10 Things We Learnt During The FA Cup Final

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Liverpool are still very much a team in transition

The frequency with which we have to remember how far we had already fallen away from being a ‘Big Four’ club thanks to Hicks and Gillett is as frustrating as it is saddening. The money spent on players so far by FSG has not yet ensured a strong squad, despite there now being a decent enough first eleven if all players were fit. Europa League football next season may attract slightly bigger names to Anfield this summer but the really big talents will be looking to sign for a club in the Champion’s League.

 

Lucas Leiva has been hugely missed this season

No disrespect to Jay Spearing but he is just not a like for like replacement for Lucas who has put a rocky start at the club behind him to become an excellent defensive midfield player. A younger Lucas might have given away possession as Spearing did, leading to Ramires’ opening goal, but the 2011/12 version of Lucas is head and shoulders above any of the other potential ‘destroyers’ in the squad and far less reckless in the tackle than Mascherano often was.

 

The woodwork is not our friend

Prior to the cup final there was a stat given out by the radio suggesting that if all of Liverpool’s 30-plus shots which have hit the crossbar or upright of the opposition goal this season had instead gone in, the club would  be third in the Premier League. That’s all very well but if ifs and buts were candy and nuts Doubting Thomas would have been diabetic. Probably. Whether you believe Andy Carroll’s 81st minute header crossed the line or not, the damn crossbar was again involved in a failure to have a goal awarded.

 

Andy Carroll is starting to look like a Liverpool number 9

Carroll’s work rate and determination when he came on against Chelsea were supreme and helped inspire some of his less energised team mates to raise their games and try to get back into the match. His goal in the semi-final and his performance in the final are just two isolated incidences, of course, but they were huge Wembley occasions and he proved to as well as up for the task of sniffing out goals and terrifying defences. Until big Andy was on the pitch, Terry had a pretty calm afternoon. For the last half hour he was sweating like a tub of lard in a sauna.

 

Martin Skrtel has been Liverpool’s best player all season

It’s never easy to choose a player of the season when the team has underperformed in the league but Skrtel has really stood out and provided much needed reassurance to the fans that Carragher’s (surely impending) retirement will not leave an enormous hole in central defence. Some might say Martin was at fault for Drogba’s goal but no-one is willingly nutmegged, are they? Reina should take more blame for both goals than any of the defenders, despite Enrique having one of his worst games of the year.

 

Ian Rush is probably not a Drogba fan

There was a close up of Rushy’s face when the second Chelsea goal went in and Drogba broke the Welshman’s record for scoring in most cup finals. Rush was a far from happy bunny. The Liverpool performance up to that point wouldn’t have helped put him in a good mood anyway, and then to see that diving, Oscar-seeking, striker steal his record (with an admittedly excellent strike) must have put the cherry on the cake of Rush’s disappointment.

 

It is more than just an ‘ignorant minority’ of Chelsea fans who lack class

When Chelsea fans barracked and booed during the minute’s silence at the start of their semi-final with Spurs, the club were quick to condemn them but added that they were an ‘ignorant minority’ tarnishing the rest of Chelsea’s fans. To me it sounded like more than a minority of their supporters who showed an utter lack of sportsmanship by booing the Liverpool players as they embarked on the already demoralising trip up the Wembley steps to collect their runners’ up medals. Not only that, before kick-off Wembley Way was covered in stickers defaming the memory of the victims of Hillsborough and referring to Heysel. I can hardly see neutrals or Liverpool supporters putting those up so who does that leave in the frame?

 

Liverpool fans are among the best in the world

By contrast the Liverpool, fans inside Wembley were incredible. True, few of them stayed to applaud the winners as they might have done back in the day, but that probably had more to do with the ridiculous kick-off time and the transport cock-ups that meant many Liverpudlians were likely to be left stranded in London. But they showed their true class when Drogba scored Chelsea’s second. Did they boo? No, they just sang their support of Liverpool even louder. There is no finer sound than thousands of scousers singing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ and to hear it dominate the end of proceedings at Wembley, even though Liverpool had lost, was spine-tingling. No wonder Kenny turns to celebrate with the supporters every time Liverpool score a goal.

 

King Kenny may be dethroned in the summer

The fact that Liverpool only really showed their potential for a third of the match on Saturday will not have gone unnoticed by John W. Henry, the man behind the heavy investment in players last summer. Such is the dignified old-school discretion with which owners and manager now conduct internal affairs, few of us on the outside can have any real insight into whether FSG have doubts about Dalglish’s capacity to restore the club’s fortunes and get us back into the Champion’s League and, who knows, challenging for the domestic title again before too long. If they do doubt him, I don’t think they will want to spend another season watching the team underperform in the league. If they have faith, perhaps another spending spree and a public declaration of commitment to Kenny will help settle some of the more unconvinced fans?

 

Jose Enrique is the new Barney

Is it just me or does anyone else think that Jose Enrique is beginning to bear an uncanny resemblance to Alan ‘Barney Rubble’ Kennedy, one of his more illustrious predecessors’ at left back? The tash, the slightly bemused look on his face as he goes in for a tackle…All he needs is a bubble perm and the lookalike effect will be complete? No? Just me, then.

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