One of, if not, the busiest months of any football season and the 2009/10 season isn’t any different.
We went into the month after going through November without defeat. We also took confidence from the back-to-back wins, and clean sheets, against Debrecen and then Everton. Could we build on those results going into the opening game of December against Blackburn at Ewood Park?
Well we did grab ourselves another clean sheet but this time we didn’t sneak the winner in a game where Steven Gerrard played for the 500th time for his boyhood club.
We again looked just that little bit short of being quite good for a full 90 minutes. We didn’t take the chances we created and gave Blackburn a few chances of their own, which fortunately they didn’t take either.
Six games without defeat though is something to build on as we go into the final Champions League game against Fiorentina. With nothing other than pride resting on the game for us, will we be able to get ourselves motivated against the Italians?
I hate to say it but no we didn’t get ourselves motivated. We took the lead through a Yossi Benayoun header but even his, and the rest of the side’s, celebrations were very muted. They even looked embarrassed to some extent that they’d scored.
Yet more defensive lapses in Europe left us to ponder another game of what might have been. The 2-1 defeat was enough for Fiorentina to claim top spot of the group as we left Europe’s premier competition on a whimper.
On a more positive note we did finally get to see Alberto Aquilani start for the Reds as well as the long awaited return of Fernando Torres. We also got a glimpse of highly rated youngster Daniel Pacheco who certainly impressed with his first touch almost bringing a goal.
With Aquilani playing 70 odd minutes, Torres the last 25 and Pacheco with a 15 minute cameo it’ll be interesting to see what involvement they’ll have when we face Arsenal. Will all three be involved?
Unsurprisingly all three were not involved with Pacheco not making the squad this time. The two big money signings were though with Torres starting and Aquilani taking his place on the bench – again.
In the first half it didn’t look like we were missing Aquilani’s presence though as we bossed the game. Torres’ partnership with Steven Gerrard was back to it’s best when the two linked up, only this time the Spaniard couldn’t put the finishing touch to a great move.
We did get the opening goal when Almunia flapped at a Fabio Aurelio free kick, which fell to Dirk Kuyt who happily took the chance. It was a deserved lead we took into the break but that was where it seemed to go wrong for the men in Red.
We came out in the second half in body but certainly not spirit. We allowed Arsenal to play their football because we stopped harrying them, stopped rushing them and stopped trying if I’m being honest.
Their equaliser was on the cards though the scorer was an unexpected one because it came from a Liverpool player. A Glen Johnson own goal put the game level and it was a mistake from Johnson which allowed Arshavin to pick the ball up inside our box to fire the Gunners into the lead not long after.
We didn’t deserve anything from the game after that second half performance, will we play like that when we play Wigan on Wednesday?
Fortunately we didn’t play as badly against Wigan as we did in the second half against Arsenal but that doesn’t mean we played well. We were again disappointing but at least we came away with all three points.
A David Ngog header and a great solo effort from Torres was enough to take maximum points against the Latics despite a late strike from Nzogbia, which made us sweat for the last few minutes. This must now surely be the game that kicks us into gear and starts a run that pushes us up the table.
It’s Fratton Park next for the Reds, with the Wigan win fresh in our minds can we put our first back-to-back League wins together since our consecutive wins over West Ham and the Hull in late September?
Of course we couldn’t and we got exactly what we deserved. A disgraceful performance from every one of the outfield players. Never looking dangerous enough to create chances, in fact our best chance came from two deflections from the Portsmouth defenders.
At the back we gifted the two goals to Portsmouth. After poor defending down the left hand side, Glen Johnson’s weak header landed on the foot of Belhadj who smashed in a rocket to open the scoring.
Their second goal came from Boateng chasing a lost cause and then being allowed to put in a decent ball which Piquionne brushed aside Carragher before controlling and volleying the ball into the far corner. Not before Mascherano had been sent off for the second time this year.
It wasn’t the best of ways for Carragher to bring up his 600th appearance for the club but can he, and the rest side, put in a better showing in his 601st game when Wolves come to Anfield on Boxing Day?
Thankfully the lads did put in a better performance although it still wasn’t perfect it was good enough for us to claim the three points. Goals from Gerrard and Benayoun after Ward had been sent off saw the Reds end their 2009 Anfield run on a high.
The other pleasing thing was the fact that Alberto Aquilani finally made his first Premiership start after his summer move from Roma. He had some nice touches and kept the ball moving quickly, something for him to build on.
Despite Aquilani looking decent there are still a few suspect areas on the pitch but things are improving, will they continue to improve when we visit Villa Park in the final game of 2009?
There we go, 2009 has finished and it finished in the final few minutes with a goal from who else but Fernando Torres. A 1-0 win for our first back-to-back Premiership wins since September.
The game itself wasn’t a classic in the snow but the Reds came away with the three points. We’ve closed the gap on Villa to just two points now although we left it late. One or two players again were below par but that’s not important because the importance of the win overshadows it.
The consecutive wins were by far the most pleasing moments of the month. It just means we’re still in with a real chance of kicking on and climbing up the table in the new year.
The continuously good form of Pepe Reina has kept us in a chance in so many games and none more so than that one at Villa with his world class reflex save from a Stewart Downing volley.
Finally the other high point of this month is that 2009 has finished. A year that started with so much promise with us topping the table yet failed to deliver what we should have. So it’s a great relief that the calendar year is finally over.
A few of the results and almost all of the performances have been shocking this past month.
The right side of the pitch has been very disappointing this month. Glen Johnson’s defensive qualities have come under some question again recently while Dirk Kuyt’s basic footballing qualities have been invisible. The left hasn’t been greatly better but the last couple of games saw Insua return to some of his best football.
Fixtures for January
2/1/2010 – Reading at the Madejski Stadium (FA Cup)
10/1/2010 – Tottenham at Anfield (Premiership)
16/1/2010 – Stoke at the Britannia Stadium (Premiership)
26/1/2010 – Wolves at Molineux (Premiership)
30/1/2010 – Bolton at the Reebok Stadium (Premiership)