So that’s it. It’s official. The 2007-08 championship quest is finally over. The captain has spoken, the last rites have finally been administered and we are officially now in a tussle for fourth place rather battling out with the top three!
“We realise now that we’re facing a big challenge to finish in the top four and we’ve got to forget about the title and focus on fighting for fourth place. There are a lot of teams around us who are in good form and playing well so it’s important that we don’t let our standards drop.”
Of course everyone knew it was over long, long before Steven Gerrard’s words. Jamie Carragher weeks earlier had basically said as much and he was late! Even Rafa must although professional duty dictates that he must continue to talk of taking things one match at a time, getting into fourth place and then seeing if we can progress! Obviously I’m disappointed that the title is gone for another year, but in some ways it’s a kind of relief realising that worrying is a pointless exercise and facing up to, and accepting, the reality of a lower objective. In a preseason blog said I didn’t think we’d do it and have seen nothing this season that has caused me to change my mind.
Gerrard also spoke about Sunday’s game.
“There are definitely a lot of positives to take out of this game. I’ve been here before and we’ve been dominated for large periods of the game but I think we controlled the majority of this game and it felt as if we could have snatched it.”
Although we did OK Sunday was, in many ways, a microcosm of our season so far. We dominated for long periods without turning this to our advantage. Those chances we did create were missed. Torres was absent and Gerrard played well but not enough to carry the side on his own. If Torres or Gerrard are absent or off form we still show no signs of being able to produce the individual spark of brilliance or inspiration, from elsewhere in the side, that can turn a match. Babel played well but wasn’t used for all of the game. Finally we drew when we should have won, a familiar story this season.
Yet we should be ,and have to be, positive. Four out of the next five Premiership fixtures are at home Middlesbrough, West Ham (the rearranged “game in hand”), Newcastle and Reading. We play Bolton away amongst these. All should be winnable and, if we do that, worries about fourth place should be eased, a little. We will need to win because after that it’s the Mancs away, then a potential (cliché alert) “six pointer” with Everton at Anfield and then Arsenal at their place!
Regardless of how we get on it seems fairly plain that there is a lot of work still to be done with the side if we are to challenge for the title. How much of this is down to the behind the scenes unrest, the fact that some players aren’t good enough or, as Jamie Redknapp thinks in today’s papers, Rafa’s rotation is the $64,000 question and it’s a bugger to unravel.
Perhaps everything is inextricably linked? For example the players haven’t performed well because they can’t settle because Rafa rotates. But were the players good enough to adapt to his methods in the first place? Or maybe they were after all, everything only seemed to go t*ts up when Hicks opened his mouth about Klinsmann ….. and on it goes.
One wonders if we will ever get an answer that everyone is agreed on? 2007-08, season of mystery and misery? Well not yet anyway I suspect there is still a long way to go on, and off, the field. So rather than dwell on what might have been, or what’s gone on so far, let’s hope we can move forward, be positive and make the most of what’s still available to us?