 7, 2010. REUTERS/Phil Noble (BRITAIN - Tags: SPORT SOCCER) NO ONLINE/INTERNET USAGE WITHOUT A LICENCE FROM THE FOOTBALL DATA CO LTD. FOR LICENCE ENQUIRIES PLEASE TELEPHONE ++44 (0)
Any excuse to put Linda in…

So, onwards and upwards. 5 games undefeated.

Finally things are looking far brighter with an owner whose words are carefully chosen, make an awful lot of sense, and are actually BELIEVABLE! (and his missus is a hell of a lot better to look at than Tom Hicks,) a manager who has been ridiculously and unfairly abused showing signs of turning things around, and – vitally – a squad that is beginning to gel, starting to believe, and brimming with confidence at the moment.

The next 3 games are against those “should beat” teams, but let’s take nothing for granted in this league. Anyone truly can take points off anyone these days, but at the very least we should go in to this set of fixtures with a spring in our step, and an air of confidence that looked a million miles away only 3 weeks ago.


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