A week is a long time in football.
A week ago we were celebrating a demolition over our local rivals – the 3-0 victory over the blues, as well as progression to the FA Cup Semi Final. A second return to Wembley in as many months for a club who hadn’t been there for the previous 16 years.
And now today we reflect on two disappointing reverses away at QPR and at home to Wigan Athletic.
King Kenny! Kenny must go! King Kenny! Kenny must go. You get the point.
It became obvious to me after the Arsenal game that the much heralded ’4th place trophy’ had slipped out our grasps. And Everton aside, our results in the league appear to have reflected the fact the players too know that particular game is up. Steven Gerrard managed to up his game for the derby, with local pride at stake, but he – like many of the others – appear to be unable to turn up for other league games.
Let’s be clear here – Kenny Dalglish is not immune from criticism. And as I looked on from The Kop on Saturday it didn’t take me, or those around me too long to realise the futility of playing Luis Suarez, alone up front, against what appeared at times to be three centre-halves.
When Reina had the ball there was little urgency from the midfield to break forward. Instead they dawdled out, expecting Suarez to collect the ball and trick his way past the entire Wigan defence, after winning the first ball, second ball and third ball himself.
Thankfully that decision was amended at half time, but by then Liverpool had settled in to a lacklustre tired-looking display. The players may well have been tired, or lazy, or a combination of the both – but they didn’t look like they had the gears they showed in the first half of the season.
Another criticism that can be levelled at Kenny, or maybe higher up depending on where you like to grind your axe, is that the reds did not grab themselves another attacking player in the January transfer window. The reds have paid throughout the entire season for a lack of clinical finishing in front of goal. Downing doesn’t look like he can do it, Henderson looks terrified of doing it, Adam has trouble doing it from 12 yards, Gerrard’s been out for large swathes of the season, Suarez isn’t prolific enough even when he isn’t out for 9 games, and Carroll has been more in and out of the Liverpool team than a round of the Hokey-Cokey.
It is easy to say the reds have made mistakes in their summer transfer strategy. But equally – Henderson, Downing and Adam have performed nowhere near the level they did at their previous clubs – nevermind gaining the expected improvement we require. Injuries to Agger, Leiva and Johnson have culminated in a rapidly declining defensive performance too.
Just as a week is a long time in football, 14 months is an eternity these days – but for those with memories surpassing that of a sieve the tepid football we were playing under Hodgson has been, on the whole eradicated. Liverpool, most of the time now, play attacking passing football. The build up only slowed by a lack of quality amongst the playing staff – but the football and the ethos is an improvement.
Liverpool should not be as far down in the league as we are. It is clear to almost everyone that we have not picked up the points we deserved for some fine performances. Man Utd, Man City, Spurs and Arsenal at home yielded a miserly 3 points out of 12. Anyone who witnessed those games, even a neutral, would be hard pushed to concede that was a true reflection.
Wigan was poor, and the other shocker that springs to mind performance wise at Anfield was the Swansea game. But the 2 poor performances have unfortunately been exacerbated by a good handful more poor results.
In this day and age of fans demanding instant overnight success it is no surprise to see the media hoping to whip up something, now they have completed their mission of getting AVB the sack. It is also sad but expected to see the same LFC sites, who helped Rafa Benitez to the sack, also allowing their impatience get to them once more. But the LFC fans who saw the reds win their first trophy for 6 years last month, and those who will be travelling to Wembley again next month should take some lessons from history.
Liverpool’s league campaign has been poor. Competing in two other tournaments has taken the squads eye off the ball. The reds are not yet capable of competing in 3 or more competitions. The reds need at least one striker, and arguably another winger but that’s what the summer is for.
The reds are back in Europe next season, not at the top table, but back in. Dalglish will be all too aware of the players who have let him down this year and will be keen to ensure the same mistake isn’t made again. Fenway’s initial foray into buying British players with nothing on their CV of note has had mixed results.
So while you and I may be hugely disappointed with our league campaign, you can bet that the club’s manager is even more furious. When you have won as much as he has, played in and built teams that created success and success then you will understand that there will be few people out there with as much personal motivation to continue our forward progress.
Dismantling the project we are embarking on would be folly. See you at Wembley in a couple of weeks. Again.