A brand new year, a brand new decade and a brand new Liverpool. Well ok maybe not a brand new Liverpool Football Club but two out of three ain’t bad as the song goes.
Unfortunately it was the same Liverpool that we’ve had all too often this season that kicked the new year and decade off in a FA Cup tie with Reading, We were outdone in every single department by our Championship opposition and I still don’t know how we came away with a draw.
Another substandard performance has to be rectified when we take on our top four challenges Tottenham at Anfield. It’s not even certain players who need to pull their socks up because it’s every single player. Not one of them have started the new year with any praise.
Will the socks be pulled up or will heads drop even further at Anfield against Redknapp’s in form Tottenham side?
Neither in fact, it was more a case of hearts sinking as the game was called off due to some of the worst weather the city has seen in over half a century. It may have been the best thing ever to happen to us as a game against Spurs after the display with Reading could have seriously ruined our season.
As it happens it wasn’t the best thing to happen because our next game was the replay with Reading. And just in case it couldn’t get any worse than the first tie, it could. This time not only did we lose Torres and Gerrard during the match, we’ve also lost Benayoun to an injury he sustained during the match.
Oh and yeah, we also got knocked out of the FA Cup because of our inability to stop a cross and head the ball in our own box. After an own goal by the Reading left back we were unable to build on it.
In fact Reading looked to be the side to take confidence from that goal. They missed a few glourious chances and looked as it they’d regret it until Benayoun brought down Shane Long in the box and Sigurdsson stepped up and slotted it home. Extra time here we come.
Extra time and the way of the game didn’t change, Reading were still right on the front foot. They finally got the winner they deserved when the ball came in from the left and Long rose to head home. Not that he was really challenged by our defenders who simply allowed him to head it into the net.
Can we forget going out of another competition in the early stages when we travel to Stoke at the weekend?
Our team was without Gerrard, Torres, Johnson and Benayoun but we did have Mascherano, Riera and new signing Maxi Rodriguez in the squad. Attacking intent was obviously lacking from the off and god knows how we actually got a goal.
A weak Aurelio free kick was squandered by Sorensen in the Stoke goal and was bundled over the line by our man of the match Kyrgiakos. It wasn’t really deserved but a goals a goal.
As the clock was getting close to injury time I felt I’d be celebrating a win on my birthday, but maybe I shouldn’t have got my expectations too high because in typical fashion of our defending this season we conceded yet another late goal. Oh and it came from another set piece.
As the ball came in Danny Higginbotham showed more desire than Kuyt to win the ball and headed it back across to where Robert Huth was stood unmarked to tap home to level the scores.
With the rearranged game with Spurs coming up, are we able to forget another set back? Will we actually defend properly for 90 minutes? And more importantly where will our attacking intent come from without the likes of Gerrard, Torres, Johnson and Benayoun?
Well our attacking threat came from our, often criticised, Dutch centre forward come right winger Dirk Kuyt. Our number 18 netted himself a brace with goals in the first and last five minutes.
With Aquilani playing just behind Kuyt the two linked up well to get the opener when the Italian laid it off right into the path of Kuyt who lashed it home from just outside the box. The second goal was actually Kuyt’s third of the night after he scored the origonal penalty won by Ngog only for the referee to tell Kuyt to take it again.
Second time around he put it to the other side of Gomes to extend our unbeaten run to four League games as well as giving us our third clean sheet during this period.
With the three points in the bag we took ourselves to just one point behind Tottenham and fourth place, would we be able to claim fourth after the match against Wolves?
Another clean sheet but this time it was for both keepers. And that wasn’t enough to take us fourth. We were disappointing on the whole despite the return of our skipper and a goalless draw was probably more than either side deserved. That’s how bad the game was.
But like I said another clean sheet carried on our unbeaten run and after a shaky start to the New Year with the disappointments against Reading, this run has been a welcomed one by the fans.
Hopefully our unbeaten streak can carry on as we end the month with a home match against Bolton and their new manager Owen Coyle.
Thankfully the month did end with a win and our best performance of to date of 2010. With the exception of one chance, Bolton never really threatened our back line while at the other end we could have ended up with four or five.
In the end we had to make do with two. Dirk Kuyt (again) and a Kevin Davies own goal was enough for us to take maximum points and again close the gap on Spurs to just a single point.
With a month that started with such heart break in the FA Cup has ended with three back-to-back clean sheets and the revitalised form of Kuyt, Insua and Kyrgiakos. Next month starts with the derby against Everton and despite form not meaning much where derbies are concerned we’re certainly going into this one on the right note.
As I’ve just mentioned the return to form of a few players has been very pleasing and shows that the best of our season is still to come.
The run of five League games without defeat and four clean sheets during that period has been the biggest plus for the Reds this month. It’s getting back to the Liverpool of old, difficult to break down.
The signing of Maxi Rodriguez is the only plus in terms of incoming transfers but on the out side getting shut of Voronin and Dossena gave me a right smile.
The glaring obvious disappointment is the exit from the FA Cup and in the manner of the defeat to Reading. It was horrible to watch especially considering the way everybody in and around the club was telling us how they were going to throw everything into the Cup.
The other disappointment is the lack of incomings during the transfer window. It would have been nice to add a couple of extra faces to the squad but typically with our owners money was nowhere to be seen.
Fixtures for February
6/2/10 – Everton at Anfield (Premiership)
10/2/10 – Arsenal at the Emirates (Premiership)
18/2/10 – Unirea at Anfield (Europa League)
21/2/10 – Man City at the City Of Manchester Stadium (Premiership)
25/2/10 – Unirea at wherever they play (Europa League)
28/2/10 – Blackburn at Anfield (Premiership)