Saturday’s game will live long in Liverpool fans memories for the wrong reasons. The media have had a field day (or should that be beach day) with the story. Opposition fans as well as Liverpool fans have come up with more jokes surrounding beach toys than were ever thought possible. The only shame is that we are approaching Winter, otherwise many of Britain’s seaside resorts would have seen a much needed boost. Factories in China will be springing in to action – and producing new LFC merchandise at record rates. (Hicks and Gillett will be pleased so many United fans bought beach balls)
But two days later – as the jokes get tired it is sensible to reflect on Liverpool’s opening stuttering start to our campaign.
People blame the departure of Alonso – but he wanted to go. He is no more a Liverpool player than Luis Garcia is, Ian Rush, Kenny Dalglish, Nicolas Anelka or a whole host of other players who we would have been glad to have on the pitch on Saturday.
Instinct tells some Liverpool fans to blame Lucas – yet he was probably one of the better outfield players on Saturday.
Liverpool did indeed play poorly by our high standards, but I doubt very much we deserved to actually lose the game. United managed to scrappily avoid defeat to Sunderland on their own turf a fortnight ago – with an injury time equaliser – with a first choice squad and the home crowd at their disposal. Ferguson slated the referee’s fitness and the media lapped it up. Kindly ignoring the poor performance. Liverpool lost to a goal that by the laws of the game shouldn’t have counted – and Rafa kops it big time.
Relatively sane individuals will understand all about the media manipulation and Rafa’s blatant disregard for the hacks and journos has upset a few ego’s in the London media and they love nothing more than hysterical reporting on the reds.
People who watched the game will have seen Sunderland spend almost the entire second half under the cosh. Yes Sunderland could have made it 2 – but they didn’t. Reina saved, Carragher tackled and the defence crowded out their three ‘glorious chances’. None of those three ‘glorious chances’ ended with a shot on target.
Liverpool fans, and Rafa to his credit (overlooked by the media), took the rotten luck in good grace. If United had suffered a ‘beach ball’ embarrassment – would Ferguson have laughed it off – or would he be calling for the referee to be dropped and telling the FA he was ‘unfit’ for the Premier League? I strongly suspect the latter.
While we can point to failed investment from the owners, which we have discussed countless times before – the fact remains that the blame for our stuttering start lies full square on the shoulders of the players sent out to perform in a manner expected of them.
Saturday wasn’t about Torres not playing or Gerrard. We didn’t fluff chances that Torres would have scored. We simply couldn’t pass the ball quick enough, didn’t move fast enough, and didn’t show any passion to win the ball and make the game ours.
Last season Liverpool landed our record points haul. Torres, Gerrard and Alonso all had substantial spells out of the team. Even amongst that record Premier League points total we had an horrific 10 game spell where we won only 3 games. People throwing in the towel then were sitting on the edge of the seats as the title chase went all the way through to the middle of May.
There have not been wholesale changes to that Liverpool team which came so close last year.
Liverpool’s bad start is entirely down to poorly performing players. We unveiled the stat on Saturday night that a kick upfield by Pepe Reina had more chance of finding a Liverpool player than a pass from Ryan Babel on that day. Some people said it was harsh – but that was the cold reality of the day. And it wasn’t just Ryan Babel – who incidentally was reaching his 100th appearance for Liverpool.
Liverpool are better than their results show. The players are better than their recent performances. The team Rafa sent out against Sunderland should have taken all three points. If the Liverpool players were at the top of their game and we were still failing to get the results then yes – you can look at the management – but that’s not the case.
Poor performing Liverpool players have caused our stuttering start to the season. Nobody else. They’ve got the next two games with the Anfield crowd behind them to pull their fingers out and start playing to the standard expected of them and justify their cost and salary, but more importantly justify the crest that they wear on their shirt.
At the end of a storm, there’s a golden sky.