August 2009: The Anfield Review

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.

High points;

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.

Low points;

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)

4 comments on
August 2009: The Anfield Review

  1. There are some shots you just cannot save as a keeper !, look at Andy “manure lovver” Grays assessment of the goal adebayore scored for city , he argues that if the delivery is good enough and the approach play spot on then there is nothing anyone can do short of conceding a penalty and i agree.
    Most of the goals conceded however could be avoided but exactly how many were reina’s fault ? not many id say about two, in fact if it was’nt for him we would have been mauled by spurs and would have lost to bolton so that would have been three losses and one win and liverpool would most certainly be staring down the barrel .
    With regards to this article it’s pretty much spot on however the lack of creativity is not just down to the midfield because torres has been struggling to find form as has gerrard , and i dont think the 1 man up front 5 in midfield works as well any more ,TORRES NEEDS A PARTNER .

    I don’t think its rite to critique individuals based on this season just yet because were only four games in. The angst + frustration against kuyt and yossi i think is especially unfair because they have been more consistent than some of the bigger players in my opinion, Kuyt is always going to go back when he should go forward ( he’s been doing it since we got him!) but those two always work their asses off even if it’s to no avail.

    I would be more critical of those who we depend on as our best players because the likes of gerrard, torres, mascha, carra and skirtel are the ones in my opinion need to pull their socks up !, we all know that when most of these lads have a good game we will probably win and so was eventually the case on saturday.
    But like i said were four games in and some times it takes a while to get geed up so there’s plenty of time this season, plus if you think manure chavski , city + spurs are going to go the entire season without a loss you really are living in cloud cookooland !!!!!!!!! Y. N. W. A.

  2. To put the blame just on Pepe’s shoulders alone would be a bit harsh based on his experience and ability, and what blame should we assign on a warrior who bleeds on the field?Terminator should use protection for his jaw but I guess borrowing Predator’s mask is a bit too much…a Hannibal Lector’s seems more appropriate.
    The Greek is quite Tall i see,makes a good starter….I hope he can channel it on the field and display for everyone to see……Agger is good in searching for equalizer while Terminator does handle things better while in the lead.
    For Mr Argentine Energizer and Dancing Brazilian, they are trying to take over some of the duties left by the General..(sigh)…give them time….or Capt may drop by and show the way how, best if Capt could stay there and command once Clever Acquaintance fills the ‘hole’ feeding Torpedo Tor to snipe….or sometimes lurked from behind to finish things off. At Bolton,we saw how true.
    I relish the encounter when we’ll meet Chelsea. I wonder how far can Glen push Ashely up the field and finish it with a masterstroke,though my concern is more on the left where a spot might be exploited.The Raw Diamond should be cut carefully,I guess he’s adopting more of his countrymen style while the Dead-ly Specialist is quite injury prone…may this recovery be the last he’s nursing and stay free always. I guess Big Baba Rafa’s rotation policy does makes sense sometimes…Where’s Third Lungs? The loose balls are his responsibility yet he drifted around,luckily the shoulder touch relief him from blame for not focusing…’Off the Hook’ so to speak.
    Babil should be taught the tempo or we gonna have a handicapped attacking option if Riera were to sustain injury.Ben the Knight can fill in the role but his impact is curtailed if he were to go 90 mins. He’s not good in nitpicking but is proven,devastating in crafting.A knight in a game of chess,one of the string of aces in the Benitez’s sleeves….

    Have faith Liverpool! Cos’s you’ll never walk alone……..

    Singapore Scouser

  3. Benitez arroagnce will be our downfall
    players are still expecting xabi’s quality balls around the park , but it aint comming , so we falling deeper to collect possesion and leaving a striker by himself , gera if you noticed fell back to distribute in the last game
    solution drop lucas , and play torres and kuyt together .
    we lucky they had ten men , take gerrard out the game and we very beatable , still a one man team

  4. Good write up on our season so far.
    To say Pepe Reina has been faultless letting in 7 goals ?
    Well if you are happy with him then weve got no chance of any silverware.
    Yes his general play is exceptional apart, from saving shots, when you have a one to one or a near goal shot at him it always goes in the back of the net???without him trying to stop it.
    He needs to do more for me, that is why he is 2nd choice for Spain if he was as good as you say he would be no1!!!
    Cumon Pepe do more for us!!
    THE MIGHTY REDS LFC

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