So here we are nearly in the New Year, and instead of topping the table or chasing down the leaders (as most of us expected after last season’s great league performance and summer purchases) here we are stuck in a rut amongst the pack chasing the Champions League places.
Tottenham and Bolton, our next two opponents are two sides competing with ourselves for a top four finish. After the misery at Ewood Park adding to our Boxing Day hang-overs victories in these games has now taken on a surreal degree of importance, in the kind of six-pointer matches we wouldn’t have believed we would have been involved in at this stage of the season.
With the Dubai investment still rumbling along, Champions League qualification is an essential part of not only Liverpool’s future ability to compete in the transfer market, but also of concern to those looking to invest in the club.
The players seriously underperformed at the very start of the season and our title dreams ended far too quickly for all Liverpool supporters – now we must not even consider the possibility of failing to land a Champions League spot. The strikers have been singled out for criticism, but to my mind the midfield have not weighed in with the number of goals with which they did last season.
In the league last year the strikers were hardly prolific in front of goal – Cisse (9 goals), Crouch (8), Morientes and Fowler (5 each), but the midfielders added to the tally – Gerrard (10), Garcia (7), Alonso (3), Kewell (3). We were hardly prolific scorers last season, but our defence was much tighter.
This season we are half-way through the season and the strikers? Bellamy (5), Crouch (2) and Kuyt and Fowler (1 each). Nine goals from our strikers in half a season? Just not good enough. What happened to the days of 20+ goals a season strikers. We will be lucky if any of them get to 10 at this rate? This years midfield? Gerrard and Alonso (3 each) – somewhat lower for Gerrard but nonetheless not too bad for the central midfielders but Jermaine Pennant – a player who has had a lot of first team appearances – nil goals. Gonzalez and Garcia have both weighed in with 2 each but they have generally been competing for the same place on the wing.
Liverpool’s strikers need to improve, and I for one believe the time has come to give Robbie Fowler a substantial run in the first team – why he was dropped after his two strikers in Istanbul is beyond me. We are clearly creating plenty of chances and as far as I am concerned there is only one striker at Anfield who, given the right service, can find the net more often than he will miss it.
Make it happen Rafa. Let’s start looking ahead not over our shoulders.
John, Editor, Anfield Online