The headline is somewhat ironic seeing as Liverpool have had two main problems this season and one of them is not finishing the chances we’ve created. I keep reading about how we’ve made an impressive start to the season. Unfortunately we haven’t. We’ve made an okay start to the season. I know it’s much better than the last couple of years and we are a work in progress at the moment. This isn’t a criticism. It’s just my opinion based on what I’ve seen.
Of course we’ve had some good results, notably our 2-1 win away to Chelsea last weekend. However, it’s fair to say they were in the middle of a bad patch at the time, just like Arsenal were when we beat them earlier in the season. Now it’s true that we can only beat the teams we come up against and they were both valuable wins, but think how much better off we could have been if we had taken our chances. Games against Sunderland, Norwich and Man United at home – we really should have won. In all three of those games we were the better team but we could only manage 1-1 draws. And when we played away to Stoke we were also the stronger side but we slumped to a 1-0 defeat, while United and Chelsea both grabbed draws against them, despite poor performances.
One of the characteristics of a title winning side is grinding out results when you have an off day. Another is getting vital goals when you come up against a stubborn defence. These are things that Kenny Dalglish will be trying to instill into the players and it will take time. We have added a lot of new faces over the last twelve months and they will only get better the longer they play together. For some of them, they are starting to realize that they are expected to win every game and maybe they haven’t been used to that at their previous clubs. This isn’t arrogance on our fans’ part. It’s ambition. I’m always amused when rival fans accuse Liverpool supporters of living in the past. Of being unrealistic for hoping that we win the league. When you start settling for second best and don’t aim to be as good as you can be, that’s when you’re guaranteed to fail. And that’s why, without going overboard, we should celebrate our successes but aim to iron out our failings.
As I’ve said, one of those failings is not scoring enough. Suarez is pure class but he isn’t an out and out goal scorer. He’s more of a Kenny Dalglish than an Ian Rush. That’s not a bad thing but he could do with someone else to take the burden off him. Carroll is taking time to settle and isn’t that goal scorer. Kuyt, whilst bringing vital energy to the side, isn’t prolific in front of goal. Bellamy causes teams trouble with his pace and is perhaps unlucky not to have had more minutes on the pitch. But football is truly a squad game and we could do with another striker in January. If only we had a young Robbie Fowler, someone who has a knack of being in the right place at the right time. That’s the type of player we need to recruit to help us continue our improvement.
The other thing we need to address is conceding goals from set pieces. Countless times we have been caught out by headed goals when the opposition had no right to score. When we played Norwich, Holt beat Carragher, Skrtel and Reina to head home. And against United, Hernandez was left on his own with a free header. This isn’t a new problem, it’s been a weakness of ours for a while now and it does need addressing.
Football is a simple game. If we score more and concede less than the opposition then we’ll beat teams. Against Manchester City tomorrow we’ll have to be at our best to win. And if we do prevail, back-to-back victories against them and Chelsea could be a springboard for our season. But whatever the result, we should continue to be ambitious and crave the glory days. With United and City seemingly in a two horse race contesting the league, there are only two Champions League places left and we face stiff opposition from Tottenham, Chelsea and Arsenal for those places. So it’s not how we’ve started this season, but how we finish the rest of it that matters.