The opening month of the new season is now over we can take a look back over August.
It started with the sale of Xabi Alonso to Real Madrid for around £30 million and Rafa wasted little time in bringing in a replacement in the form of Roma’s Alberto Aquilani. Though his injury has kept the Italian international out of the Reds’ side this month.
In terms of the football, well, it started in disappointing fashion with defeat to Tottenham. An away trip to Spurs is always a difficult game but the expectations were high ahead of the season opener so we should have given a better account of ourselves than we actually did.
The performance was embarrassing at times. I suppose credit must go to Tottenham for that, they stopped our key players from playing anywhere near their best but we didn’t help ourselves either. Disappointing performances from anybody in a Red shirt at White Hart Lane had quite a few pushing the panic button and raising the “how badly will Liverpool miss Xabi Alonso?” question.
These thoughts were put to the back of our minds though after Anfield’s opening game of the season. A resounding 4-0 victory over Stoke, who caused us much frustration last year, brought all the belief back for the millions of Kopites around the world.
The lack of creativity, the lack of depth and lack of goal scorers were all worries after the Spurs game but they were put to bed after the Stoke game. Goals from Torres and Kuyt as well as new boy Johnson and bit part player David Ngog proved that there are goals all over the pitch and throughout the squad. Surely we’d prove that again against Villa?
In the build up ahead of the visit from Aston Villa we brought in Greek international Sotirios Kyrgiakos from AEK Athens to bolster our threadbare back line. Part of the deal also included, sending our highly-rated Hungarian forward, Krisztian Nemeth to Athens for a season long loan.
Due to Kyrgiakos’ international clearance not being granted in time, he watched the Villa game in the stands.
Well keeping up our form from the Stoke game was a nice thought while it lasted wasn’t it? But in typical fashion the worries were back again after another 90 minutes at Anfield. Again we were dreadful in possession and looked lost on ideas of how to break down the stubborn Aston Villa defence.
Despite us looking quite poor we did finish the game with 24 shots and 11 on target though very few were good, goal scoring, opportunities for the men in Red. Most where either long distance efforts or very tame shots. Or in some cases both.
The questions over the creativity in midfield again raised their ugly head. And again it was the entire midfield who took the majority of the flak from the fans. With little, if any, problems being caused from Kuyt or Benayoun out wide as well as the non-creative pair of Mascherano and Lucas in the middle, fans and pundits alike were mentioning one name – Xabi Alonso.
Our only attacking intent came from the two full backs although neither were too clinical with their final ball. Johnson, apart from one nice through ball for Gerrard, was very wasteful in the final third and other than the assist for Torres’ goal, Insua didn’t impress in the opponents half either.
Defensively though, again we didn’t look bad. Surprising I know considering we conceded three goals, but we weren’t poor at the back. We kept the very quick Villa attack quiet throughout, well at least up until when we had to go for broke to get back into the game. Poor defending from two set pieces and a reckless lunge from our captain was our downfall.
But we couldn’t score another own goal, concede from yet another set piece and give away a penalty against Bolton can we?
Well apparently we could concede from another set piece as our zonal marking again came under scrutiny. But this time we overcame the opponents in a scrappy 3-2 win. It wasn’t the best of performances but a win is a win right?
There are still questions over our creativity, or lack of, but there were signs of it coming together against Bolton, especially in the second half. So that, along with Torres netting his third in as many games and Johnson scoring his second since his summer move, is giving us fans a lot to be positive going into the international break.
A special mention must go to our captain Steven Gerrard though. He was told he was under performing from the manager ahead of the Bolton game and replied in a, typically, empathic way. Netting the winner at the Reebok as well as on a few occasions grabbing the game by the scruff of the neck.
Overall it’s been a disappointing month that has shown glimpses of last season’s Liverpool. Six points out of twelve isn’t as good as we’d have liked but at least we ended on a high note.
Other news in August saw us drawn in Group E of the Champions League against Lyon, Fiorentina and Debreceni as well as a League Cup tie at Elland Road against League 1 outfit Leeds United. There isn’t yet a confirmed date for the Leeds game but it will be, like all the 3rd round games, commenced on the week starting the 21st of September.
The ever-dependable Pepe Reina. Despite us conceding seven goals, he has been faultless. He’s still trying to start the attacks quickly and has been unlucky that nobody is making the runs for him. His shot-stopping has been fantastic again, just ask Robbie Keane, and his only problem is the efforts he hasn’t been able to get near to have been hitting the back of the net. I’d say a faultless start to the season by Pepe.
The emergence of Emiliano Insua. Although he still needs a bit of work on his crossing, as a defender he has been fantastic during the opening month. He has looked very assured and is very mature for such a young lad. If he can build on this then even when Aurelio returns from injury, there’s a chance the young Argentine will keep his place as the number one left back.
The attacking intent shown by Glen Johnson. Already has two goals to his name and a penalty winning run, Glen is certainly showing the signs of being a very shrewd piece of business by Rafa. While some, myself included, still have concerns over his defensive work, nobody can doubt he’s given us some much-needed quality going forward. It’s even more impressive when the wide men this year just haven’t turned up yet.
The fact that our front line isn’t looking too dangerous, possibly down to the lack of creativity in midfield. Against Spurs and Villa, the attacking players have looked very rusty. This may of course come from the lack of creativity Kuyt, Lucas, Masch, Babel and to a lesser extent Yossi have given us thus far. Nothing is being fed to the likes of Torres and Gerrard from the midfield for them to be dangerous from.
My other major concern, player wise, is Dirk Kuyt. He has gone back to the Dirk Kuyt of a few years ago. Hard work and no end product. His touch has been like that of a schoolboy (not a very good schoolboy either), he’s given us nothing from out wide, he’s constantly playing the ball backwards rather than looking forward and has generally just been a shade of the player he was last time out. His season hasn’t yet got going but hopefully in the month of September his, and the team’s in general, will get going.
Fixtures for September;
12/9/09 – Burnley at Anfield (Premiership)
16/9/09 – Debreceni at Anfield (Champions League)
19/9/09 – West Ham at Upton Park (Premiership)
26/9/09 – Hull at Anfield (Premiership)
29/9/09 – Fiorentina at Stadio Artemio Franchi (Champions League)
TBC – Leeds at Elland Road (Carling Cup)