My previous article, an outburst highlighting that players should be made or held accountable for their performances, was greeted with remarks that those of us who think on these lines are negative and over-reacting. I also concluded by controversially stating that it was hard to imagine Liverpool come away with three points against our neighbours from across Stanley Park. This probably infuriated most fans. Many state that anything can happen in a local derby and current form means nothing during the ninety minute struggle to overcome neighbouring rivals. This is partially valid but form will inevitably have a bearing on any game, hence my prediction that all we could have expected was a draw.
I was let down by the result – again – more so after witnessing some great moments during the first half; forty-five minutes which should have seen us score, at least, two goals. The team was set up brilliantly by the King and I was all smiles with Jay Spearing and Kelly included in the line-up. The young duo have staked their claim to be part of the first team in the near future. Kelly playing on the right means Glenn Johnson has to plough his trade on the left, the result of which is not yet fully apparent, although there are signs such a scheme is encouraging. Kenny Dalglish has brought a renewed sense of hope that there is light at the end of a dark tunnel and his celebrations when Miereles delightfully found the net are welcome scenes of elation which induce motivation and belief to anyone connected to Liverpool FC. Kenny has been instrumental, pivotal I may add in bringing back the old Fernandes Torres; the Spaniard has been class as of late, a team leader against Blackpool devoid of any decent service. He could have grabbed a spectacular goal yesterday after skillfully breaching Everton’s defensive line and clip the ball from near stand-still. I nearly dropped to the floor with frustration as the ball bounced off the post. Nando’s contribution has been outstanding since Kenny’s arrival and this will inevitably be noted by clubs aspiring to make the Champions League places this season.
Liverpool could have grabbed all three points yesterday so apparent was the difference in will, class in the first half. This was all to change right after kick-off in the second half as Everton first snatched an equaliser barely forty seconds after hostilities resumed and some six minutes later grabbed a second. Liverpool’s players were simply awestruck, impotent, incapable of responding to Everton’s renewed sense of belief brought about definitely by Moyes’ (a manager I respect and admire) half-time rally talk. Moye’s men were evidently up for it and pressed for a third, which, luckily never materialised. The Reds settled down as the minutes ticked away and a loose ball in Everton’s box resulted in a penalty awarded by Phil Dowd after Howard, Everton’s ‘keeper amateurishly tackled Maxi who was about to latch on the ball, an evident goal-scoring opportunity halted illegally by Howard. Kuyt stepped up and converted the spot kick. The finale was pulsating to say the least, but both teams shared the spoils at the end; a fair result which highlights the progress brought about by Kenny but also exposes a few notable issues, again related to player performance.
A problem which needs to be addressed in the coming months is the center back duo. Carragher is out injured and although the Bootle-born man will want to cement his place again on his return, his reflexes and clinical tackles are not as sharp as a few years ago. Daniel Agger is a top class defender but is injury-prone. Skrytel has been highly inconsistent during the last twelve months, a player I once referred to as bargain-buy given his envious defending skills. He has regressed notably during the last couple of months. The big Greek, Kyrgiakos has some positives to his play, most notably his ability in latching onto freekicks with his head. He is, however, slow-paced and although good in the air, he tends to be laborious in his tackling. I always believed that a good manager can turn the fortunes of players and I sincerely hope Kenny and his staff will look into the defensive frailties and address these. In the long-term, Liverpool need to invest in two solid center backs which can strike an understanding between themselves and Liverpool’s goalie. The priority now is to iron out the problems in defense, starting from positional play and man-marking, as the team is leaking goals at an alarming rate.
Another susceptible character in yesterday’s match was Maxi, a player which embodies inconsistency. Maxi was poor in the first half (not so apparent given the quality shown by his team-mates) and sparked into life during the second period. Sparked into life is maybe being generous, but he certainly upped his game and was instrumental in Liverpool’s equaliser so thumbs up for that. He needs to get involved more often than not and help out now more than ever. His role, similar to Kuyt’s is to cut through the line between midfield and defense and provide Torres with quality balls to work on. Being anonymous means the burden is shifted to center and right midfield, leaving the left side loosely guarded.
I was impressed with Jay Spearing’s contribution. A role requiring stamina, his continuous harassing was a welcome sight. Jay’s work rate was impressive, swaying from left to right trying to break down attacks, a feat which he successfully accomplished many times. His passing skills need to be worked on and I’m sure, under the guidance of Kenny and Clarke, this area will be improved in the not so distant future.
The good points against Everton need to be brought forward and applied against Wolves at the Molineux, a team battling to stay up and who will provide for a stern test. Undoubtedly the team needs to bag the three points and move up the table again. Dalglish is meticulously sorting out defects which he certainly noticed well before taking over from Hodgson. The priority now is to ensure few goals are conceded and Torres is fed continuously. We need Torres to start scoring again and fast – this will have a ripple effect across the team to improve all round play. This is not about being over reliant on Torres; Torres is our number one striker and if he’s fit, then we need him to score goals week-in, week-out. He needs the service though and Kenny will definitely see to this. The game against Wolves will be hard-fought but I can see the Reds get all three. It’s an early kick-off and I’m looking forward to the team’s performance after another week under the auspices and guidance of the great King Kenny.
Good luck Reds.
See you next time.