Post Fulham reactions and a look ahead to Arsenal

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Wednesday’s victory over Fulham was a game in which Liverpool fans once again achieved maximum frustration, raised heart beats and extreme case of sweats. After I had finished shaking and profusely sweating in what was actually a steady environment for heat and humidity, I realised the sheer stress with which I had just cantered through the 90 minutes of viewing was actually worth three points.

It was a sign of intent by Liverpool, and perhaps a victory that holds a larger significance than the 5-1 demolition of Arsenal a few days previous.

This Liverpool side can attack graciously, as proved by the 66 goals in the Premier League this year, but often they come unstuck against stubborn opposition in Fulham, particularly after their spirited draw against Manchester United.

It was lucky then that Liverpool’s attacking threat could score more goals than Kolo Toure, another hapless ‘brain fart’ leaving yet again more questions than answers in the Liverpool defence. He stared at the ground in sheer amazement, stuck in a motion that resembled a computer game character ‘lagging’ during the most vital of gaming moments.

Arguably just once this season have Liverpool won a game without playing particularly well, that energy sapping game at the Britannia Stadium back in January (the second half away to Villa is also up there). Even then they scored 5 goals, but the game at Craven Cottage produced little in the way to convince the doubters of Liverpool’s away form.

What it did bring was three points. Good enough to keep Liverpool in fourth. Good enough to keep Tottenham at bay….for now. Good enough to keep Liverpool close to the three teams above and good enough for 17 points from 7 games this calendar year. On goals scored Liverpool top that table, and grinding out a result like this one will also prove vital for the confidence of those players who had failed to show the same form away from home that they had done at Anfield

Sporting Brainwaves player spotlight- vs. Fulham

  1. 1.       Kolo Toure

As I mentioned earlier, the mistake by the Ivorian only seemed to raise yet more questions about the Liverpool defence who have shipped 32 goals this season, 11 more than leaders Chelsea and only 1 more than 7th placed United.

Toure was rightly in the firing line, his shin ricochet one for the Christmas ‘Goals and Gaff’s 2014’ DVD and one Liverpool will hope doesn’t happen again. With the return of Daniel Agger for the last cagey minutes against Fulham, Brendan Rodgers will hope the Dane’s fintness lasts for the remainder of the season.

Although Toure will more than likely lose his place to the returning Vice Captain, one thing people forget is that he was the only Premier League winner in Liverpool’s starting 11 last night. He may not be the ‘invincible’ he once was but his experience and knowledge in such a tight league run-in may prove to be vital in and around Melwood for these last 12 games.

  1. 2.       Philippe Coutinho

The young Brazilian had such a dynamic start to life on Merseyside when he signed in January 2013. Through a combination of injuries and drop in form he disappeared off the radar somewhat, but his ability was there to see from the start.

He offers a flair and composure in the middle that may be lacking in others; Jack Wilshire will be the first to tell you that after losing his personal battle to the 21 year old last Saturday afternoon.

Often Coutinho comes under fire for his lack of goals, and in games like the one at Craven Cottage on Wednesday he is the easy target when it comes to blaming players for the team under performing.

One aspect of Coutinho’s game I have noticed of late however, is his persistence. He will keep trying to impact the game throughout, and if his first 7 or 8 through ball attempts don’t pay off, he will work hard to win the ball back (4 tackles vs Fulham) and look to set others on their way. His perseverance showed through last night, his drop of the shoulder and shot drew Liverpool back level for the second time in the match. The deflection on the way through was deserved, and will give the attacking midfielder bags of confidence going forward into the Arsenal game on Sunday.

  1. 3.       Steven Gerrard

Steven Gerrard’s 91st minute penalty was the clincher in an entertaining tie on Wednesday night. His composure and assurance from the penalty spot is there for all to see as he slotted home the winner to the goalkeeper’s right hand side.

His influence was also evident during the other 90 minutes, his immaculate through ball for the first goal reminiscent of Kaka’s in the Champions League Final of 2005.

Not only is Gerrard solidifying his position as the defensive midfield creator, he is also showing that despite losing his pace, he is not losing his character or significance on the pitch. His desire to win was immersed in the celebration of the players after Coutinho’s equaliser on 72 minutes. Both he and Luis Suarez ran to the delirious pack patting Coutinho on his head and almost dragged them back to the Liverpool half. It was a clear message to the rest that this game wasn’t up, and 1 point was not good enough.

As he wheeled away following his penalty, shirt swinging and travelling fans dancing, it was all the evidence anybody needed to see that Gerrard’s time at Liverpool may yet be a long way off.

A look ahead to Arsenal

Liverpool will face a very different Arsenal to the one which suffered the 5-1 defeat at Anfield. They will be angry and embarrassed at the manner with which they let Liverpool dominate from all areas of the pitch from start to finish.

The game at the Emirates for the FA Cup 5th round will have will have a very different feel. Arsenal, nervous against Manchester United on Wednesday, have a tough run of fixtures ahead (as I pointed out in this piece earlier on in the season -…nd-in-february/). It hasn’t started in the way Arsene Wenger will have hoped, but he will want to use the Liverpool game as a catalyst to push on, with Bayern Munich the visitors after the Reds.

In what is arguably their most important week of the season, with all three competitions on the line (they face Sunderland at home after Munich who are unbeaten on the road since 23rd December), they are facing an all or nothing situation as the season draws to a close.

Liverpool hasn’t had much luck at the Emirates over the years, winning just once in their last 6 games there. The league fixture saw Arsenal run out 2-0 victors in a dominant and convincing display by The Gunners.

The tides have turned of late though, and a tense atmosphere awaits what many hope will be a game full of the quality that both teams have consistently shown throughout the league campaign. In 9 of Liverpool’s last 10 FA Cup matches they have scored 2 or more, and with Arsenal needing a response, we could be in for an FA Cup classic come 4pm on Sunday afternoon.